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Authors: Michelle Wildgen

Bread and Butter

BOOK: Bread and Butter
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Michelle Wildgen

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House Companies.

www.doubleday.com

DOUBLEDAY
and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

Cover design by Emily Mahon

Cover photographs by Andrew Purcell

Food styling by Carrie Purcell

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Wildgen, Michelle.

Bread and Butter : a novel / Michelle Wildgen. — First Edition.

pages cm

1. Brothers—Fiction. 2. Restaurateurs—Fiction. 3. Competition (Psychology)—Fiction. 4. Domestic fiction. gsafd I. Title.

PS3623.I542B73 2013

813'.6—dc23

2013005474

ISBN 9780385537438

EBOOK ISBN: 9780385537445

ep_v4.0

For Holly

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody,

even one’s own relations.

—OSCAR WILDE

Contents
PROLOGUE

E
VERY FEW MONTHS, IN THE GRIPS
of their parents’ civic and vicarious ethnic pride, Leo, Britt, and Harry went on a forced excursion to the last Italian market in town. Most people in Linden would make a day of it and drive ninety minutes east into Philadelphia, to hit 9th Street or Reading Terminal, but Leo’s parents were diehards
. A
s long as Moretti’s was open, they would insist it was the best.

Inside a butcher’s case, denuded rabbits curled pink and trusting in white bins, while the sheep’s heads appeared chagrined and surprised by the depth of their eyeballs, the narrow clamp of their own teeth
. T
he display of calves’ brains and kidneys, livers and tripe, repulsed Britt, struck Leo as regrettable but unavoidable, and entranced Harry, who was six. He stood with his hands on the glass, chewed-looking mittens dangling from his sleeves.

Britt and Leo, who were twelve and thirteen, were supposed to be watching their brother but were primarily lurking several feet away near the bulk section, peering over patrons’ shoulders at the hooves and teeth.

Their father appeared beside them, holding a pink slice of prosciutto, which he did not offer. These Saturdays sometimes left their parents flushed and high-spirited in a slightly confrontational way.

“We’re not even Italian,” Britt pointed out.

“Since when are you purists?” their father asked. “Would you be happier if we were in a haggis store?”

“I was happy playing basketball,” Leo said wanly. But the store was an invigorating riot of noise and meaty fragrance, and he found it difficult not to join in the hollering and sampling as his parents did with such mortifying enthusiasm.

“It smells like death in here,” Britt said. “Death and spices.”

“That’s fennel seed,” their father said.

Eventually their parents completed their tasting and shopping and returned, each holding a large brown paper bag.

“Where’s Harry?” their mother asked. She craned her neck, peering through the crowd. Her red hair was coming out of its ponytail. “Boys? Where’d Harry go?”

“He was here,” said Britt, and he and his brother both looked down to where Harry had been. The last they had seen of him, Harry was storming off into the sea of bodies, miffed that Leo and Britt refused to emote over the case of organ meat. They had not followed.

“Well,
look
,” their father said
. T
heir parents began working their way through the crowd.

The street was gray and quiet, cars rumbling past Leo on the pitted asphalt
. W
hat a terrible place for Harry to be wandering around, his vividness like a target
. W
hy did their parents bring them here? Leo jogged up the block and around the corner, fruitlessly, before returning to the store, where he stood in the mass of people, sweating, his heart pounding, realizing that he had ruined his family.

And then the crowd shifted and Leo glimpsed them all: a cluster of ginger-colored heads back by the meat counter, his father’s darker head in its Eagles cap. Harry was holding something wrapped in white paper. His parents’ faces were a volatile blend of anger and relief.

As they left the store Leo glanced at Britt, who rolled his eyes in a way that conveyed complicity and gladness, the latter something Britt was clearly embarrassed to feel.

Harry refused to hold either parent’s hand and was clutching his white package. Leo took in the oblivious bounce of Harry’s shoulders, the round curve of his cheek, and the cowlick on one side of his forehead. He probably hadn’t even gotten scolded. Leo took one lengthy stride, long enough to catch the heel of Harry’s shoe, a punk-ass little gesture that almost made him feel better.

“Thanks for scaring everybody,” Britt said.

“I was talking to the meat guy,” Harry said. “He has all the good stuff.”

“It’s a lamb’s tongue, by the way,” Britt said to Leo, nodding at the white package. “He got a lamb’s tongue.”

“To eat?” Leo said to his parents. “You bought him a lamb’s tongue?”

Their mother set her bag down on the sidewalk, pulled a stocking cap out of her pocket, and tugged it down over Harry’s head. Then she straightened up and said, “
We
didn’t buy it for him.” Her eyelids lowered just slightly, slyly, because Harry hated to be laughed at, and she added, “He used his allowance.”

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BOOK: Bread and Butter
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