Hospitality, by Niles Reddick
I didn’t think much about a group of my daughter’s friends coming over after lunch on Thanksgiving to snack and watch a football game, but I intuitively felt her roommate and sorority sister Anna Marie looked at me a little strange. Had I dribbled turkey gravy on my shirt? Perhaps some pumpkin pie at the corner of my mouth or a piece of macaroni and cheese stuck in the groove between my front teeth? I caught a quick glimpse in the hall mirror and knew I at least looked alright.
After her friends left, Becca said needed to talk but preferred to wait until the next morning over coffee. The next day, I fretted while my wife put out fresh fruit, granola, and yogurt and made individual cups of coffee using our favorite k-cups.
“I want to talk with you about your pineapples,” Becca said.
My wife learned right after we married pineapples signified hospitality and bought several. We had a cement one in the flower bed, a small flag with one embroidered on it near the front door, and even an antique print over the piano that was valuable. Relief washed over me. There was no plan to elope; she just wanted our kitschy décor. “You can have them if you’d like,” I said, beaming. “One day they’ll all be part of your inheritance anyway.”
“I don’t want them. Do you guys know what they mean?” she asked.
“Yes, hospitality,” my wife replied.
“No, it means your swingers and you are ready, willing, and able to have some physical recreation with others. It’s embarrassing,” she said.
“What the hell? Where did you hear that?” I asked.
“My roommate Anna Marie told me, some of my other friends mentioned it, and I think word has gotten around. It’s horrifying! One of my friends said maybe you weren’t my dad!”
“But we’re not swingers,” I said.
“These pineapples say otherwise,” Becca snapped.
My wife laughed. “Don’t be silly.”
I directed, “You tell them we’re not swingers” and added, “I thought all of that swinging had died off in the 1970s. Regardless, it does give me a great reason to have a yard sale.”
“We’re not getting rid of anything. It represents hospitality!” my wife said.
“Yeah, but maybe a bit more hospitality than we’d be willing to offer!” I barked.
My daughter stormed off, and my wife said, “Ridiculous,” shaking her head and busying herself with laundry.
While there was something flattering about it, I made up my mind that I could get rid of the pineapples, a little at a time. The concrete statue would topple and break, the flag would be ripped by the wind, and the print would fall, shattering the glass. This would all happen over the next few weeks, so it didn’t seem so sudden.
Niles Reddick is author of a novel, three collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in over 500 publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader, Citron Review, Right Hand Pointing, Nunum, and Vestal Review. His newest flash collection If Not for You has recently been released by Big Table Publishing.