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Dinner Parties Where Place Cards Leave No Choice in Seating

Story by Chella Courington (Read author interview) October 3, 2011

art by Robin Gowen

If she felt his leg brush against hers, should she ignore it, commenting on the arugula with pine nuts, “Strong tastes for champagne”? Or should she stand, dropping the linen napkin as if she must go to the powder room? And would he instantly rise, “May I be of service?” Or should she cross her legs? Let him feel her resistance, know she meant no when the steamed lobster was placed before her. Should she tell him that in March she dove for lobster in the Florida Keys, catching as many as twelve on a single afternoon? Would he crack the shell, marveling that a woman, a slight woman like Adele, could be so adept with a tickle stick and net? Or would he say nothing? No, he must not be indifferent to her past if he wanted to play in her present. Would he dare touch her silk pants while raising the chardonnay to his lips? She crossed her legs. Was it a hand brushing against her thigh? How could he think her available amid the clanking of glasses and dropping of vowels? What had she said? Or did he assume anyone seated next to him ought to be interested? What could she do if his fingers paused? Adele once read in a novel that a heroine, flushed by her brother’s college friend, stabbed him with a salad fork. Where, she wasn’t sure, maybe his forearm. “And what do you do with a dozen lobsters? Throw dinner parties like this?” She heard him, his eyes never looking up from the plate. Should she uncross her legs now or survey her choice of forks?

About the Author

Nominated for the 2009 Best of the Net Anthology and the 2009 Best New Poets (University of Virginia), Chella Courington teaches literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, lo-ball, Gargoyle Magazine, Opium Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain and Everyday Genius. “Diana loved anything orange” was runner-up in The Collagist 2009 flash fiction contest. Her first chapbook was Southern Girl Gone Wrong, her second chapbook, Girls & Women, was released by Burning River in March, and her third chapbook, Paper Covers Rock, will be released by Indigo Ink in September.

About the Artist

Robin Gowen, born 1957 in Nebraska, has lived mainly in New Hampshire, Nigeria and California. Her husband, a paleobotanist, advises her on the biology of her impressionist landscapes, which have been represented by Sullivan Goss gallery in Santa Barbara for more than 13 years.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Three

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