America got to the table even later than usual. He had actually done this on purpose, hoping to miss the tiresome “blessing” that Dad always made them say before meals. He was dismayed to find Dad still bowed, speaking the blessing aloud. As usual, Dad was being drowned out by the din of the dinner table.
The older children were all complaining loudly about China. China had found some books on magic tricks and gambling. Many of the others now claimed he had cheated them out of all their allowance money.
Iran sulked at the far end of the table, picking at his food. Before too long, he gave up the pretense of eating, and started playing with his growing collection of plastic motor boats. Several of the other children called for Dad to put a stop to this, since Iran was supposed to be passing the gravy.
It would have done little good for Dad to intervene in any case. It was a very large table, and by the time anything Dad said was relayed to the other end, the messages passed from child to child would have borne little resemblance to what he actually said. Worse, some of the naughtier children would entertain themselves by making up things to add, or change the pronouncement completely.
Russia amused himself by slipping a handful of strike-anywhere matches he had found in the garage to Iran under the table. For good measure, Russia had dipped the heads in one of Dad’s gas cans.
Iran thought this was a great idea, and now busied himself with setting fire to the table cloth. Although this would presumably have threatened Iran before anyone else at the table, he convinced himself that it would get Dad’s attention, and felt absolutely sure Dad would move to his end of the table if he made a big enough scene.
Dad ended his mostly fruitless attempt to conduct the “blessing”. He abruptly rose from the table and walked out of the living room, even though he hadn’t touched his food. A few of the smaller children later said they thought they saw tears welling up in Dad’s eyes. America and some of the older children sneered at this, and assured everyone that Dad was never at the table to begin with. This mystified the other children, since America was sitting right next to Dad at the table.
Before long, everyone got bored with spitting, cussing, throwing food, and pulling each others’ hair, and started to get up from the table. Just as they started to move, however, Iran and his plate and toys were suddenly engulfed in flame! Other children frantically doused Iran and the table with their water glasses, and got the flames out before too much damage was done. Russia and China laughed so hard they nearly fell out of their chairs. America, Britain, France, and several of the children at the other end of the table started to scold them, but only halfheartedly. Clearly everyone was enjoying the silly spectacle, and they didn’t want to become unpopular.
Eventually the excitement wore down. Somebody handed Iran a couple of ice cubes for his burned fingers, and everyone went outside to play.
To Be Continued….