Better That Way

Better That Way short story illustration
Better That Way short story illustration. Charcoal drawing by author.

Better That Way

The girl never spoke at the dinner table, not if she could help it.  She only stared at the walls and ignored things as best she could.  She didn’t get upset or afraid when her parents started screaming at each other, not like her brother did.  Even though she was younger than he was, he was the one who was terrified and heartbroken by all the fighting.  She just looked slightly nauseous, like she was disgusted and bored with them all.

Sometimes there would be nights when her parent’s shouting at the table would become so loud and pointless or drag on for so long about nothing that she just couldn’t take it, and then the girl’s eyes would burn with rage, but mostly there was just a look of emptiness or disgust.  Either way, the girl hardly touched her food or said anything unless threatened into doing so. The girl was glad when her mother became obsessed with dieting and weight loss, and the family stopped having sit-down meals together at the table.

After that, the girl ate by herself in the kitchen while her mother and brother watched television and ate on the couch.  On rare occasions, the girl would join them if something good was on television, but even then she made sure that she was finished eating by the time her father came in for his pot pies or casserole.  That way, she could go straight to her room before her parents even saw each other.  It was better that way.

short story by Joe Riverson Smith