Nuts and Dust
By Charlotte Pregnolato
Harry sits expectantly at the table. Lights are low, candles lit, and “Fool’s Rush In” by Elvis, still Harry’s favorite, plays softly. He smiles as he draws his napkin from under his fork and places it on his lap. In walks Gwen, Harry’s pretty wife, beaming proudly bearing a plate covered with a thick steak. She carefully centers the plate in front of Harry, the steam warming his face. “Yum,” says Harry.
Then she gets her own plate from the sideboard and joins Harry at the table. “What’s that?” Harry wrinkles his nose.
“Sprout salad, want some?”
Harry recoils, “Nuts and dust, not a chance, and what’s with the water in your wine glass?”
“Nuts and dust, you’re funny!” she giggles.
“But Sweetheart, really, that stuff couldn’t sustain a hummingbird.”
“I’m just trying to eat clean food, for now.”
Reddening, Harry asks, “Meaning what? The food I’m eating is dirty? “
“Oh, Harry, you are so cute, of course your food isn’t dirty, just a little heavy for tonight, that’s all.”
Harry looks up, his little smile is back, “And, tell me, Gwennie, what do you have in mind for this evening?”
“Well, um, I’m going to a little, maybe just an hour, breathing/chanting session and it’s better not be too full, the whole idea is to purify…and besides, she pauses, tilting her head, “we can share some wine later when I get home. How does that sound?”
Harry takes a bite of steak and chews, glaring across the table. “So all this,” he gestures, taking in the whole room, is because you’re planning to skip out to pant and chant with your yogi buddies?”
Gwen reaches out for Harry’s hand, but he pulls it back. “I was trying to make a nice dinner for us to enjoy together.”
“His and her separate meals are not dinner enjoyed together.”
“Well, I get that, Harry, but think of it this way, the body is a temple and—”
“What’s with you lately? You think you walk on water or something? I took yoga once upon a time; I know what it’s about but—”
“Well, I’m sure that was eons ago, Harry. Things change and now we’re much more aware of, well, everything now. You know, you’re always welcome to come to join me in class; to see what it’s like.”
“Oh, I see. I doubt if your guru, Todd, isn’t it, would be so welcoming to a lapsed yogi, committed carnivore like me.”
A tiny pinch brings Gwen’s brows closer. “Todd’s not my guru, he’s just our teacher. That’s not the point. I’m only trying to atone for all the junk we ate last weekend.”
Harry’s knife and fork clatter on his plate. “Junk? First dirty now junk? I thought we were enjoying ourselves last; you’re the one who kept insisting (in the voice of a simpering woman), let’s have just one more glass of wine, Harry.”
“I did enjoy the weekend, and now I’m taking a little break. What’s wrong with that? Besides, I don’t have your indestructible constitution.” She dribbles some wine from the bottle into her glass and promptly downs it.
He starts to take a big forkful of meat, changes his mind and shoves his plate away.
“Oh, Harry, I’m sorry. Look, can we…”
“Hey, no, I’m the sorry one. The sorry sod who stupidly plods home from work to eat dirty food and spend the evening alone while you run off to chant in Sanskrit and laugh at us mortals too filthy to breathe your pristine air.”
Gwen abruptly stands. “That’s unfair.” She fills her wineglass to the brim, “I just want to improve myself a little and do something I enjoy doing. Why can’t you be more—”
“Open-minded?” Harry leans back in his chair, “Oh, my!” He gestures towards Gwen’s glass. “You certainly don’t look very yogic right now. I may have to report you to Todd, the bod! What would he say if he knew you even cooked a piece of meat? Probably you’d have to stay after yoga ohming or communal writhing, or whaddayacallit, oh yeah, reaching nirvana-I’m sure your guru would be happy to teach you just how to do that.”
“That’s enough!” she slams down her wine, the liquid bounces, bleeding onto the cloth. Hands on hips, leaning across the table, “Tell me, Harry, would you be happy if I was a couch potato like you, drinking beer after beer…” Gwen’s voice trails off-Harry is staring down at his folded hands on the table.
Quietly, “Of course not, dear. Then there’d be two of us decadent, unaware, un evolved beasts, and who would save us?” Harry look up, “Besides, why should you settle for a couch potato when you can chant or whatever with a saint?”
At the top of her voice, Gwen yells, “Quit it. What is it in you that needs to turn something pure, innocent, and lovely into filthy, muddy thoughts?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” He pushes up from the table and half bows, “Thanks for a great meal. And don’t worry, I’ll take care of the dishes and other menial chores so you can be on your pure and innocent way. Oh, yeah, and don’t worry, I won’t hold you to our little wine date later, so no need to hurry back.”
Gwen rushes out of the room and Harry sits back down, alone, listening to the sound of Gwen’s car pulling out of the driveway. He looks down at his hands and brings the palms together in front of his heart. From deep in his chest, he intones, “Ohm.”