The veggie casserole sits in front of me like a dirty slab of meat.
‘Veggie casserole. Your favourite, right?’ Auntie Jane says, and ruffles my hair.
It was Kiefer’s favourite. I know that, and Mom sitting opposite me knows that. But I nod.
I can almost feel Mom’s shoulders relax again.
‘How are things in New York then, Tom?’ Dad asks.
‘Not good, I mean, everything has come to a standstill. Everyone is scared to leave their home.’ Uncle Tommy stares at his plate as he speaks.
‘Well you are… both of you… are welcome to stay here for as long as you like,’ Mom says, straining a smile.
‘Thanks, T, but I gotta get back to work. Plus running away is letting the fuckers win. We can’t be scared, that’s what they want,’ Tommy spits.
‘Let’s say grace,’ Mom says. ‘Sam, do you want to say grace?’
I shake my head.
‘Your Mom has asked you to say grace, Sam. Would you please say grace,’ Dad says, shooting me a hard look from the head of the table.
‘I don’t want to say grace, Dad,’ I say.
‘Sam – ’ Dad begins.
‘Hey, I would love to say grace,’ Auntie Jane interjects.
‘No Jane, Sam has been asked – ’
‘I know, I know. But I would be honoured to say it as I’d like to thank y’all for letting us stay. Is that alright with you, Sammy?’ Auntie Jane asks.
I know she’s saving me. I can feel the burden of disappointment from my Dad get heavier.
But I don’t want to say grace. I don’t feel thankful.
Auntie Jane says grace and everyone begins to eat.
The conversation inevitably turns to the attacks. Tommy thinks we should declare war on Iraq. Dad says we should get them all out of our country first. Their voices shake with anger. The hate overflows from their conversation and onto their plates as their forks miss food and scratch at china.
Things have changed since Tuesday. Anger is everywhere I turn. There is always anger at home, but now, the anger is everywhere.
The injustice of it all, people say.
And I feel angry too. I feel angry that the men that flew the planes into the towers aren’t here to punish. The same way the truck driver hasn’t been punished for killing Kiefer.
I prod at my casserole.
‘Sam, stop playing with it and eat it,’ Dad snaps.
‘I’m not hungry,’ I say.
‘Casserole’s your favourite. Now eat it,’ Dad says, taking a swig of his beer.
Mom looks at me pleadingly.
‘It’s not my favourite, actually. It was Kiefer’s favourite. My favourite is meatloaf,’ I say.
Dad stops chewing at the mention of his name. The table is silent