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  • Rena Shapiro

Broccoli and Ego

I skipped down the stairs hurriedly to meet my parents at the dinner table on our backyard porch. Rounding the glass circle-on-legs topped by porcelain dishes for us each to fill up, I slid my seat out and sat down in haste.

"Sorry," I breathed in response to my mother's pointed look, a product of my tardiness.

"Let's eat," she sighed. I reached for the water pitcher. As I tipped it slowly from the handle and the water streamed into my glass, I looked out to our garden, lush and hazy with summer. The day lilies accepted July's invitation, the breeze swaying their orange-yellow flame of a blossom and caressing dusk as it gently blanketed us all.

Smiling to myself, I looked back at the table to see what to claim next; steamed broccoli laid waiting in a large pot. I took the large silver serving spoon and gave myself four pieces.

Of late, I had discovered aphids hiding between the buds on the broccoli chutes. In the favor of caution, I cut off the top of the piece closest to me to reveal two culprits on each side of the middle stalk.

I groaned. "Mom, look."

She placed her glasses on her nose and leaned over, eyebrows raising in surprise. The brownish-black spots encased by tufts of green had been invisible to her naked eyes and she clearly thought I was just being pedantic.

"Please," she began, rolling her eyes, "That's nothing. Just cut off the brown part and eat the rest."

I, ever the skeptic, cut open the next stalk to see the trend continued. She scoffed.

"I never noticed that before. It must just be this one bushel."

I shook my head inconspicuously as she turned her eyes back to her plate. I watched her impale a piece of her own with her fork and bring it to her mouth.

"Wait!" I warned. "You're just going to eat it regardless?"

She stopped her hand and blinked at me sideways. "Yes."

In an earnest effort to prove my point, I haughtily took a piece from her plate and repeated the reliable investigation from minutes before, slicing it through the center.

"There," I said, jutting my chin towards the aphids that had been proven not to have been fond of my plate alone.

In an act of spite and withdrawal from this tournament of wills, she brought her eyes directly to mine as she ate a brown-spotted piece. I surrendered.

The broccoli on my own plate went untouched for the rest of dinner. My inability to convince another onlooking party of my own observations, a great blow to my pride, left me void of any appetite.

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