Taylor Collier

Welcome Anytime

Ted had invited Robert over for dinner Saturday night so Robert could fix Ted’s computer. Linda had just finished preparing the meal when Robert knocked on the front door. Ted knew Robert from work, but Robert had never met Linda. He came in and shook hands with both of them.

“Hope you like your steaks with a little pink in them, Robert,” Linda said, ushering everyone into the kitchen.

“Everything looks and smells great,” Robert said.

“Wait till you taste it,” Ted said.

“Why are you always doing that?” Linda said. “Always trying to undercut everything I do.”

“I was just joking,” Ted said Robert turned around, pretending he wasn’t listening.

“I just hate it when you do that,” she said. She pulled her chair away from the table and sat down. Robert and Ted sat down too, and Robert started cutting his steak.

“Would you like to offer the blessing?” Ted asked.

Robert looked up from grabbing the steak sauce from across the table. It took him a while to realize that Ted was asking him to pray. “Well,” Robert said. “I don’t really believe in God.”

“That’s okay,” Ted said. “We’ll bless the food all the same though.” Ted grabbed Linda’s hand, and they both grabbed Robert’s hands. Ted started praying, but through the entire prayer, Robert stared through the gape between buttons in Linda’s blouse. He could barely see her white lace bra with a hint of cleavage, and he kept tilting his head, almost praying, to see a little more. If Linda’s bowed head hadn’t jerked back up right after the Amen, Ted might have caught Robert staring at Linda’s chest. But Robert was lucky—only Linda caught him staring.

“So what do you think of that jackass boss of ours?” Ted asked.

“Oh, you know,” Robert said in between bites. “He’s just kind of a jerk.”

“Ted,” Linda said. “I left the tea up on the counter. Do you think you could get it for me?”

“Sure thing,” Ted said. He got up to get the pitcher. While his back was turned, Linda caught Robert’s eyes and winked. She nudged his shin with her foot and smiled, almost blushing. Ted came back with the tea, and after pouring some in Linda’s glass, sat down.

“This steak is perfect,” Robert said.

“Yeah, honey,” Ted said. “This steak really hits the spot.” Ted leaned back and stared at Robert. “We’re so glad you could come over for dinner, Robert.”

“I’m glad to,” Robert said, digging into his mashed potatoes. “It’s not every day that I get such a good home-cooked meal.”

“Well you’re certainly welcome anytime, Robert,” Linda said.

“You know,” Ted said, looking him in the eye. “I knew you were a good guy from the day I met you.” Linda grabbed everyone’s empty plate and took them up to the sink. Ted leaned over to talk to Robert, “She’s a pretty fine piece of ass, don’t you think?”

“That’s your wife,” Robert said, caught off guard. “She’s a very beautiful woman.”

“Do you want to sleep with her?” Ted asked.

“What?” Robert said. “Of course not, she’s your wife.”

Ted leaned closer to Robert’s ear. “Seriously,” he said. “It isn’t gonna hurt my feelings. Would you sleep with her? Yes or no?”

“She’s a very beautiful wo—”

“That’s not what I asked you,” Ted said. “Would you fuck her?”

Before Robert could answer, Linda came back to the table carrying bowls of vanilla ice cream. “I thought y’all might want some dessert,” she said. She spooned some ice cream in her mouth and licked her lips slowly. Robert couldn’t help but notice.

“You’re staring at my wife,” Ted said. “You’re staring at my wife like you wanna fuck her.”

“Ted,” Robert said, firm. “I do not want to fuck your wife.”

“Well then it’s settled,” Ted said.

“What?” Linda said. Ted reached across the table and grabbed her bowl of ice cream from her. Linda tried to get it back, but he jerked it out of her reach then upended the bowl, spilling ice cream across the kitchen floor.

“Robert doesn’t think you’re very attractive,” Ted said. “So no more sweets until you lose some goddamn weight.” Ted threw the bowl on the ground, shattering it. “I guess you can have some now, if you want. But you’ll have to lick it off the floor.” He laughed.

“Ted,” Robert interrupted. “What’s going on here?”

“You tell me, Robert,” Ted said. “Apparently my wife isn’t good enough for you.” Ted reached across the table and grabbed Linda’s hair. She started to scream, and Ted pulled her out of her chair. Her makeup smeared down her face.

“Look,” Robert said. “I think there’s some sort of misunderstanding.” Ted let go of Linda’s hair, but she stayed at the table. “It’s not that I wouldn’t have sex with her,” Robert explained. “It’s just that she’s your wife.”

“Well now that you put it that way,” Ted said. “I can see why you hesitated to answer my question.” Ted patted Robert on the shoulder. Robert backed away. “You want a cigar?”

“No thanks,” Robert said. “I really have to be going.” He started towards the door.

“Why don’t you stay and have a cigar with me?” Ted asked. “I don’t want to have one all by myself.”

Robert paused. “Okay,” he said. “But I really have to get going after the cigar.”

Ted headed towards the master bedroom. “I’ve got some in my humidor,” he said. Robert followed him through the house and into the bedroom. Ted headed towards his closet, and Robert saw a small box on the dresser that looked like a humidor and scooted towards it.

“Your humidor is right here. Is that the one you were talking about?” Robert said.

Ted stepped out of his closet with a twelve-gauge shotgun. He motioned towards the door and said, “Get back in the kitchen.” Ted leveled the shotgun at Robert. Robert didn’t pause. He headed straight for the kitchen. Linda was still there, cleaning up the broken bowl and ice cream off the floor.

“Stand up,” Ted told Linda. She did. Ted slapped her across the face, and she fell backwards and stepped into one of the dining room chairs, tumbled to the floor. Ted grabbed her blouse and ripped it slightly, snapping some buttons off. Robert saw Linda’s eyes right before she passed out. Ted screamed, “I can’t believe you would come into my house and disrespect my wife.” He pulled the gun towards Robert and jerked the trigger with his forefinger, splattering shot through Robert’s chest. Blood seeped through Robert’s light blue button down shirt. Robert gasped for air and Ted unloaded another blast into his chest. His lungs sucked the blood in.

Ted picked up the phone to call the police, but he changed his mind, better to not have the police involved at all. He knew of a pasture out by the church where he could dig a shallow grave.

Linda made chocolate chip pancakes the next morning with bacon and eggs. They sat around the table and she said, “We should just get a new computer.” Ted nodded and snapped the crisp bacon between his teeth. Linda used nearly half a bottle of syrup but only took three bites of pancake. They were too rich.

Taylor Collier is a recent graduate of Texas Tech University. His poetry has appeared in The Oklahoma Review, Big Tex[t], AntiMuse, and SNReview, while his fiction can be seen in Bewildering Stories, Cherry Bleeds, Zygote in My Coffee, and Main Street Rag. Born in Lubbock, Taylor now lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex.