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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Apple Pie


by Amy Ellis

 




 

The coffee was burnt. Bitter, burnt and she was out of sugar. The milk in the refrigerator was spoiled and probably curdled, rancid. The light over the sink flickered. The kitchen table was dirty and covered with unopened bills at least two months old. Kate tried to ignore everything, the stillness of the house at six on a Sunday morning, the smell of month old store-bought apple pie on the counter. She was glad her husband hadn’t come home yet.


The man’s car in the driveway sputtered and pulled out slowly with no rough good bye, just a sigh and a murmur. She forgot to close the curtains. The neighbors might be talking in church. She didn’t go anymore.


She kept sipping, cringing, burning her tongue, burning the roof of her mouth, and eyeing the scratches on the yellow thrift store tabletop. She contemplated getting a cat to talk to, a dog to walk in the early hours when everything tasted like regret and smelled like stale sex. She wouldn’t feel so bad then. Her children’s smiles in their family portraits seemed meaningless when they were still asleep in their second hand race car beds and fading princess sheets upstairs, just down the hall from Mommy and Daddy’s room. They didn’t hear anything. They didn’t awaken during the thunderstorms between the king size sheets. In those moments, they never existed. Her husband’s paychecks weren’t for putting them through school. Her waitressing job wasn’t to put clothes on their backs. In those moments, none of it ever happened. She didn’t wear the Goodwill wedding dress on a Sunday afternoon, bursting buttons with pregnancy. She didn’t drive an ’86 Accord with chipped gray paint and vomit stains from carsick children in the back. She didn’t have to scrape together lunch money every morning.


She waited for him, the sound of his boss’ van pulling into the driveway. All the clothes in his suitcase would be stained with red or blue paint, the color of a Cracker Barrel or a Bob Evans, some formerly faded restaurant across the country. His face would be red hot from painting in the sun. He would talk about how he hates his boss, how the other guys never worked as hard on the renovations. He wouldn’t kiss her, look at her.


The coffee grew cold, tasting worse every time the cup reached her lips. It didn’t help wake her up. She sat there, staring into it, little coffee grounds floated in the liquid. The cheap clock on the wall above the sink ticked away slow seconds.


When the van pulled up, he walked into the kitchen, dropped his duffel bag in the corner and poured himself a cup of the coffee. “Terrible coffee,” he said, sipping the cup, also chipped. Nothing looked new anymore.


Kate nodded. “How was your trip?” She didn’t even remember where he went. Somewhere.


“Good. The motel was all right. Food was terrible. Nothing unusual.” He wasn’t even looking at her, staring into the garbage disposal.


“That’s good,” Kate said. She couldn’t think of anything else to say so she stood and walked over to him, her bare hands wrapping around his torso. He felt thinner. He felt older than the Sunday she married him, pregnant with guilt and their first child. It didn’t feel right but she kissed his neck anyway. She didn’t even know if he liked his neck kissed any more. He didn’t move, just stood staring into the eye of the garbage disposal.


He kept staring deeper into the stainless steel sink as she moved her arms over him slowly, feeling the wrinkles and dry paint on his t-shirt. He didn’t look at her and she didn’t expect him to either. He wouldn’t see anything but her oily hair, her unmade face. She knew he could smell sex on her. Not his sex. Someone else’s skin, sweat. She knew he could see the shimmer in the sink.


He reached over and emptied the blue-green apple pie into the kitchen sink, using his calloused hands to shove the bits down into the garbage disposal. The smell burst up like a mushroom cloud as he turned on the water. Kate felt the muscles under his T-shirt tense as his arm went for the switch, the start of a groan from beneath the sink. A sharp metallic noise screamed from beneath the scratched stainless steel and she dug her nails into his skin, smiling as she listened to the clang of her wedding band scream against the blades of a garbage disposal.