“Sam,” his mom hummed, knocking on his door.
“Yeah?” Sam grumbled.
Sam sighed, put down his pen, closed his laptop, and reshuffled his evidence. “Okay mom. Be there in a second.”
He walked downstairs, past the contemporary paintings with which his mom decorated the walls, past the bookshelves of his dad’s travel books, past the red carpet in the living room, the fire place, the sculptures from abroad, finally reaching the kitchen. With his two little twin sisters chasing each other, giggling, and his mom telling them to sit down, and his dad clanking plates and forks and knives together to prepare the table, the room felt warm.
Sam sat at the table without a word, his sisters still giggling. His dad brought a plate with rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies to the table.
“How was school,” his dad asked.
“Not particularly. Did anything exciting happen at work?”
“I’m preparing a case for a new client.”
“How’d he get injured?”
“He was sent in to repair electricity cables at a plant that hadn’t been serviced in over a decade. Received such a high voltage shock, both of his legs flew off.”
“Can we not talk about this right before dinner?” Sam’s mom interjected. “Sam, want to lead us in grace?” His siblings and parents rested their heads into their praying palms.
“Not particularly.” Sam kept his hands rested on the table.
“Sam,” his dad insisted.
“Let’s not get in this argument again.” Sam glared. He prepared for a debate, his mind already structuring phrases and overviews.
“Please, Sam, c’mon.”
His sisters, Claire and Natalie, watched, fascinated. His mom chimed in. “C’mon guys—“
“—we should be grateful for your job,” Sam interrupted. “Not god.”
“Sam that’s not the point,” his dad rebutted.
“What the hell is the point then?”
Sam scoffed and turned to Claire. “Don’t let them brainwash you with this dumb religious stuff.”
“Sam!” his mom scolded. “C’mon, stop.”
“Do you have to debate everything?” his mom exclaimed. “Jeeze, Sam, you know we’re proud of what you do in debate but don’t bring it back home.”
Sam shrugged. An uncomfortable feeling formed at the bottom of his stomach. Too late to back out now though.
“I’m not debating mom. I’m just not going to say stupid religious shit I don’t believe.”
“Watch your mouth at the table,” his mom warned.
“Fine.” Sam stood. “You guys enjoy your dinner. I hope jesus pissed in it,” he muttered as he passed them.
“Sam—“ his dad sighed.
“He’s impossible,” his mom insisted as Sam turned the corner.
Upstairs, Sam took out his computer and tried to keep researching. He couldn’t focus. He felt hungry and nauseous. It was a familiar feeling. At debate tournaments especially, he would forget to eat and would only realize once he was too nauseous to be hungry. He lifted his shirt in front of the mirror. His ribs. Bags beneath his eyes. Though, as he let his shirt fall, the glimmer of the first place trophy from last weekend caught his eye.