From Issue 12: The Mysteries in a Jar of Olives

Jonathan Gonnet
When I finally got around to walking into the kitchen I found the dinner table set and undisturbed. The condiments and all were just sitting there, lonely, and the room resembled a scene staged from New Mexico in homes built on nuclear test areas.
I picked up a spoon left by the coffee maker from that morning. It had a dried, brown outline and smelled a bit roasty, but I regarded it as clean enough. Standing at the refrigerator I hacked rice out of an old Chinese food carton like someone using a hand trowel in permafrost and, with what little didn’t fall on the floor, I just sort of chewed the hard and tasteless rice grains for a bit. I tossed the spoon into the sink with a loud, hollow noise and nobody stirred.
Must not be home.
I sat in my chair. Not mine because I had designated it such owing to an economic exchange—trading stores of value for goods—but rather it was mine in the strange way we all come about assigned seats. Whether done by default (shout out to all the youngest siblings) or done of our own accord, the dinner table seats which become ours then become our base of operations; our station of comfort and familiarity as we adapt our view of life through a particular lens. O ye comfortable, familiar and incredibly limiting viewing angle, for it is through seeing only from the perspective of an acute angle that we are effectively blinded to everything else.
Isn’t that pretty much the metaphor for life?
The kitchen table paradox: by actively participating and trusting in the foibles of a family dynamic, we are agreeing to be mostly blind.
Hell, I don’t know.
I picked up a jar of olives. A few moments later I’d gorged myself on half of the jar and I found myself contemplating the pros and cons of drinking the salty olive juice.
It probably had hydrating qualities like its mystic cousin the pickle juice, I thought.
Probably too high in sodium and would give me a turkey goblet like the red-topped soy sauce, though.
I picked up the jar. It was oddly heavy for how skinny it was, compared to your typical jarring standards. I played with it in my hand, turning it over and holding it at angles, the weight giving it a fun experience as if I were really a grown up (you know, one of those adults who aren’t constantly confused) and handling an important canister full of chemicals or ooze or something. Again, I feel the need to stress that this jar was breathtakingly stylistic, in that it was thin and tall, extraordinary and privileged compared to her squattier, homelier peers.
Mostly I suppose my thoughts wondered to, like most men of drink, what would a cocktail look like in this glass? I could pretty much guarantee that no matter what it would taste like the first pull would gag me, but what would be the ideal mix to put in this beautiful receptacle?
It wouldn’t matter; whatever.
Somehow, and I’m not sure how this happens from time to time, my imagination ran a reel and projected out what the scene would look like if I smashed the glass on the end of the wooden table. Would it really even shatter? Even if it did, would the thick shards even cut and slice, or would they gouge?
Seems like it would hurt, more army knife than scalpel.
When I looked at the imaginary shard’s depth which had undulation and ridges like the sides of a canyon, I think that seems too intense and too outsized a response, that thick jag of glass.
I think of legacy. This jar of olives might represent the most favorable—or at least interesting—legacy I could leave at this point.
Maybe something storied will come from it all.
Maybe a name will be coined to vague this whole thing over; “The Olive Incident” or something.
Maybe the kids will take a fatalistic, rockstar-esque pride in it. They can collect olive themed paraphernalia or paintings or something; I can give them an identity. They can remember me every time they drink martini’s with their floozy’s or when they eat the free bread of shitty chain Italian restaurants, depending on the level of sophistication the father and rudder-less kids find.
Anything is better than the legacy of a boring, aging father whose face is twenty-five pounds fatter than it has ever been.
Whose clothes barely fit.
Who has to go to meetings in order to fight the random urges to not die or go to jail, which is to say, to not drink so that he can at least muster an attempt to provide some of the good parts of the world to their mother. And them.
Probably they don’t care about such crucially important things like legacies or existential scoreboards. But what do they really know? And, further, who can blame them for not knowing? They are only kids.
They don’t even like olives yet.
Jonathan Gonnet has published stories in The Moth, Limestone, The Vehicle, The New Mexico Review and Euphemism. He studied at University of Texas and spent the last two years in The Writer’s Path program at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. His debut novel In Defense of the Moth or a Meaningless Dance in Blinding Heat and Light was published in March of 2016.