When I was little, we lived in the Rattlesnake Valley (where I never actually saw a rattlesnake, but I did see one when I was running with my friend Davis at the ranch and there it was right in the middle of the lane and we had to sprint in a wide berth around it to get back to civilization and a set of tools that we might use to kill it, all of which was somewhat frightening). Our neighbors were far away (for being in a town, that is).

On one side, an older couple lived with their dog. Sometimes, when the man was traveling, they paid me to come and visit with the woman, who could not move around with much agility, and I would also play with the dog, who lived in a kennel. I would run across the field between our houses and leap onto and over the fence. (Sometimes walking is a waste of time.)

Once, they invited our family over for dinner. At a certain point, the conversation became awkward.

Background: the neighbors are trying to eat more healthily, in accordance with doctor’s orders. The awkward point:

Neighbor Man: Trying to adapt to a new diet has been challenging.

Neighbor Woman: It really has, you know, you get used to eating a certain way…

Neighbor Man: but apparently things like bacon just aren’t top dieting menu items. (Laughs.) We’ve been replacing a lot of things.

My Dad: Yeah, that does sound tough. What sorts of things are you allowed to eat then?

Neighbor Woman: Well, there’s ham, prepared in particular ways–

Me: Ham? I hate ham!

(Silence. Everyone looks at each other. I keep going.)

Me: It’s terrible that you have to eat ham, really, that sucks.

(My seventh grade self does not know when to stop.)

Me: Ham is gross.

Neighbor Man: Oh! I’m sure we can find something else…

Neighbor Woman: And there are other things.

(I begin to realize I have said something bad.)

My Dad: Uh, Ry, we’re having ham.

(Woo hoo!)


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