watersThe snow-white husky under the pew in the foyer is watching the humans at the butcher block table in the middle of the kitchen. The father in the suede suit coat has been back from his job twenty-two minutes and forty-eight seconds, and is eating eleven peanuts cracked open from their shells, three smears of wine cheese across three wheat crackers, and one apple slice. But his is a voracious appetite.

“How about some McDonald’s?” he says.

My stomach buckles: The most popular kid on the block, Cross, is staying for dinner.

The four of us pack into the family car, a mid-sized luxury diesel.

Dad thinks his offer of McDonald’s means grace, and benevolence, and providence. Jews don’t usually eat fast food. Or at least we didn’t.

We putter away from the house. Eleven minutes twenty-nine seconds and 7.34 miles later, our car pulls into the drive-thru. The white bag comes into the car. My hell begins.

I lean forward over the seats to reach for a few hot fries. Horking a few perfect drive-thru fries in the car is something everyone on the planet does, everyone except the parents in this vehicle. But I had to at least try and secure that lode for Cross and myself. Cross was the kid every other eleven-year-old wanted to be friends with.

I wanted to be him:

He had Atari first, and cable TV first, perfectly feathered light auburn hair parted in the middle, and his father let him work out with him on free weights, and his house was the one on the corner with the big yard just across from the cement ball courts, his front door maybe ten yards from the regular stopping point of the ice cream truck.

But my mother crushes the top of the bag closed. “Just wait ‘til we get home.” No fries, no sips of soda—nothing more than delicious bag-air filling the car with silent want. No one speaks. The car smells like fried potatoes, yet so unlike latkes.

Inside the house, the bag and my parents move to that butcher block table. Cross and I head for the dining room. We sit down.

“What’re your parents doing?” Cross whispers.

The two of us watch from our seats as an odd triage begins in the kitchen. Four plates emerge from their cabinet place, and the two burgers, a Quarter Pounder, and a Filet O’ Fish are placed one on each plate at eleven o’clock. Fries come out of their bags between two and four o’clock. Four glasses come fresh and clean from the dishwasher, mouths wide as they wait to swallow the root beer and clear Sprite now being transferred from wax paper cup to glass. With plates in hands, my parents walk into the dining room, serve, and sit down.

There are parsley sprigs on each plate.

Cross and I wolf down our meals, and ten minutes later, outside in the late-winter street-lit dusk, bouncing a basketball around, I try to joke about what bizarre parents I have.

“That’s cool,” he says, “it makes sense. My dad says your folks are kikes. You even sort of look like Ronald McDonald.”

I have no idea what any of that is, or means. Kike – man! It bites like a dark fang. My parents, those fucking Kikes, I think to myself, and Cross and I run down the hardtack white of the sidewalks alongside our D.C. suburb houses to where the block kids are waiting, and I have something to tell them.



Jesse Waters is Runner-up for the 2002 Iowa Review Fiction Prize, and Finalist in the 2013 DIAGRAM Innovative Fiction Prize and the 2014 Paul Bowles Prize for Fiction, as well as recipient of a 2003 NC Artist’s Grant to attend the Vermont Studio Center, and a winner of the 2001 River Styx International Poetry Contest. Currently Director of the Bowers Writers House at Elizabethtown College, Jesse’s first book of poems, Human Resources, was released by Inkbrush Press in February of 2011.

Artwork by Stephen Knezovich