It was not the broccoli that smelled that way. It couldn’t be. I took another whiff of the roasted vegetable. It had to be the chicken. Maybe the chicken was a little older than Grandma thought.
I poked around the cooked carcass on my plate, not sure that I could swallow down the tendons that were supposed to be considered good. My stomach felt nauseous. I’m typically not one to think of how rude I’d be if I excused myself from the table, but the crows feet around Grandma’s eyes showed me that she really just wanted the company. And, she poked at her chicken too.
Her hands shook a little now. They had seen the births of three children and twelve grandchildren, two still-born. She’d cooked every Thanksgiving meal since before I was born. And every Christmas she would bring us things that we’d never told Santa to get us-- like wool socks, knit hats, and underwear. Her hands held me and Chris, my sister, when our moms were divorcing. They'd fought fifteen years for the life they wanted and split after just one year of legal marriage.
“Grandma, how Aunt Mabel and them? They doin’ okay?” I asked her.
I took a small bite of chicken, and after a hard swallow, decided against another.
“Oh, Mabel!” Grandma looked up from the uneaten food she’d mashed up. She reached up to wipe her lips with her napkin.
“Hmph. I ain' seen Mabel in a while nah'. Lass' thing I heard she was in the hospital. Mmm-hmph. She was dealin’ wid some blood pressure pro' lems. But since then, when I call ‘er, she act like she don’t wont ta talk to nobody any more. So, I give ‘er her space now. Mmm-hmph. Lawdy, lawdy, lawdy. Bless ‘huh.”
“Maybe she’s just lonely now Grandma.”
“Yeah, maybe so. We jus’ been friends so long, I feel like we can keep each other company. Thas all.”
Grandma took a braver bite of her chicken. Her face curled.
“Mmm-hmph. I think this chicken old. Lemme see yo’ plate, baby.”