where the writers are
Short Stories 365:351

I remember one very uncomfortable dinner when I was dating a man who was older than I was, and we'd been invited to the house of a couple he knew for a holiday dinner. I went without thinking about it, and thought we'd have a good time. Instead, almost immediately after arriving and hanging up our coats, I realized I was in for a very rough night.

It started with the host offering my older boyfriend some wine and then asking me if I wanted a drink. He smiled, looked me up and down, and said, "maybe a glass of milk?"

It went on like that all night. A lot of "you're too young to remember" and "you were probably in diapers" and so on. I'd wanted to make a good impression with his friends, but by the time we left, I was frustrated and feeling not just a little bit abandoned, as he had just laughed a little at every comment. Whenever I'd fired back something other than a chuckle, he'd given my leg a squeeze of warning.

It was definitely not a night I hold in fond memory.

"Secret Family Recipe," by Warren Dunford

Ohmigosh this was fun. The next story in Upon a Midnight Clear is by the witty and wonderful Dunford, who gives us a holiday dinner that might just be the end of everything for a young man's relationship. The proud - and a little scary - matriarch of a large family of boys doesn't seem impressed by the boyfriend one of her sons has brought home. As that boyfriend tries to cope his way through a large meal, he feels ill. No one else does, and he writes it off at first, but then starts to wonder if this woman - who, he has to admit to himself, is frightening and maybe just a little bit evil - is adding a "secret ingredient" to only his portion of the meals.

The resultant fear (and/or paranoia) and how things play out with the young man, his boyfriend, the other spouses and brothers and - of course - the mother is alarmingly fun. I had a grin on through most of the story, though I did want to shake the young man's boyfriend a few times when he refused to think anything bad of his mother.

Keywords: