So they chew

by | Sep 3, 2012 | Fiction, Flash fiction | 10 comments

There’s more to this story than I thought when I scribbled the first draft a few days ago. That feels good.

So They Chew
By Laura McHale Holland

His gut is a giant diet gingerale, hers a sloshing jug of bitter lemonade. They are not hungry. But the 6:00 news is on; it’s time to eat. So they do. Tuna fish. Casserole. The kind with potato chips, peas, mushroom soup.

She saw the recipe on the Internet. Showed it to him. They had to try it for old time’s sake, he said. She bought the ingredients. Layered the casserole. Baked it today.

So they chew. Slowly. Just a few bites. Then a few more. It doesn’t taste like the tuna casseroles their mothers once made. Two-thirds gooey, one-third crispy. Burned around the edges. Grease on the tongue.

Their version tastes like a hanta virus in the toolshed, a white blood cell count rising, a bogey man in the crawl space, a neighbor walking away from her mortgage.

In silence, they chew on. They eat everything on their plates. It’s what they were taught to do.


(The casserole photo is from Salwa’s 5 alive flickr photo stream.)

Share this:

The Kiminee Dream: Now Available!

My new novel is coming soon. Mark your calendar!

Influenced by folklore and magical realism, The Kiminee Dream is a lyrical story with characters equally charmed and challenged while living where the ordinary and miraculous coexist seamlessly. If you like depth as well as whimsy, arresting twists, and details that rouse your senses, you’ll love what is both an eloquent exploration of acceptance and a tender tribute to the people of Illinois.


  1. Arletta Dawdy

    Oh, do I ever remember that casserole! Mine was a good experience and I hope it would be again and not like theirs. With this story in mind tho’, it will be a long while before I even consider making or eating tuna casserole! Good writing, of course!

  2. Susan

    Oh, no! Not the dreaded Tuna Casserole? I do remember my mom making this and it was good. I have a feeling this couple will suffer for continuing to eat something that doesn’t taste quite right. : ) See you.

  3. admin

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Arletta. I have good memories of tuna casseroles we ate just about every Friday when I was a kid. I remember telling a boyfriend after I moved to San Francisco how much I liked tuna casserole when I was growing up, and he said, “Laura, did it ever occur to you that you were just really hungry?” It hadn’t, but I didn’t snack between meals then, so I was almost always very hungry when mealtime came around. I did try making it once when visiting a friend from high school many years after we graduated. We followed a recipe we found in her local newspaper to the letter, but it didn’t taste the way either of us remembered it. It was kind of bland. I don’t know if that informed this story, but it could have a little bit.

  4. admin

    Thanks for checking in, Susan. I just wrote a comment to Arletta about how I enjoyed tuna casserole when growing up, too. I think avoiding difficult truths instead of facing them is what this couple’s problem is, and the tuna casserole is just a way to bring it to light. I also think not being able to work together to address difficult issues is at the heart of our nation’s problems, too. So, this story is working on those ideas, although I didn’t consciously intend to do that when I began writing it. I love the way things surface in the writing process.

  5. Barbara Toboni

    I always liked tuna casserole, but my family doesn’t so I don’t force it on them. What a great metaphor for what is unsaid, kind of like eating your words. Another good story on the way, Laura.

  6. admin

    Thanks for your appreciation, Barbara. It is kind of like eating your words, isn’t it. I just hopped over to Napa Writers Network and read your post — and loved it.

  7. Dan


    You have to stop writing these whimsical/disturbing stories.

  8. admin

    Thanks for your humorous touch, Dan. I very much appreciated the editing you did for the collection of stories that will soon emerge from this blog. The launch date is now set for Sat., Nov.3, 2012! (I did try doing a series of connected stories, a variation on a story-a-week theme. I learned some things, but the stories don’t make a satisfying whole. I may see if I can turn them into a longer story at some point. But in the meantime, I’m testing my limits with flash.)

  9. Robin Leigh Morgan

    Oh what a lonely life these two must live, if the next important thing is to eat. It doesn’t matter what it is or how it actually tastes. These two are living in a rut, where what time it is drives there activity. You said it yourself, it’s 6:00 PM, the news is on and its time to eat, and it didn’t matter that neither one was hungry. Is this what life has or can become. These two as well as us need to look outside the box we all live in, and start to do things a little different, even it is to watch a different program at 6:00. With the world moving as fast as it does, we can’t allow ourselves as these two do, and let the world past us by. We need to living now for tomorrow will be here before we know it.

    [Sorry for the delay. Was on vacation and must have missed seeing this until today.]

  10. admin

    I agree, Robin. This couple is stuck. We need to seize the day, as the old expression goes. Thanks for checking in!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up here to receive your free copy of Just In Case

Subscribe to Laura McHale Holland’s newsletter

Thank you! Watch your inbox, your welcome email should arrive soon.