November 19, 2013

Turkey looks good, though. (Terry Allen / by Terry Allen for the Washington Post)

Thanksgiving is always an awkward holiday, between the tryptophan and the drinking and the discovery that your Uncle Bart doesn’t believe in evolution any more. But somehow I think it will be worse than usual at the Cheney home this year after the public feud between the Cheney daughters on the subject of gay marriage. Possibly it is becaisLiz Cheney, now running for Senate in Wyoming, has gone on the record recently as opposing gay marriage. Her sister, Mary Cheney, is gay and married, and has gone on the record pointing out that Liz is “just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.” Given what usually happens when you combine politics and the Thanksgiving dinner table, my hopes are not high for this year’s feast…

“It is so good to see you all,” Dick Cheney says, holding the door open for Liz Cheney and her husband Phil and Mary Cheney and her wife Heather. “I’m so glad you could make it. Your mother and I were worried there for a little bit after those heated Facebook exchanges and televised comments. Now, before we get down to the meal, I was hoping we could set some ground rules: When you’re here, you’re family.”

“Like Olive Garden!” Phil pipes up. (Phil is always a little nervous at these gatherings after a Thanksgiving six years ago when he asked if the turkey was made with “enhanced preparation techniques” and the table fell completely silent, then spent the remainder of the meal glowering at him.)

“That means,” the Vice President continues, “no politics. We are going to be civil. We are only going to talk about the food.”

For a while they eat in silence.

“Love this stuffing,” Phil says.

“It’s a traditional family recipe!” says Mrs. Cheney.

“Traditional family, huh?” Mary eats a ruminative forkful. “Yeah, I guess you would be a fan of that, huh, Liz?”

“There was a comma between those two adjectives,” Mrs. Cheney says, quickly.

Everyone returns to eating in silence.

“Who made these green beans?” Heather asks.

“I did,” Liz says.

“These green beans are weird,” Mary says, after a few bites. “And cold. Cold and weird, like throwing your family under the bus so you can have a better shot at winning a primary.”

“Maybe Wyoming voters are not ready for warmer beans,” Phil timidly suggests.

“Well they still leave a bad taste in your mouth,” Mary says.

The Vice President noisily clears his throat.

“What, Dad?” Mary says. “We’re talking about the food!”

“We certainly are,” Liz says. She frowns down at her plate. “Did you make these sweet potatoes, Mary?”

“Yes,” Mary says. “I made them at home, and brought them here, and they did not cease to be valid as sweet potatoes when I left my place and came to yours.”

“Imagine that,” Heather adds. “Things that don’t lose their worth when you move from one place to another.”

“Why are there marshmallows on them?”

“I like marshmallows.”

“I don’t like marshmallows,” Liz says. She starts picking them off in a pointed manner. “This can’t be a traditional recipe.”

“Please,” Mrs. Cheney says, quietly. “Girls.”

“You used to be totally fine with marshmallows until you started running against Mike Enzi,” Mary says.

“You can serve them at your house if you want to because you are my sister and I love you. I just don’t think the people of Wyoming necessarily–” Liz begins.

“More wine?” Phil asks.

“Yes,” everyone says in unison.

Liz reaches for the wine, then stops herself. “Which side is my wine glass on again?”

“The side of history you aren’t on,” Mary says.

Mrs. Cheney clinks her fork loudly against her plate.

“Could I have a roll, please?” Phil asks.

“A traditional gender roll?” Mary asks.

“Just a bread roll,” Phil says. He feels everyone looking at him. “The one you describe is spelled with an E,” he continues, unable to stop talking, “although the two words are homophones so it might be easy to get them confused.”

“Confused?” Mary says. “Confused, huh?”

“Please!” the Vice President says. “Please, everyone. I thought we agreed.”

“So did I,” Mary says, glowering over the table, “when Liz congratulated us and said that–”

“THIS CRANBERRY SAUCE IS INCREDIBLE!” Mrs. Cheney yells loudly, startling everyone. Phil drops his fork and has to spend the next several minutes under the table hunting for it.

“I’m sorry,” Phil says. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It just really blends into the carpet. And what a lovely carpet it is.”

“Carpet,” Heather says. “Perfect. Liz, you want to make a bag out of it and go run for Senate somewhere?”

“Who wants pie?” Mrs. Cheney asks, getting up quickly.

“Yes,” Mary says. “Let’s dole out slices of the pie. How much of the pie do you think we deserve, Liz?”

“I’m not hungry any more,” Liz says, quietly. She gets up and pushes in her chair.

“So, uh,” Vice President Cheney says after a few moments. “Uh, you guys want to, uh, go quail hunting later?”

Mary’s eyes narrow. “Yes.”

Liz tenses. “I’ll pass.”

In the ensuing hush, Phil drops his fork again.

The remainder of the meal is eaten in unbroken silence.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.