The grandmother, square and solid as a tank (dressed entirely in black as befitted a Spanish Civil War widow) scrunched up her hooded eyes. The mother, widowed or abandoned (in those days, divorce was not an option), hardened her lips. The eldest of the three daughters raised her eyebrows. The middle daughter’s mouth formed a perfect O. And the youngest daughter looked on with delight: she could hardly wait to see what would happen next.
The foreign exchange student stalled. If her university Spanish had been more fluent, this would have been a good time to make small talk. Alice didn’t know the people with whom she was boarding. She should have engaged them in conversation… told them about life in the States. But her tongue was tied.
Instead, she looked at her unfinished bowl of bacalao. She had eaten the salt cod. Only an eyeball remained. The eyeball floated- a bit of glutinous flotsam in the broth. Alice imagined that it would be rubbery. She would have to swallow it whole.
Had the cook, an impoverished peasant from the mountains north of Madrid, served her the eyeball with no forethought? Or had the grandmother purposefully served the eyeball as some sort of test? Maybe Marcella, the youngest, had added the eyeball as a joke?
¿Quieres mas sopa? Do you want more soup?
Lifting her head, Alice replied, No, estoy lleno. I am full.
Little did Alice know that she had just announced her pregnancy.