Steak Night – Joseph Marczynski

They would serve steak after the funeral. Terrance would have liked that. Denise was sure of it. She spent the morning fixing her hair and searching for the good knives.

The steakhouse provided the meat for free, or gratis as Denise told her guests. They even put up a photo of Terrance in his favorite booth. The wood paneled box where they’d spent their first date and the majority of the ones that followed.

The priest padded out the service with hymns. He touched on Terrance’s love of food but had little else to say about him. He wasn’t a generous man, or a kind one. But that’s not why Denise loved him.

After the funeral she rushed home and fired up the hob without changing. The house was filled with tearful aunts, screeching babies and stoic men.

When it was time to eat, she set out paper plates and gelatinous bowls of potato salad. She cooked each steak to order, but wouldn’t agree to well done. Terrance would have liked that too. He was a rare man. Denise liked medium. Her black dress grew slick with blood and oil. There weren’t enough sharp knives. Guests took to eating with their hands when Denise wasn’t looking.

The day went quickly. Denise was too busy to cry. Terrance’s workmates sang for him on the porch between swigs of Budweiser. After they’d left she found cigarette butts and empty sachets of ketchup in the potted plants.

Denise insisted upon an open casket. Tradition.

They couldn’t operate on Terrrance without leaving a nasty open wound. So there it stayed. Rotten and chalky. A gnarled puck of undigested gristle, nestled in the folds of his throat.