Tulle-wrapped vases dazzled under the crisp light of the
chandelier. One lone rose dangled from each vase, extending
a lonely shadow on the surface of the mahogany table. Fluted glasses
accompanied porcelain plates, and scarlet-hued napkins were folded
neatly on the fine china. The faint aroma of nectarine and honey wafted
throughout the dining area, curling faintly from a tall, tapered candle
which was placed precisely in the center of the welcoming table.
It had taken hours to prepare the dinner. The salmon had been
painstakingly baked with a select pinot noir and a hint of thyme, and
the fresh cauliflower and broccoli had been steamed to perfection. It had
been agreed that the Calamity family would, after nine busy weeks of
toiling in lonely offices, convene to spend one night together as a family.
For a single evening, they would escape the ringing of their phones and
simply enjoy one another’s company. It was to be strictly a Calamity
night. Mama Calamity had arranged everything, notifying everyone
weeks before, and urging them to keep the evening free. She herself
had wrapped the vases in tulle, believing that it gave the dining area the
homely touch that they so badly needed in their demanding lives, and
it was her who called, texted and emailed her daughter Cat Calamity
relentlessly for one whole week to keep her most absent-minded child
attentive of the gathering’s existence and importance.
At six-fifteen, the Calamitys begin to trickle into the dining area.
They arrived, dressed in their coats and costumes from work, and they
hugged one another in greeting. Cat Calamity, who was—as expected—
the last to arrive, received a tender pat on her behind from her oldest
By six-thirty, the dinner had commenced, the food had been served
and Mama Calamity began the occasion with a clink of her salad knife
on her wineglass. She towered at the head of the table, her brown eyes
beaming in cordiality and her striped, ruched dress hugging her curved
“Tonight is a Calamity night,” she began, “Tonight, we take a
break from it all. From the cell phones, from the offices, from the clingy
girlfriends,” She emphasized her voice and eyed her son. “From the
drama. It’s us five tonight, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Jack Calamity, the husband of Mama Calamity, bowed his head in
agreement and smiled silently at his wife’s words as he sat at his assigned
She continued. “I’m so proud of all of you. Carrie, for being you.
Christopher, for making it in the business world, you’ve made momma
proud. And little Cat—last but certainly not least—for landing that deal
with O’Hara Modeling Agency. Mama’s gonna get a new diamond ring,”
she sang, her eyes glimmering with delight. “I thank the Lord for having
you guys, I would be so old, maybe not look quite so old, but be so old
without you guys. You’ve given me wrinkles, you’ve given me gray hair,
but you’ve kept me young. There’s Botox for the wrinkles, but nothing
can replace you guys.”
The Calamity children smiled at their mother. Cat glanced gleefully
at her, then quickly peeked at her cell phone which she held concealed
under the table and she then looked back up before her mother could
“I thank the Lord for the Calamitys. I thank the Lord for your
love to me.” Her grin suddenly widened and she looked at her kids in
excitement, “I don’t know if you guys know, but Cat bought me that
Louis Vuitton Westminster purse I’ve been wanting for months now.
Cat, you are an amazing daughter and you‘ve done so much with that
pretty face. So cheers to Cat, cheers to my gorgeous purse, cheers to us.”
The family raised their glasses in unison towards the chandelier and
towards the heavens, “Thank the Lord, may he continue to bless us.”
“Aw. Thanks, Ma,” Cat smiled divinely, “But it’s your good genes I
have to thank.”
“…more like your naked pictures,” Carrie muttered audibly.
The room went silent. All eyes snapped to Carrie and all the cheer
and sighs stopped. Christopher lowered his glass, pleasantly curious as to
what was coming.
“What?” Cat snapped coldly. She narrowed her eyes at her sister.
“What did you say?
“I heard that. You said, ‘or more like your naked pictures.’ Or
you mean more like, ‘cause I’m hot and you’re not?’ We all know you
posted those pictures because you were trying to sabotage me. Well little
did you know your being a conniving bitch would get me a modeling
contract. Sabotage me all you want, you hideous wench, but I’ll be the
one laughing all the way to the bank!”
“Cat, please,” Mama Calamity said as calmly as she could muster.
She glared at Carrie. “Carrie, why would you say that? She’s never done
anything to hurt you.”
“No reason.” She paused. “I just think she’s disgusting.” She paused,
thinking through her words, “Actually, I think you’re disgusting.”
She raised her voice, but despite trying to appear confident, her voice
still quivered under her mother’s stare. “I think this entire family is
disgusting. I think you love money more than anything or anyone else.
And that’s why you love Cat more than the rest of us, because she’s your
little money maker.” She took one look into her mother’s eyes and then
looked down at the salmon on her plate, noting the thyme sprinkled
sporadically on the fish. She didn’t dare look at her sister.
She continued. “Your daughter had naked pictures of her posted all
over the internet for the world to see, and you didn’t care. You weren’t
ashamed. Nothing. All you could say was how at least she looked
glamorous in the pictures. Who does that? It’s weird. It’s disgusting.” She
looked up again boldly at her mother and then took one quick glance
into her sister’s devious, feline eyes, “I got on the dean’s list at school and
you can’t say so much as congratulations. Nothing!”
All eyes continued to gape at Carrie and her round face that was so
much plainer than her sister’s. Her naked face that shared none of the
garish beauty of Cat’s. The face that lacked the demure eyelashes that
fluttered like petals in the wind.
“You are disgusting,” Cat uttered, brushing her black tresses away
from her face. “You know what this is, Ma? This is her being jealous.
Jealous ‘cause her younger sister is successful without even going to a
fancy university. Jealous because her boyfriend left roses on my car and
asked me to be with him while he was still dating her…” Her voice
“You know, Carrie. This is pretty sad,” Christopher chimed in.
“Especially right here at the family dinner Ma’s been planning. And
besides, Cat’s never done anything to you.”
“You can’t say anything, Chris! You have some sick, weird crush
on her! What brother walks around naked in front of his sister? What
brother spies on his sister with his friends when she’s taking a shower?
And Cat, you threw yourself at Doug. You ‘accidentally’ dropped
your towel in front of him when we were studying in the living room.
You’re a mess! A hot, gooey mess! You’re a fame whore! You’re a soulless
mannequin in a department store window and mom is nothing but a
“Sticks and stones, my love,” Cat sang song in a taunting tone, “The
mannequin gets more love, more admirers, more fancy clothes than the
plain old ugly manager in the back of the store. And poor mom does not
deserve this.” She gazed benevolently at her mother.
Mama Calamity stood in the same position as when she started her
toast. “Why, Carrie? Why?” Mama Calamity started, quietly at first.
Then her voice began to rise. “Why would you ruin this dinner I worked
so hard to put together?” Her dark eyes looked insulted and perplexed
by her daughter’s actions. “I just don’t get why you would do such a
thing, not just to me, but to all of us—”
Carrie interrupted. “You didn’t do anything for this dinner!
You hired a chef to cook the dinner!” she cried, partly laughing in
frustration. She could feel her entire body shaking, “You didn’t do
anything to prepare but wrap some damn ribbon on these vases!” She
stared down at her fingers wrapped tightly around her wineglass. “What
the hell is wrong with you guys?” She asked. What was wrong with her
family? Why was she the only one to see how stupid and phony they
were? These cowardly, fake people who were in love with nothing but
their own reflections. “You’re sick!” She cried, “You’re sick!”
Without another thought, Carrie raised the cup above her, oblivious
to the wine sprinkling about her, and heaved it to the wall.
The wineglass shattered, falling to the ground in shards, sprinkling
with the piercing and illustrious rain of glass. With all eyes on her,
Carrie, inhaling vigorously, forced herself up from her chair and stormed
out of the room.
The dining room was silent.
Christopher Calamity had a look of disapproval on his face as he
watched his sister’s exit, but he had a feeling of warm content in his
mind. This was nothing, compared to other Calamity spats. He pulled
himself away from the table, gave his mother a quick glance and casually
uttered, “I’m gonna get going. I’m gotta meet up with Madison.” He
stood up, swooped by his mother to give her a peck on the cheek,
tousled his sister’s hair, and left the room.
Three Calamitys sat at the grand table, which was enveloped in a
resounding silence. Jack Calamity shifted his weight uncomfortably in
his chair, waiting for his wife to speak. Cat held her wineglass before
her as she fixed a stray hair in the faint reflection before her. Without
looking up, she started, “Anyways, Ma, I have a photo shoot tomorrow
pretty early. I know you’re busy and all, but I’d love for you to come.
Great opportunity and the director is so sweet, I’m sure he’ll let us keep
some of the clothes.”
Mama Calamity took a look at her beautiful daughter. A daughter
who reminded her of her own, pretty, once-young self. She took one
calming breath and then sat down. “You know what, Cat? You can
never, ever, have too many of anything. Especially clothes.” She smiled
demurely at her daughter and then at her husband, “Isn’t that right,
“Certainly,” Jack Calamity said, nodding his head in agreement at
his wife’s words, “Most certainly.”
The remainder of the night, the three Calamitys sat at the table,
talking and enjoying one another’s presence, the wine, and the fine
food before them. And the remnants of the shattered glass lay still and
glistening on the tiled floor.
While the family talked, the glass, unnoticed, continued to glisten
in the chandelier’s incandescent light and its fluted exterior captured the
radiance of brilliance and beauty. The shards were jagged and unsafe on
the floor, but no one paid them any attention. The glass was broken, but
it was perhaps even more beautiful in its dramatic state of crackled and