It was a typical summers day at work, the type of day where you can’t wait to get back home and relax outside in the evening sun. After my stressful day I rushed back home and as soon as I walked through my door I knew there was trouble, I could smell it in the air. The smell of cooking swam into my nostrils as it always does and this time it smelt like pie. I know it’s got sage in it and if I know my wife, far too much salt. The salt isn’t a major problem in this case though, the pie is. You see there’s only one time when we eat pie and that’s when she’s pissed. She goes in that kitchen, she gets all the ingredients she needs and she makes dough. That dough gets pummelled and murdered. She strangles the dough, she punches the dough, she inwardly screams at the dough, taking all her frustrations and pain out on that mix of flour, butter and water. At the end she has a perfect lump of pastry, smooth and soft to touch.
The dough doesn’t go to waste of course. It goes into the pie. The best pie you’ve ever tasted. You take a bite and every tastebud in your mouth sighes with glee. Unfortunately everytime we have pie, the pie comes with something on the side. It’s never fries, it’s never mashed potato. Infact it’s not even an animal, vegetable or mineral. It’s “family discussion”, a polite term for shouting, crying and all around bad feelings. Jokingly we call it “Guilt Pie”, but NEVER when it’s being served. (I once tried to lighten the mood during a particularly bad “family discussion” by saying “damn, this is the best Guilt Pie I’ve ever tasted.” Bad idea.)
So I’m standing in my doorway and thinking about the Guilt Pie – listening to my wife humming crazily from the kitchen – and I contemplate just turning and leaving. Maybe she never heard me coming in? I could just sneak back out, call up and say I have to work late. A quick meal at Burger King could be followed by sitting in my car for a few hours until dinner at home is done. I know of course that I’m dreaming, sitting in a car alone is a dream that will never come true. If I put off the pie, it’ll just come back the next day, I know my wife. I accept my fate and shout ironically “Honey I’m home!” as I head into the kitchen.
Sliding into the kitchen I kiss my wife on the forehead and sniff my nostrils loudly. “Mmmmm, smells good” I say “what is it?”
She smiles back at me and winks “it’s a secret.” I laugh back at her and quip “oo, are you going to wrap it up for us?” but secretly I’m thinking. You. Bitch. It’s GUILT PIE, you KNOW it’s Guilt Pie, so just say it’s fucking pie! Of course that’s not how it works, that’s never how it works. Continuing to smile she pats me on the bum and says “go get ready for dinner. It’s the usual time, don’t be late!”
I leave the room to change into some comfortable clothes, pretending I can’t wait for dinner when secretly I’m dreading it. Fucking pie.
Not long later I find myself sitting in the dining room at our table. My 11 year old daughter, Jo, sits to my right at one end of the table and my 13 year old son, Tick (his choice, not ours, another pie for another time) sits opposite her. We pass pointless stories around the table about our day and finally my son asks “yo boy, you know what’s for eats?” I laugh back at him sarcastically and put on my hip old man voice “dawg, I aint got no clue yo!” He lets out a noise from his lips and rolls his eyes. In my head head I feel a little pity. Sorry son, we’re having pie.
My wife brings in the side dishes first placing them around the table and we gratefully sit back and thank her.
Then she brings in the pie. Except we can’t see the pie – she’s hidden it under the lid of a silver platter. I watch my children and cringe as they both lean forward in their seats and lick their lips. “What’s for eats?” Tick asks as politely as he can. My wife smiles back at him placing the platter on the table. “Oh honey, it’s your favourite” she says. He leans forward in his seat further, his eyes transfixed on the platter, just waiting for the first sight of his favourite meal – meatloaf. Jo leans back sulking slightly and as my wife sits down she asks “whats wrong honey?” Jo pouts “why is it HIS favourite and not MINE?” My wife unwavered smiles back “it’s your favourite too, baby!” and Jo grins happily leaning forward again – no doubt imagining pork chops. I stare over the table at my cruel bitch of a wife and she stares back. She’s evil, but I love her.
Stillstaring at me she asks “why don’t you do the honours Peter?” and I stand up and place my hand on top of the silver platter, my eyes never leaving hers. I begin to lift the lid off the platter as my children hold their breathe in anticipation. I bite my lip and yank the lid up quickly, a large billow of steam rising into the air, masking the meal for a moment in a cloak of mystery. As the steam clears I hear two sighs in unison coming from both sides of me and the creak of two chairs as my children collapse into them. Looking down slowly and back up at my wife I say with perfect execution “mmmm, pie…what a lovely surprise.” My children stare at me wondering why I’m bothering with this charade, but I have to, it’s just the way it is.
The pie sits in a china pie pot in the centre of the silver platter, a large silver spoon lies beside it and looking at it I know what I have to do. “Jo, pass your plate please.” I say looking over to her. She shakes her head slowly and mouths “no!” to me. But I nod slowly and sympathetically back at her with a lack of arguement. She hands over her plate and I break the seal of the pies crust, crunches filling the silent room. Scooping the pie into the spoon I put it down onto her plate, tapping gently so the pie slides off. I hand the plate back and continue with Ticks plate, moving onto my wifes plate before finishing with my own plate.
We pass the side dishes around the table, a few peas here, a few carrots there, the clatter of cutlery filling the air. As the last dish is passed around we all sit in silence and my wife says “Tick, why don’t you say grace tonight?” I stare at my wife, again she stares back. Our children close their eyes but we keep ours open, still staring. “Grace!” Tick shouts before pulling up his fork and stabbing it into a carrot which vanishes quickly into his mouth. Jo follows suit as they both attempt to eat their meals as fast as humanly possible. Still we stare and my wife tilts her head to the side. “What’s wrong Peter? Not hungry?”
Inwardly I sigh and I pick up my fork as my wife watches me slicing it through a piece of the pie that seemingly melts apart before forming perfectly on my fork. Looking at the succulent pie I can hear my tastebuds screaming for it’s flavour and I give in to them soon enough and bring the fork up to my mouth. As the pie reaches my lips my wife cuts in, her voice stern “Oh, before you eat can we have a little talk?” I nod “sure honey” and I put my fork down wishing I could have had one bite, just one little piece of pleasure before the pain.
Pre-empting my wife my children both put down their forks and stop eating. “Actually” she says “I think this will be a family discussion so we should all hear it.”
She looks at noone in particular and says. “Well…I just thought you’d like to know Peter, that Tick is now into drugs.” My son groans but my wife pretends not to hear it. She continues “I was doing his laundry today and guess what I found in his pocket.” Skillfully she pulls a small packet from her pocket and throws it into the middle of the table for all to see. Instantly I know what it is, but I play dumb. “Oregano?” I ask her. She glares back at me, her voice raising a few notes “no it’s not oregano, does it look like it’s oregano? It’s POT! YOUR son is a POT HEAD NOW!”
That was when it all came crashing back into my memory. You see, now, I’m a Conservative parent, but as a young man I was an extreme Liberal. I marched to stop the war in Iraq, I hated George W Bush and by God did I smoke some pot. Infact I didn’t just smoke it. I sold it. I sold a LOT of it. In my town the war of drugs was basically a war on me. Now my kid was smoking it and I knew there was only one thing I could do.
Turning to my son I ask “Tick, is it true what your mother says? Have you been smoking pot?” I know for a fact he has already, I can see it in his eyes and I can see the evidence on the table, but at this table his mother is the judge and I’m his prosecutor. Innocent until proven guilty. He responds typically with an unoriginal story that I probably used on my own parents “it’s not my pot dad! I was just keeping it for my friend Baz! I don’t smoke pot, I’m smarter than that.” Of course it’s a lie, the tremble in his voice tells me so, but maybe my wife will be sympathetic for once in her life. I turn to her and reiterate the story “he’s just holding it for his friend, it sounds reasonable to me.” She says nothing, not one little word, she just raises her eyebrow slightly. After 20 years of marriage I know everything about my wife, I know she has an extreme fear of mould, I know when she brushes her teeth she starts on the left side and a minute later moves to the right. I know about that eyebrow. That eyebrow means “listen Peter, if that kid doesn’t run from the room crying you won’t be getting any sex for at least two weeks.” I turn back to my son and give him one last chance to win her over. “So you were just holding it for Baz? Why can’t he hold it for himself?”
My child lets out a loud um, then screams out “I don’t know! Jesus! Stop harassing me!” I look at him until his eyes meet mine. I say calmly, not raising my voice “Terrence. Your mother and I are very, VERY disappointed with you. You have let us both down. I think you should have a long think about what you have done and realise how much you have hurt us.” Leaving it at that I wonder what my child really has done, but I push it to the back of my mind, it doesn’t matter now. Turning back to my plate I pick up my fork and again start to work on the pie, moving the pie filled fork to my mouth. Again I’m stopped.
Out of the corner of my eye I see something flicker and as I look up I notice what it is. My wifes second eyebrow. That’s a month without sex. The fork hangs in the air as I stare at her, her hands calmly lying on the table. She wants more, she wants crying. I take a deep breath and slam my fork down onto my plate to create a loud clink. Jumping up I push my seat back and scream down at my son who’s prepared himself for the coming onslaught. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU BROUGHT DRUGS INTO OUR HOUSE! DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT THIS WILL DO TO YOU? DO YOU WANT TO END UP DEAD? DO YOU WANT A FUTURE?” I slam my fists down onto the table and he jumps as my daughter squeaks. “YOU’RE A DISGRACE TO THIS FAMILY AND A DISGRACE TO YOURSELF!” His face goes red and tears well up in his eyes. “IF THIS EVER HAPPENS AGAIN! EVER! WE WILL SEND YOU OFF TO A MILITARY ACADEMY! INFACT WE MIGHT DO THAT ANYWAY, BECAUSE WE ARE SICK OF YOU!” Tears roll down his cheeks and he sobs loudly, running from the room. A few seconds later we hear the slam of a door upstairs.
I sit back down as my wife stands up. “Did you have to be so hard on him Peter?” she says, leaving the room and going upstairs to comfort her child. It’s all part of the unspoken deal, I’m the angry dad, she’s the loving mother. It’s the way she likes it and it’s the way I hate it. Guilt fills me and that’s when I know it’s time to eat the pie.
I dig into the pie and it melts on my tongue, the buttery flavour of the pastry mixing with the meaty filling perfectly. Swallowing the pie hits my stomach, soothing me. Throwing another piece into my mouth I close my eyes and chew, allowing the flavour to destroy the bad feeling of guilt in my body. One more fork full and the guilt is gone entirely, I feel relaxed and at peace. The peace is disturbed slightly when a small voice comes into my ear a few moments later. It’s my daughter. “Daaaad?” she asks and I already know the question. “What’s pot?” I smile back at her. “It’s something naughty honey. Something very VERY naughty.” She nods back at me before asking to be excused, I hear her trundling up the stairs, no doubt going straight to her computer to find out what pot actually is.
Sitting for a moment I let the good feeling wash over me completely, before I rise from the table, palming the packet of marijuana. I shove one last piece of pie into my mouth and hope the next pie we have is a long way away.
Later that night my wife asks “what did you do with the pot sweetie?” Lying I tell her I’ve destroyed it and she seems convinced. For my monthly fishing trip with the guys this month I’d be making some pie of my own. Some good, old fashioned Pot Pie. Almost the best pie in the world.