Family Dinner

~ A. P. Howell

Margot’s mother still sets a place for him at the dinner table.

It has been two years, or three. Long enough that there are no expectations of mourning, no more messages of condolence. The logistics of death have been resolved: the will read, the legalities settled, the funeral paid for, the stone memorial to Margot’s father raised.

Margot’s mother still serves his favorite foods.

It took some time for Margot to notice. But some nights she picked at her plate, finding the meal unappetizing, and looked up to see her mother doing the same. It occurred to Margot that they could eat other foods, foods that they enjoyed. After more time, it occurred to Margot that she could share this revelation with her mother. After yet more time, Margot wondered why she had not done so.

Each day, she watches her mother repeat the routines of decades. Each day, she feels her father’s presence looming over the household.

Margot eats little. Her mother eats less.

Her father would eat so much. Instead, it is his memory that consumes them.

It is exhausting. It is ghoulish. They are starving, and for no reason.

But Margot is starving less quickly and cannot bring herself to speak.

Five of Cups


A. P. Howell lives with her spouse, kids, and dog, sometimes near a lake and always near trees. Her stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Little Blue Marble, and XVIII: Stories of Mischief & Mayhem.

She tweets @APHowell and her website is

 [ issue 3 :  summer 2021 ]