Ricky ground a stray peppercorn between his front teeth. He’d never liked his grandmother’s cooking, but he didn’t have the cruelty nor the confidence to tell her so. At least the bitter pepper masked any flavour that lingered from the stew. His mother and grandmother were talking about something for the ten thousandth time. There were three common strands of conversation. His father and what a loser he was; the jealousy of her mother’s ex-boss who fired her for stealing – would you believe it, and everyone does it anyhow – three ballpoint pens – two blue and a black – and anyway, everyone knew it was because she hadn’t slept with him, it had nothing to do with actual theft; or else it was that his mother could have been someone – could have really been someone – if she hadn’t fallen pregnant at sixteen.

In his mind, Ricky played over his favourite moments in films; the moments were the man, who had been controlled by women throughout his life, finally snaps. His two favourite were Kevin Spacey in American Beauty and Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. He wondered if he would ever snap like this, but he couldn’t imagine what it would take.

The tapping on his mother’s empty glass signaled it was time for Ricky to clear the table. He stood silently and took the plates away.


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