When my great-grandparents died we inherited a butter dish.
“Why is it so fancy?” I asked my mom. Up until we inherited the butter dish, Mom would always put the butter on a plain little plate. Now the butter lay on a crystal platter, cut with little diamond-shapes, under a crystal cover with a crystal rose on the side, surrounded by more little diamond shapes. I could barely tell that it was butter in there, the creamy yellow color had been splintered up by all those little diamonds and scattered all over the outside of the dish.
“It’s from a different era,” Mom stopped to admire the dish before she went back to get the plates so I could set the table. “Back then, people liked everything to be fancy.”
Our first breakfast with the new butter dish, my older brother tried to lift off the cover, but accidentally smeared butter all over the inside. My sister scolded him, but Mom said not to worry about it. She put a little butter on the toast, then closed the cover. That was all the butter we used.
By lunch time the butter was gone.
“Just because we got a new butter dish doesn’t mean you can eat the butter,” Mom looked around the table at all three of us, accusation in her eye.
“I didn’t,” my sister said.
“It wasn’t me!” my brother said.
They all looked at me.
“I haven’t touched it!” I said. Eating butter? Plain? That’s so gross!
Mom opened the lid. The smear on the side from the morning was still there, but the butter that made it was gone, all except a thin layer on the rectangular platter, clouding up the carved starburst pattern on the bottom.
I wasn’t paying too much attention to what she did next, which was too bad, because at dinner time she asked us, “Didn’t I put more butter in the dish at lunch time?”
Dad had just asked for the butter, and Mom had just picked up the dish to pass it to him, but then she noticed it was empty. No creamy yellow facets. She set it down and lifted the cover. It looked like it had at lunch time. A little grease on the insides, that was all.
We didn’t know.
This time we all watched Mom put the butter in the dish. We watched Dad put some on his green beans. We watched the cover go back on. After dinner, as I cleared the table, I kept checking to make sure there was still butter in the dish.
Just before I went to bed, I took a toothpick and scratched the word, “Butter” in the stick. Then I snapped the toothpick in half and stuck it in.
The next morning, the butter dish was empty. No partly-used stick of butter. No toothpick. Only a little bit of grease on the dish where the butter had been.
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