ou’d think it’s somebody’s birthday or, or it’s Thanksgiving or something.” Jennifer Jackson set a stack of plates
down noisily and then began distributing them around the table. “Everyone is here!”
“Well it ain’t Thanksgiving or there’d be turkey,” said Andrew, appearing in the doorway, “and I definitely smell roast beef.” He inhaled deeply and let out a satisfied sigh. “Dinner almost ready?” he asked.
“As soon as the table’s set we can eat,” said Rose from the kitchen. “The gravy needs another minute and then we’re good.”
“Well let me give you a hand sweetie,” said Andrew to Jennifer, as he opened the cutlery drawer and began counting out forks and knives. “How many are we today?”
“Everybody’s here,” said Jennifer again. “That’s how many.”
“I need a number,” said Andrew. “This family is growing so fast I can’t keep up.”
“Randy, Jackie, Brady, Amanda, you, Mom, me and Allison,” said Jennifer. “That’s eight. Andrew Jr. doesn’t count yet in the cutlery department.”
“Right,” said Andrew. “Eight is enough.”
“I never thought I’d be part of a family of eight,” said Amanda who had entered the dining room behind Andrew. “Being the only child of an only child, I thought four was a huge family. After my father died, that was how many we were when Grandma and Grandpa came to visit.”
Jennifer paused, holding the last plate in her hand. “How old were you,” she asked, “when your father died?”
“I was five,” said Amanda. “I don’t really remember him much,” she added.
Jennifer set the plate down. “I can’t even imagine,” she said.
Amanda smiled. “So many of my friends came from single-parent families,” she said, “that it never seemed really weird to me. Although I did envy my friends sometimes when they went to spend time with their dads. But some of them apparently envied me because I didn’t have to do that.”
“That’s pretty sad,” said Jennifer.
“Yeah it is,” Amanda agreed. “But lots of things are sad. I was young enough that I could kind of take losing my dad in stride. Although sometimes I worry that if I ever have a baby of my own I might find out I have feelings about it that I don’t even know about yet.”
Andrew chuckled. “Speaking from experience,” he said, “everybody who has a baby finds out they have feelings about things that they didn’t realize before. That just comes with the territory.”
“Would you call everybody to the table please honey?” Rose interjected. “It’s time to eat.”
Andrew turned towards the doorway. “Dinnertime, kids!” he bellowed and a few seconds later Brady, Randy, and Jackie appeared with little Allison in tow. A few minutes later the family was seated and the meal begun.
“This roast is awesome,” said Brady, digging in.
There was a murmur of agreement from the others. Andrew surveyed the table thoughtfully before he spoke.
“This,” he said, “is the real reason why the whole Middle East is in an uproar.”
There was a brief pause.
“What?” said Jennifer. “Roast beef?” Andrew nodded. “And potatoes and vegetables. And bread. Especially bread.”
“Really? I thought the problem was people want to get rid of the dictators and have democratic governments.” Jennifer sounded doubtful.
“We’d like to think that,” said Andrew. “We’d like to think it’s all about democracy and freedom, but it’s really mostly about food. Apparently there have been food riots in just about every developing nation around the world in the last year, which for some reason we just don’t hear about. So that’s the real problem in countries like Egypt. People can’t afford to buy food. And when people can’t afford to buy food, guess what? It doesn’t matter what kind of government they have, they are going to do what they have to, to force changes. Am I right?”
There was another thoughtful silence. “So what happens,” said Jennifer, “if people in Egypt elect a democratic government and then find out that they still can’t afford food?”
“That,” said Andrew, “is the real question.”
“I’ll tell you what happens,” said Amanda. “The people who don’t have food turn their attention on the people who do. And that would be us.”
“Are you saying it’s going to become our problem?” said Jennifer.
“It’s already our problem,” said Rose. “We’re just ignoring it and hoping it’ll go away.”
“Well just in case it doesn’t,” said Brady, “quick, pass the potatoes.”
Check out Rollin Penner’s website at www.thetravelingmedicineshow.com and
catch the band when they next perform in your area.