“Hot Takes” by Gardner Mounce

Every Sunday, my family gets together for dinner at my parents’ house. Dinner begins cordially enough with a salvo of hows-works and what-have-you-been-up-tos. If we all stuck to a single glass of wine we’d continue like this, depleted by the year behind us; by the one ahead. But we don’t. By dessert, our opinions are weaponized, and the conversation plunges into a cage match of hot takes.

 My sister’s takes are sleek and cruel. They slice our takes down the middle, bury themselves quiveringly into our necks. My brother-in-law’s takes barely fit inside the doorway, much less his own head. They require straps and wenches and gobs of time to hoist above our heads. He likes to imagine how they’ll obliterate us in one fell swoop of gravity and logic, but he typically spends the whole evening fighting the pulley system. My grandmother’s takes are miniature apocalypses of dancing silverware and clapping shutters. When she really gets going, the hair kelps from our scalps. My younger brother is new to takes. He used to clutch his wine glass in a huddle of anxious deference, but he started going to a new church, one that arms him to the eyebrows in takes. They roll across the table in a sputnik of angry spines. We hold our breath as we wait for them to bounce, or roll, or explode. My dad’s takes are near-reaching and scientific, hardly takes at all. My step-mom’s takes slouch on the table like water balloons, petrified by our collective scrutiny. My uncle’s takes are toothless and cellophaned. I’ve often read the articles he retrieved them from, seen the journalistic fields from which they were robbed. My takes crumble like cornbread, no matter how aerodynamic and compact they seem in my head.

At times, I retreat to the backyard, rankled, and walk the smooth fondant of lawn. I wonder why they’re called takes, rather than something else. After all, isn’t an argument being made rather than taken? Coming back, I might pass my dad or brother, someone with whom I might have a conversation. I hurry past them, embarrassed by the intimacy of the narrow hallway, and return to the dinner table to see who’s taking, and from whom, and what’s been lost.

Gardner Mounce is a writer from Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from Clarion West in 2019 and the University of Florida’s MFA program in 2020. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Spartan, and elsewhere. He works as a copy/content writer.