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Fake Man
Susan Tepper

January 2010

“After a while all relationships become stale,” I say.

“Are you saying you want to leave me?”  Jake isn’t looking up from the steak he’s cutting the fat off.  

Sighing I say, “Do you want a fat plate?” 

This is what I mean.  A fat plate.   A smaller extra plate to hold all the fat he cuts off his meat.  Jake’s been trimming his meat for years.  I always put a fat plate on the table in advance, and he says he doesn’t need it and puts it back in the cabinet, then he always ends up with nowhere to put the fat.  I end up interrupting my meal to get the fat plate out of the cabinet again.

I don’t have to do this — this getting up.  I’m programmed.  I’m a robot wife.  I like things to be nice, so I do, that is I over-do, everything.  If someone were to ask me why… 

My grandma used to wait until her husband and eight grown children, their spouses, and assorted grandchildren, had eaten all their pasta, meatballs, salad and bread before she’d even put a plate down on that huge table for herself.  Then I remember her always eating in a hurry.  God forbid someone should need an extra meatball while Grandma scarfed down her food in three seconds flat.   The relatives like to say she looked exactly like me in her coffin.  I didn’t go, so I can’t verify this.  I want to remember Grandma not laid out in the box. Jake has piled all the fat on the fat plate.  It’s clear yellowish fat, a little curling and charred on its edges.  I reach to touch it with my finger then pull back.  I know what fat feels like so what’s the point?

“I’m going upstairs to watch House,” I tell him.

“You like him better than me.”

“That’s silly.  How could I like a fake man better than a real one?” 

But then I already know the answer, grabbing a doughnut from the Entenmen's box and taking the stairs up two at a time.

Susan Tepper's collection Deer & Other Stories was published by Wilderness House Press (Sept. 09).  Her stories, poems and essays have appeared in Green Mountains Review, American Letters & Commentary, Gargoyle, Boston Review, Crannog, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Salt Hill, Snake Nation Press and elsewhere.  Cervena Barva Press will publish a book of her poems in Fall 2010.

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