Horns Overflowing

Walter asks Joan to pass the salt ball grinder. Walter and Joan are married. It is early afternoon. Walter has already helped himself to the stuffing. Joan just sat down. Walter sat down before she did. Joan drove all the way to see Brad and back this morning. Joan had to leave really early. It was still dark out. It is a long drive there and back. She hopes Walter likes the stuffing. She was not so sure about the raisins. Joan tried a new recipe this year. The stuffing has onions, celery, wild rice, pecans, poultry seasonings, and raisins in it. Joan almost left the raisins out. She followed the magazine’s make-ahead tip and refrigerated the vegetables and nuts two days before. It saved Joan time, and her refrigerator has the space. Joan and Walter are sitting at the dining room table. They can look right at each other if they want to. The one-handed operation of the large mill makes freshly ground salt readily available. Joan believes freshly ground salt makes a difference. Joan believes a lot of things. She believes her son will resume a normal life once he gets out. Walter is different. The pepper ball grinder is on the table, too. Joan set the table last night. Joan wanted the table to look perfect. The table looks nice. There are a lot of nice things on the table. Joan bought the ball grinders as a set. Walter uses his own peppermill. Walter’s peppermill is right next to his 20-ounce crystal goblet which catches the light beautifully. The goblets have to be washed by hand. Walter washes them by hand because Joan always breaks them when she washes them by hand. They once made love in their basement against a support pole. It was a long time ago. Their feelings for one another have since changed. The support poles are attached to I-beams running the length of the house. The support poles and the I-beams really keep the house up. Walter started demolishing Brad’s beer can collection in the basement towards the end of summer. It is fall now. Walter enjoys spending time alone in the basement. Joan does not go down there. Joan and Walter used to like the same program with the funny black man. They used to laugh at the same funny jokes. The dish liquid and anti-bacterial hand soap with power sudsing that Walter uses to wash the goblets gives him a whole new level of dishwashing performance. Walter looks out the window over the sink when he washes dishes at the kitchen sink. He tries to see things that are not there. Walter bought his pepper pump not long after Joan bought the salt and pepper ball grinders. The pepper pump is an essential at the table and in the kitchen. Walter never wanted the ball grinders. He only needs to push the plunger on the top to grind the pepper. Joan bought the ball grinders because the crank on their Towne Oak peppermill was not working properly. The crank was wobbly. Joan thought it was something they could talk about. It was a warm day that day. A nice warm breeze was coming in through the windows. Joan was standing at their kitchen island. They have a kitchen butcher block work island. Joan started to mention the crank and how that it was wobbly. It was going to be a conversation. Walter drifted in and back out of the kitchen. Joan prefers when Walter is out of the house. Joan envisions many things that would be nice but that never happen. That makes Joan sad. Joan has a lot of feelings inside. Some of Joan’s feelings are about Walter. Walter’s goal is to care less and less about everything. Walter finds it hard to believe that he was once a dentist. Joan passes Walter the salt ball grinder. The table measures 44” x 72”. With two aproned leaves it can open to 112”. Walter squeezes the salt ball’s ergonomic handles. Salt comes out. Joan folds her hands. She wants to pray. Joan says the prayer to herself. Joan does not want Walter to hear what she is praying for. Joan sometimes prays for Walter to die. The prayer just comes out that way. It makes Joan feel bad. Walter picks up his fruit napkin ring. It accentuates the table. It is reminiscent of nature’s abundance at harvest. Joan loves to coordinate napkin rings with time. Walter looks through his napkin ring. He can see all of Joan’s head through his napkin ring. Her eyes are closed. Joan is praying again. Walter is now able to look at Joan without feeling a single thing. He looks out the window. There is a big tree in the front yard. Brad helped Walter plant it. It was small when they planted it. Now it is taller than the house. It was a long time ago. The leaves are falling off the tree. Walter will blow them tomorrow. Leaf Magik has a 230 MPH blow speed and an anti-clog system. Joan makes the sign of the cross. Joan thinks she prayed for the right things today. Leaf Magik goes from blower to mulcher at the press of a button. It is time to eat. There is a lot of food on the table. In comparison with butter or oil, no-stick cooking spray adds only a trivial amount of fat and calories. Joan does not like her thighs. Women usually do not. Men like thighs the more they are spread. In his prime, Walter had a handicap of 2. Joan read that no-stick cooking spray can also be sprayed directly on the turkey for better browning. Joan is always on the look-out for new ideas. Joan is a small-business owner. Joan says she thinks the turkey looks browner this year. Walter does not know if the turkey looks browner. Walter is mentally beyond all colors. The apron Walter has to wear at work is green. He is wearing it now. Walter has a job again. He is a bagger. Walter has to go in to work after they eat. He is a bagger. Walter’s bowtie is green, too. As a dentist, he used to wear a white coat at work. It is ironic. Joan asks Walter if he would like to cut the bird. Walter says he would. Walter pushes back his chair and stands up. Walter and Joan have Saxony cut pile carpet in their dining room. It is stain-resistant. Walter bends over towards the turkey. He is careful not to bump his head on the chandelier. The turkey is on an ovenproof pheasant platter right under the chandelier. There are two pheasants pictured on the platter. One pheasant is in front of the other pheasant. Both pheasants are brown, but they are looking off in different directions. Their heads are turned different ways. Tiers of translucent beads with suspended, teardrop-shaped ornaments drape like garlands from the chandelier. Walter does not bump his head. He has been ducking under the chandelier for longer than he cares to remember. He turns on his cordless electric knife. It takes two hours to fully charge. The handle is designed for right- and left-handed people. Walter is right-handed. Joan is right-handed, too. Their son and daughter are also right-handed. His name is Brad, and her name is Claire. Claire is older. Brad and Claire will not be coming to dinner. Brad is in a minimum security prison. He is allowed to wear his own clothing. Walter knows some people who are left-handed. Joan does not know if she knows anybody who is left-handed. It is a 13-pound turkey. Walter carves it. He still has moments when he would like to cut his house apart. The property value in their subdivision continues to rise. Walter has always invested wisely in mutual funds. Walter and Joan’s house is made of studs, plasterboard, vinyl siding, and other material. The cordless electric knife will cut up to 45 minutes of bread or meat. Walter is 57. Joan is not. Her French style napkin with the cheerful yellow background is in her lap. The crackled appearance makes it look traditional. The tablecloth is highlighted with the same lovely blue design. The tablecloth takes a long time to iron because it is 100% cotton. Joan does not mind ironing because ironing is something to do when she is home. She has a new iron. The two-way Steam Clean system will prolong the life of Joan’s iron by flushing out lint and minerals while continuously cleaning the steam valve. Joan holds out her plate for Walter. Walter places a piece of meat on Joan’s plate where the stunning floral motif is. The plate has a gold band around it. Joan says it looks delicious. Walter’s plate looks exactly like Joan’s plate. He puts some meat on it. Joan slices open a sweet potato with her knife. The stainless steel flatware is both lustrous and strikingly simple. It is named after a southern French town. There is a bee on each bolster. Joan likes things with bees on them. Joan’s favorite sweater has a bumble bee on it. Joan pours goldenrod honey on her sweet potato. Goldenrod is a well-known fall composite. It covers old fields, pastures, and the open woods throughout North America. Joan says that goldenrod honey is a dependable honey. Joan pushes goldenrod honey when a customer is not interested in a more exotic or expensive variety of honey. Joan has a honey stand in the mall’s west wing. She stocks over sixty distinct types of honey on her little yellow cart. Her little cart is cute. She has honey ranging from water white to dark brown, from acacia to wildflower. Joan’s business is called Honey Bee Good. Honey Bee Good was even featured in the local paper. People like Honey Bee Good. She wears her favorite sweater to work a lot. People like it. Walter sits back down. Walter’s chair has armrests. Walter rests them there for a moment. There is a spot on the wall he always thinks is a bug. Joan puts a piece of cornbread on her plate. Walter puts some things on his plate. He tries a baby carrot with glazed brown sugar. Joan raises her wine glass. She says they forgot about the wine. Joan’s wine charm is a cheese charm. Walter’s wine charm is a grape charm. Joan is always the cheese charm. That way they never confuse who has which glass. Walter reaches over to the sideboard. He pulls a bottle of wine from the wine sling made of handcrafted Nambé metal. It will not crack or chip. Walter’s foil cutter leaves a neat edge for pouring. He has an ultimate cork pulling machine. Walter pours the wine. Walter and Joan say cheers. They always have. The wine’s bouquet goes well with the meal’s flavor. There is a wall sconce with mirror on the wall. Nothing comes to anyone’s mind. Joan eats a lot. Walter takes a bite. Joan says she is having her two Meghans help her out tomorrow since they are off of school tomorrow. The Meghans are best friends. They have the same first name. They are on the varsity spirit squad. Claire is flying out east for the four-day weekend. Claire said she would call today. The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year in retail. The mall opens at 6 a.m. One day Joan wants to have her own store at the mall. The self-help group Joan attends encourages her to have her own store. They tell her to go for it. Joan asks Walter if he went golfing today. He says he did. He says it was windy. Joan asks if he was still able to clear the water on the fourth hole. Walter says he was because the wind was at his back. He says his ball sailed right over the creek. Walter’s gray-and-charcoal golf bag has six zip-up pockets and a water ball retriever holder. Walter now uses his golf clubs to smash Brad’s beer cans. He never golfs anymore. Sometimes he just stomps on the beer cans. Walter destroys Brad’s beer can collection when Joan is at work. Joan once gave Walter a golf ball monogrammer. Joan switches her fork to her right hand and tells Walter that Brad said to say hi. The china cabinet in Walter and Joan’s dining room has a lighted interior with dimmer. A hammered copper bowl from Claire is on one of the shelves. She teaches anthropology at a small college. The white, roomy, earthenware tureen for presenting soups was made in Italy. It is the biggest item in the whole china cabinet. It has a 15-cup capacity. The lantern to the left mimics the style of island bamboo. There are four gold mosaic votive holders on the bottom shelf. Joan likes the way candles burn. Joan stores the Christmas dinnerware down in the cabinets below. Walter and Joan’s china cabinet is big and heavy. Joan says she has good news. She says Brad found out that he is going to be able to pursue the law degree online. Walter takes the lid off the attractive and functional butter crock. Walter is going to have a roll. The butter has not been shaped into a duck or another farm animal. It looks like the tip of an iceberg. Walter uses the butter knife lying next to the butter crock. The rolls are still warm. Walter loves the delicious taste of freshly baked rolls with a minimum of effort. He likes how the Bakery Boon has a crust control. It is a dial. He can watch the baking process through the large viewing window. Walter spreads butter onto his roll. Walter replaces the lid on the butter crock and takes a bite of his roll. Joan tells Walter that Brad told her that he is going to make it. Then Joan turns her head away from the table. She still gets choked up about Brad. Joan is facing the Ansel Adams picture. It is called Snake River. The river looks like a snake. Walter often wanders through the house during the day. When he stops in front of the picture, he runs his finger down the river in search of a drowning man. Walter tells Joan he’ll be bagging alongside Big Al tonight. Big Al is over 70. He loves to whistle old songs. He loves old songs. Walter has four different ways of asking the customers if they would like paper or plastic. There are some basic rules for bagging. Never overload is one. Frozen items always go in plastic is another rule. Walter is allowed to wear comfortable shoes. A phone rings. Walter takes his phone out of his apron pocket. Walter says it is Rex. Walter has two numbers saved on his cell phone. Rex is the supermarket manager. He wears a whistle around his neck like a coach. Joan checks to make sure her phone is on. She hopes nothing has happened to Claire. She does not know why Claire has not called yet. It is even later on the east coast. Walter says hi to Rex. He tells Rex he was just thinking about him. Walter says he is ready to bag. Walter listens to what Rex says. Then Walter says that he will come in anyway. He says he needs to work off some of the bird. Walter pats his stomach. Walter tells Rex that Joan cooked an absolutely delicious meal. Joan puts her phone back on the buffet next to the hand-molded ceramic rooster. The rooster is stunningly detailed. Joan bought it at a winery. Joan still regrets that she did not buy the hen to go with it. The irresistible hen was the perfect mate for the strutting rooster. Walter tells Rex not to worry about it. He says he really wants to come in. He says he can tell his wife wants to talk about their son again. Walter asks Rex if he ever told him he even had a son. Rex answers. Walter asks him if he remembers the story about the frat-house rape. Joan gets a sick look on her face. Walter tells Rex it was in all the papers. Joan gets up from the table. Her chair tips back against the buffet, and her napkin falls to the floor. Joan does not pick it up. Joan leaves the room. She goes into the kitchen. The kitchen has both a pantry and a closet. Joan keeps things like the vacuum and the ironing board in the closet. Joan really wants a new bagless vacuum. The Root 6 Cyclone does not lose suction over time. That is the one Joan really wants. Joan turns off the ceiling fan. It was on low. Ceiling fans cool in summer and warm in winter. Joan and Walter have not sat outside on the patio for a long time. They have a screened-in patio so they would not even have to worry about the West Nile Virus. The placemats on the kitchen table wipe clean with a damp cloth. Joan goes back in the dining room. She sets the chair on all four legs. It did not scratch the buffet. Joan picks up her napkin. She sits down. Walter tells Joan that Rex was on the phone. Walter says he can go in an hour later if he wants. Walter finishes what he has on his plate. Joan says nobody touched the green bean supreme. Walter asks Joan what she bought for dessert. Joan says she got a Caramel Choc Bavarian. It has mousse-like creamy qualities on top of a biscuit crumb base. Walter says he has time for dessert if he goes in an hour later. Joan says the Caramel Choc Bavarian only takes 5-10 minutes to thaw. After it thaws, she just has to cut it into the desired number of servings. Walter and Joan talk about whether they should clean up before or after they have dessert. Joan says that she has all evening to clean up. They decide to clean up first. Walter and Joan’s bisque dishwasher has space for fourteen place settings. Its sound package cleans the dishes without disrupting Walter and Joan’s home. Joan asks Walter if he could bring in some wood. Joan says she would like to make a fire. Walter goes into the garage and puts on his work gloves. They feature anatomic relief pads to reduce calluses and loss of hand power. Walter carries in some wood and stacks it on the log rack. He makes three trips. The Caramel Choc Bavarian thaws out. Walter and Joan each have a piece of the Caramel Choc Bavarian. They eat at the kitchen table. It is round. Horns overflowing with corn, flowers, and fruit are depicted on the paper napkins. Walter wipes his mouth with the napkin. He goes to work. He bags groceries. He goes out and gets the carts from the parking lot. He looks up at the Jiffy Lube sign in the distance. It is all lit up. For a moment he forgets where he is. Walter just stands there in the middle of the parking lot. Joan walks upstairs. There are family pictures along the wall. Joan places her fingertips on one of the pictures. Brad is walking across a jungle gym beam in the picture. He is balancing on the jungle gym beam. His Speed Racer shirt was his favorite shirt. Joan goes all the way upstairs. Joan does things upstairs no one will ever know about. She shuts the door behind her. Joan locks herself in the master bath. Walter comes home from work earlier than expected. He will not be going back. The fire has gone out. The living room is dark. Walter sits down in the living room. Joan gets up early the next morning. The Meghans are already there when Joan arrives. They are sitting on the floor drinking huge sodas. They are wearing their high school sweatshirts. One customer alone buys over 25 jars. Claire calls on Saturday. Walter crams the rest of Brad’s beer cans in 30-gallon stretchable strength trash bags. Joan puts the Christmas dinnerware back in the big and heavy china cabinet after the holidays. Walter reads a big, illustrated book about ants. Brad aces his first two tests. Walter grows a beard and takes a photography course at the community college. Joan applies for a loan. Claire gets tenure. Walter shaves and goes to the unemployment office. Claire cannot make it this summer. Joan’s store goes in right next to a Deck the Walls. Brad learns about kinesiology. Walter’s job is to inspect cleaning and sanitizing units at supermarkets and fast food establishments. He is a field service technician. Joan’s sales are good. One Meghan helps out over Christmas break. When necessary Walter has to change the small measuring tips which regulate the flow of sanitizing fluid for the washing units, sanitizers, and cleaning dispensers. He carries fifteen color-coded measuring tips with him on his rounds. Honey Bee Good begins offering small gift items. Brad explores the power of proper breathing. Claire almost flies in for Easter. Brad takes an incomplete in Civil Procedure II. Walter fills out the inspection reports when he gets home. One bedroom is now his office. Meghan does not go back to college. Joan offers her a full-time job. Walter occasionally has to work out of town. He leaves Joan a note. Walter gets paid meals and hotels in addition to mileage. One of the two major retailers at the mall pulls out. Claire spends four days at home. Walter, Joan, and Claire go to Applebee’s. They share starters. Meghan has a baby and reduces her hours. Walter observes how chicken gets breaded and fried. Joan pastes up large yellow signs on her storefront windows. Everything Must Go! Joan sometimes baby-sits Meghan’s two children. Joan is present upon Brad’s release. She holds him for a very long time. Joan says it is the happiest day of her life. Walter’s car gets stolen on his inspection route in the city. The drunk black people say they did not see anything. Claire publishes her second book. Brad tries sales in a men’s department. Joan joins the Red Hats Society. Walter quits his job. Brad’s tribal totem tattoo by J-Man is his first. Joan expands her rooster and hen collection. Brad works at a gym for a short time. He gets better at body painting. Claire flies in every couple of years. Joan gets one last surprise visit from Meghan. The children bring her a candle made out of genuine bee’s wax. It is naturally smokeless and dripless. Walter buys a new set of PINGs. He joins a senior’s league. Brad gets a job as a prep cook. He places sacks and cases of up to 70 pounds in walk-in freezers. He works in a hot and damp environment. Joan drives the thirty miles to eat there once a week. She tells Brad that if there is anything he ever needs. Claire calls to say she got married. Joan has hip replacement surgery. Brad is not there one week. The manager has no idea. He says Brad just stopped showing up. Walter and Joan live until they are very old. Walter and Joan are living now. Walter is standing at the front door in his slippers. He is wearing a sweatshirt from where Claire teaches. He is paying the young, sweaty man from the lawn service. Joan is at the computer ordering groceries.

Jeff Tapia has been living in Vienna for the last several years and working as a playwright and literary translator. His plays—written in German—have been produced throughout Germany and received various awards. He has also published stories in both German and English.


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