The Night the Lambs Came to Dinner

by Jack Somers

The Lambs were the first dead people I had ever seen in real life. They weren’t laid out in coffins at a wake, their bodies bloated with embalming fluid, their waxy faces caked with garish makeup. They weren’t strewn along the side of the road, their limbs twisted at impossible angles, their clothes spattered with gore. They were right there at our front door, standing perfectly upright, blinking at me under the porch light.

Ron Lamb had on a gray golf shirt and pleated khaki pants, and Marjorie Lamb was outfitted in a knee-length lavender dress with a belted waist. The only thing that looked dead about them was their skin—an unnatural bluish white, the color of duck eggs. They might have just been sick, drained of color by a nasty stomach bug or a strain of summer flu.

But I knew they were dead.

I’d overhead my dad talking about the accident a few weeks earlier, telling my mom how Ron’s Volkswagen had wrapped itself around a tree, how he and Marjorie had been flung through the windshield. As my dad shared these details, my mom began to weep.

“Poor Marjorie,” she said. “Poor, poor Marjorie. She was only thirty-eight.”

“She never wanted to be old,” said my dad. “Neither did Ron. They’re in a better place.”

I didn’t think our front porch was the place he meant.

“Hey, Mikey,” said Ron. “What’s up?”

This was Ron’s characteristic greeting to me. Normally I said, “the sky,” and he ruffled my hair and called me a smart-ass, but at the moment I couldn’t even come up with that simple, automatic response. All I could do was stare at him and think, “You’re dead. You’re dead. You’re dead.”
Thankfully, my dad came to the rescue.

“Ron, Marjorie!” he boomed. “So glad you guys could make it. Come in, come in.”

I stepped aside, and the Lambs entered. They didn’t move all herky-jerky like zombies in the movies. They walked like they always did—Ron leading the way with brisk, loping strides and Marjorie skittering behind, her four-inch heels tapping the hardwood. My dad showed them into the dining room and sat them down at the table across from my spot. An instant later, Mom emerged from the kitchen, all smiles, wiping her hands on her apron. “Well, look who decided to show up!” she said.

The meal started with salads—arugula with pistachios, cranberries, and citrus vinaigrette. After that came the main course—pork tenderloin with asparagus and rice pilaf for the grownups and macaroni and cheese for me. Macaroni and cheese was my favorite, and under different circumstances, I would have cleaned my plate in five minutes, but I didn’t feel much like eating right now. I didn’t really even want to look at my food, to be honest, but I did because that was preferable to looking at the dead people sitting across from me. Ron and Marjorie didn’t touch their food either. I thought maybe dead people couldn’t eat. Maybe food just went right through them like it went through that fat, little green ghost in Ghostbusters.

My parents ate with what seemed to me like extra gusto—like they were trying to compensate for the rest of us non-eaters. As they devoured their food, they talked with Ron and Marjorie about the old days. I had heard most of the stories before, about how they had all met in a paddy wagon after getting busted for underage drinking, about how the four of them had hitchhiked to Woodstock, about how Ron and Dad had been stars on the college rugby team. Ron’s favorite story was about the night he and my dad raced their cars down Route 59, a race that ended with my dad’s MG at the door of Ray’s Tavern and Ron’s red ’64 Mustang in the Cuyahoga River. Apparently, Ron had always been a reckless driver.

A little after nine, Mom brought out a ceramic platter piled high with fudge brownies. She gave one to each person at the table and then picked out her own from the top of the pile and sat down. She was halfway through her brownie when she glanced over at me and noticed I wasn’t eating.
“Michael,” she said. “Eat your brownie. We can’t eat all of these by ourselves.”

I looked up and saw Ron and Marjorie smiling at me, their glazed eyes wide.

“Go ahead, champ,” said my dad. “Eat up.”

Didn’t anybody else see what was wrong with this picture? We had two cadavers at the table, and all Mom and Dad seemed to care about was the fact that I wasn’t eating my brownie. I couldn’t play along anymore. I couldn’t keep quiet. I had to say something.

“Dad,” I blurted, pointing across the table. “They’re dead.”

Ron and Marjorie stopped smiling and lowered their heads. My mom slammed her fork down.

“Michael Archibald Tomlinson, how rude!” she spat. “Go to your room.”

I didn’t hear the Lambs leave that night, and the next morning, my parents didn’t say anything about the visit. I didn’t ask any questions. I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to forget the whole thing had ever happened. My parents seemed to be of the same mind. They never talked about the visit or the Lambs again. I think that’s for the best. Let the dead be dead. Don’t dwell on them. Don’t hold onto them. And for God’s sake, don’t drag them out into the light and make a place for them at the table.

Jack Somers’ work has appeared in a number of publications including Midwestern Gothic, decomP magazinE, and Sick Lit Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @jsomers530 or visit him at
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