SOUP OF GLASS AND CHALK-STAINED SKIES
- Maybe you own a crockpot. Meals made in them are supposed to be nourishing. Chalky edges of plaster gape open around the hole in the wall next to ours. Crockpots are things mothers give to men newly divorced. Dad can’t feed us pizza and Campbell’s ready-to-serve with mini-sirloin patties anymore. We’ll be yanked back to Auburn, California or wherever Mom’s moving. The new boyfriend’s name is Dick.
- Cleave 2-3 lbs. of discount beef into stew chunks. Use a good knife. Dad says his problem with cooking is he’s never had to do it before. Top ramen with lunch meat doesn’t count. My eyes are fixed on his flimsy blade severing tendon and miniature arteries, soaking the cutting board with blood like bruises blooming. There’s another hole in the hallway and one in my bedroom. I don’t understand why we have to wait until we move to patch them.
- Quarter 4 medium potatoes and chop an onion roughly. Fish a pound of peas out of the freezer and hope they’re not frost-burnt. He slams the meat chunks into the pot with the vegetables. He sets down his sixth beer. He adds water. It’s supposed to be that easy.
- Add seasonings to your taste. Dad has a memory of Mom’s soups, hearty and simple, with a little love nip of pepper. He tosses in a handful from a pre-ground jar like he’s sowing a field. Take it easy, I tell him. It sits for the time it takes him to go on a beer run. Miracle, it’s done. He walked to get the beer. The last thing we need in this family is a DUI, he tells us sisters, slouched over our stools at the dining bar. It’s so full of pepper that it hurts. It’s like swallowing glass. Eat it, he tells us, I don’t want people thinking I can’t take care of you.
Nora Brooks is a writer whose work has been published in Poets & Writers, PopMatters, Monkeybicycle, Redactions, Alimentum, and The Best American Poetry blog and is forthcoming from H.O.W. Journal. She is an MFA candidate at The New School and lives in the East Village. This piece originally appeared in Redactions. Nora can be found online at norabrooks.org.
Before I learned to play, I knew the harp was the only instrument fit for God. I had seen paintings of angels and saints strumming it atop clouds. They deigned lift a trumpet for the people of earth.
During our first lesson my brother told me the strings were made of catgut—the internal parts of an animal we weren’t to eat.
My father carted us out during his parties and quieted his guests and told them to listen as his cherubim played. My brother sat in the chair and plucked the chords, just as he was told, and when he finished, I followed. My father always wanted his little girl to play last.
Neither of us learned it very well. Our teacher would admonish us. Remind us to practice. Tell us to pluck more gently. Keep our fingernails short.
My brother quit before I did.
The last we heard of him was a resounding note before I took my turn in front of our bay windows. All he and I had in common, really, was that neither of us understood how such a delicate sound could echo from something so vulgar as catgut. But he left before he could come to know our father.
Scott Dievendorf grew up in California and now resides in Brooklyn. He received his MFA from Columbia University. His work has appeared in Epiphany. He currently serves as fiction editor of Apogee Journal and is polishing his novel on a Charlie Chaplin impersonator.
SOME FACTS ABOUT WHALES
Whales are difficult to trust because they are large and because they will not tell you about their blowholes or ever offer you the option of subtitles for their conversations, which are often called songs. Whales can travel vast distances. Whales reproduce one at a time, and very slowly. Whales have a lot of love to give. Whales will make a house for you inside of their bellies for all of your days. They will ask that you not light a fire, as it tickles them. Tickles is a whale word for the ways in which they will kill you. My mother once told me about being swallowed by a whale but then I realized she was talking about Pinocchio, who was a puppet made out of wood. Floorboards are made out of wood. Chairs are made out of wood. The cabinets in the kitchen are made out of wood and the burners on the stove are ringed by fire. This is a sure sign whales are not around as I go to sleep. As I go to sleep I am bathed by streetlights and surrounded, on all sides, by darkness.
Sasha Fletcher is the author ofit is going to be a good year(Big Lucks Books, 2015), one novella, and several chapbooks of poetry.