The Man Who Came to Dinner by Eva Silverfine

When he arrived, quite by chance, and assisted Suzy with a roadside emergency, he impressed her as the ultimate good Samaritan: a kindly man, considerate, good-humored, gentle in tone, so ready to be helpful. Yes, he was a bit remarkable in appearance—large in every dimension, every feature. He had untamed curly black hair, bushy eyebrows, and long hairs that escaped his nostrils.

Despite his size he deftly slipped through the cracks that had been left by the dissolution of her marriage, the virtual abandonment of her son and daughter by their father. He quickly became the constant friend—call me if you have any more car trouble; let me pick that up for you, I have to swing by the grocery anyway; allow me to try my hand at fixing that wobbly step.

When Suzy asked him about himself, all she learned was that he didn’t have any local family, enjoyed cooking, and had moved to their town for a promising opportunity. He had a way of turning the conversation, of getting her to talk about herself.

Soon he was often at their dinner table; on weekends he arrived in the afternoon. With relish, he helped Suzy plan her daughter’s birthday party; with patience, he taught her children how to play chess. So, when he told her that his landlady had sold her property and he had a mere thirty days to find new accommodations; when he suggested that perhaps, if things were to come to that, might he move his things and himself into her semi-finished basement temporarily—he would pay, of course—she said yes, of course, no problem.

Within a few weeks he was moving in his surprisingly few possessions. He immediately took over cooking dinner, which became scrumptious, bountiful meals that, somehow, vanished by dinner’s end. Typically arriving home before Suzy, he would sit at the table with the children, eating snacks and listening to all the delicious tidbits of their day, becoming privy to their likes and dislikes, their whispered secrets. Before long he was accompanying them to after-school activities, imbibing their delight at having a  personal audience.

Suzy, tired from work and years of caring for her children on her own, welcomed his involvement. And it wasn’t just the children who were receiving his rapt attention—he would listen attentively to her work stories, family stories, friend stories, and marriage stories. It was as if he were filling up on all she had to share after years of struggling to manage as a single mother.

So, as the weeks extended into months, Suzy barely noticed that she didn’t return friends’ calls anymore; that her grocery lists had doubled in length; that she hadn’t received any money from her lodger; that her children had little to share with her when she arrived home from work.

And Suzy didn’t notice that while his presence in their household grew, her children seemed to be fading away; that if she looked in a mirror, she would see this happening to her too.

In the end, he didn’t even need to say a word. He gathered up his few possessions and put them in his car. He glanced at the family, mere shadows of their former selves, closed the door, and drove away. He always tried to make the feast last, but he never quite found the discipline.

Eva Silverfine left New York City at seventeen and arrived in semi-rural Texas two decades later. A biologist by training, she works as a freelance copyeditor for several academic presses. Her short fiction has appeared in Blue Lake Review, Everyday Fiction, Fiction on the Web, Flash Fiction Magazine, INfectiveINk, Spank the Carp, and Spelk. She has published a collection of essays, Elastic Walls, and her novels, How to Bury Your Dog and Ephemeral Wings, have been published by Black Rose Writing. Find her at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.