They’re Called Giblets When They Are Packaged in the Cavity Like That
Alyson Mosquera Dutemple
“Moving deeper into her territory, the hunter zeroes in on her target, injured and separated from the pack. Predator and prey ready themselves to begin their delicate dance of—”
“Will you shut up?” Marnie isn’t having it with my wildlife commentary today, but I push a little further because I feel I’ve really nailed my David Attenborough.
“To begin their delicate dance of …” I start again, but Marnie kicks me under the gravy station. Everything on the table shakes. Our evening cooking instructor, who I secretly believe to be impressed with my running impersonations, shoots us both a look. I grip Marnie’s elbow and lower my voice.
“Tell me how this isn’t a predator-prey situation? That woman is literally tearing the organs out of that poor, defenseless creature.”
“They’re called ‘giblets’ when they are packaged in the cavity like that. And they’re meant to be removed. Pay attention.”
A dainty netting of innards emerges from the bird into the gloved hand of the instructor and I think, there are worse indignities to suffer but for the life of me I can only come up with one.
After the gravy has simmered, after Marnie pouts at me for burning the butter instead of melting it, for not whisking the roux well enough, for making one too many jokes about the hilarity of the word “giblets,” after Marnie spends the better part of our class’s communal “Thanksgiving In July!” meal pointedly picking out little balls of clotted cornstarch and lining them up on the paper tablecloth in front of us, she tells me she’s decided to stop signing up for cooking lessons with me.
I feign shock, though I am, in fact. Truly. These community classes were Marnie’s idea. These sweaty Tuesdays spent recreating family meals with lonely strangers in cavernous gymnasiums, all her. If I had my druthers, we’d be spending our newly unattached time at a wine bar pouring pinot down our gullets, fattening ourselves up for our next husbands, ones that wouldn’t leave us.
“Well, joke’s on you!” I tell Marnie, breaking a plastic tine off my fork on a brick of Ronald’s corn bread. Ronald is the only other participant who signs up for all the Tuesday classes, which means every six weeks we have to politely taste whatever Ronald prepares and remember why he needed culinary help to begin with. “I never wanted this for us.”
But Marnie only gazes inscrutably into the cranberry sauce, which, I think in a moment of pettiness, is the same self-conscious crimson her neck becomes when splotchy with hormones, or excitement, or anger. I’ve seen Marnie angry plenty of times. We’ve known each other forever. Our husbands were—are—best friends. Doing everything together, they’d joined the same health clubs, vacationed at the same beach resorts, coordinated the years they left us. There are certain things that bond you to a person, intimate things, ugly things that you can’t unsee, or yank out of a relationship. I want to tell Marnie I could help her with the hurt. That even though she never talks about it, I understand exactly how she feels. How hard it is to sleep since the divorce, how I too haven’t dreamed in months. I want to tell her that if you really commit yourself to it, you’re almost certain to find a nature documentary on television, on some streaming channel in the middle of the night, and that even though they are brutal to watch, sometimes, if you keep at it, the gentle voiceover can almost feel like an invisible someone lying beside you, murmuring in your ear, easing for a moment the stuffed-up sadness of your over-crammed heart.
Outside the gym, the moon has started to edge the sun out of the sky, but through the windows, the tall weeds sprouting up through the blacktop still shimmer in the last of the day’s heat. “Marnie,” I say because I want her to see it, to feel it, the beauty of those ugly things, that territorial moon. “Can you stand it?” But Marnie has gone and struck up a conversation with sorry old Ronald, going out of her way to compliment him on his corn bread and to keep touching the wilting curls of her hairdo. And Ronald has gone and slid himself closer to Marnie, his arm casually hooked around her chair. “Can you stand it?” I try again, but my voice gets swallowed by the giant air conditioner unit above us roaring to life. We all stop and look up at the ceiling, and Ronald whispers something to make Marnie laugh like a damn hyena, and in that laugh, in that absolute riot of it, I feel the weight of every sixth Tuesday of the rest of my life. Marnie’s neck glows red around her collar, even though the cold air is now whipping up the tablecloth around us making all the plastic plates flap in the breeze. Even though the bones and the gristle of our feast are quivering in the rush. Even though all the little cornstarch balls are rolling away from us in a long, sad stampede to the floor.
Alyson Mosquera Dutemple‘s work has appeared in Colorado Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Salamander, Passages North, and Cincinnati Review’s miCRo series, among others. She is a 2023 Adroit Fiction Mentor and a 2022 runner-up for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Alyson teaches and edits in New Jersey. Find her on socials @swellspoken and at www.alysondutemple.com.