What You’re Not Supposed to Talk About (Story by R.C. Peris)

My boss called me into his office. He sent a formal email and it made my heart race. I went to his office and swallowed before knocking. My throat was dry.

“Carly, come in.” My boss was sitting behind his desk with his arms opened expansively. He was grinning. “I’m giving you a promotion. There’s a raise. See HR about that. But I wanted to ask you if you would like to come to dinner on Friday. Nothing formal. Just to learn more about each other and for our spouses to meet.”

“I would love to,” I said with relief and an edge of anxiety.

On Friday I stood on the porch of a yellow clapboard house with my husband, Charles. He was holding a bottle of wine and I was holding a bouquet of flowers. A black woman opened the door. Her hair was pulled back tightly into a bun and she was wearing a pale blue cardigan.
“You must be Carly. I’m Rasha. Come in. Dinner is almost ready.”

We followed Rasha into the warm and well-decorated home. My boss was standing at the dining room table uncorking a bottle of wine.

“I guess our wine is back up,” said Charles.

“Oh, you didn’t have to bring anything,” said my boss in a booming voice.

Dinner was served after introductions. Salad. Lamb with mint jelly. Boiled potatoes, Tender asparagus. Wine. Lots of wine. My boss had a full wine rack. Charles said nothing while eating and drinking. When he was done he leaned back.

“So an interracial marriage. Has it been hard on you?” asked Charles.

Rasha and my boss looked at each other and then at me. I clenched Charles thigh under the table.
“Hey, what about that madman in the White House. Geesh. He’s the Founding Fathers nightmare.”

My boss flinched. “Actually, I…we…voted for Trump.”

“What the hell for? Come on…he doesn’t like black people…well…unless they have money. You two are solidly middle class. Trump is fighting for the one percent.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this…” Rasha’s voice was tight.

“Okay,” said Charles. “What about religion? Don’t you hate those Mormon missionaries knocking on your door? How many times do they need to hear the word atheist?”

“Actually, Rasha and I don’t mind but we are devoted Catholics.”

“Waste of time being devoted to that racket. And believe me, those priests are involved in racketeering.” Charles poured more wine.

“You’ve had enough.” My voice was small but firm.

“You should never discuss religion and politics,” chimed my boss.

“Oh, really? How the hell does anything ever change then? If you can’t talk frankly about religion and politics you might as well crawl into a hole and hope Earth doesn’t get blown up. Or you could talk, change things, and make sure Earth doesn’t get blown up.”

My boss and Rasha were stony-faced. Charles had an awful grin. My boss said it was time to leave.

In the car, Charles babbled on about God and Republicans.

“I think I lost my promotion,” I said angrily.

“Well, see…something changed as a result of talking about religion and politics. It’s a crap job anyhow.”

When I got home I took a shovel and pounded my rose garden. Thrashed everything to bits. I wanted a divorce. I wanted a divorce. I wondered if Charles wanted to talk about that.


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