The Leftovers

The Leftovers 1920 1583 Monica Nathan

I asked my mother if the leg once belonged to a baby. She was standing at her kitchen counter hacking it to pieces, the marbled meat falling away from the blade in gelatinous strips.

“You know I don’t eat lamb,” I said, trying to avoid the sullen tone which had annoyed her back in my teenage years.

“It’s mutton,” she replied, “An old Indian goat. As old as you.”

She moved to the stovetop, a tired electric model that looked at home in the drab kitchen. We were surrounded by leftover colours, the army green stove, a salmon fridge, and the beige floor tiles my father had found at a liquidation sale. It was as though a bit of brown had seeped into the colours of the rainbow, and our kitchen was created from the resulting palette.

My mother dropped the meat into a greased pan and we watched the oil pop and sizzle while wafts of garlic and onion permeated the tight space. The turmeric was more difficult to detect with the nose, leaving its mark instead via mustard stains that dotted the laminate countertops. Someone had been playing Holi with these surfaces – tomato paste blood splatter and rust coloured chilli powder.

She served the mutton curry on a mound of basmati rice and placed it on the table, the one bright spot in the kitchen, covered by a cherry red tablecloth. I shifted it to the side when I sat down, but it slowly moved back into place, the creases lining up perfectly with the table’s edge.

I ate a large portion, devouring spoonfuls of tender meat and thick, earthy sauce, the heat smacking the back of my throat. My stomach bloated uncomfortably and I pulled at my waistband to make room for my distended belly. I told my mother I’d had enough.

“Don’t you want more?” she asked.

It was the same from my mother-in-law with her spatula, my aunt with the grater. A chorus of have mores and try anothers.

It was my doctor with the baster when the bloating had ended bitterly, when I’d sat in the emergency room with the lady who had lost her nose. It was barely noticeable with her face forward, but a slight turn to the side revealed a profile as smooth and round as a hard-boiled egg. A gauzy white bandage had bisected her face, top half full of slow blinking cow eyes and bottom half all puffy lips, mouth agape. A man with a fetid odour had lain in a gurney hollering for more drugs in between barefoot trips to the bathroom.

I bled through my pants. Standing up gingerly, I left a red heart smudged on the plastic chair, and waddled to the nurses’ station armed with apologies. The nurse offered me two hospital gowns and a consolation bag of diapers. The doctor offered me a wink and told me they were the latest from Victoria Secret, and then everyone had a nose in my uterus. I’d pressed my cheek into the crinkly paper on the examination table and clenched my insides together.

“You can always have more,” the doctor told me once the results were in.

I clung to it like a mantra.

That night, I took home my mother’s leftovers in a yellowing plastic container, a faded yogurt logo stamped on the front. I moved the glass vials and half-cocked syringes to make room in the fridge, and placed the goat on the middle shelf. I would have more tomorrow.

Header photograph © Elle Danbury.

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  • Short Story Sunday – Coffee and Paneer 05/12/2019 at 4:30 pm

    […] ‘The Leftovers‘ by Monica Nathan in Barren mag […]

  • Saikat Chakrabarti 05/01/2019 at 10:06 pm

    What a wonderful piece! It is certainly not an easy feat to share the emotion of such a difficult topic with clear and relatable descriptions. I hope to hear more from her in the future.

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