Table of Contents
and the Burn Scars
Fines Double In Work Zone
Guy and Doll
John P. Loonam
Erlynda Jacqui Chan
Allison P. Boye
Magic Bags and Forgotten Princesses
Baking Bread and Other Subtleties
Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
Ekphrasis at the Mall
Games In Your Uncle's Den
My Spanish Rose
Northern Lights, Southern Soul
Posted on Fifth Avenue
The Himalayan Sunset
Time Decays, Clots
Kristine Ong Muslim
Where You Rest
Stephanie N. Barnes
and Digital Photography
Allison P. Boye
Congealed egg crusted in the
center of the plates like jaundice. Ellen scratched at it with the
dark green scrubby side of the sponge, then stacked the plates on
the drain board. The blue ceramic flowers were visible again. She
turned away from the sink and found her husband Carl's coffee mug
still sitting on the breakfast table where he left it, starting to
leave a ring on the cherry wood because he could never seem to
remember to keep it on the placemat, and starting to deepen the
brown stain at the bottom because he could never seem to remember
to rinse it out when he was finished. She closed her eyes and
cracked a bone in her neck with a slow twist. The mug landed in
the steel sink with a sick clunk, just like it did yesterday.
Ellen tightened the belt of
her plaid robe and shuffled to the laundry room. A full basket of
colors awaited her and she numbly started the machine. Click.
Swish. The detergent crystals swirled in celestial clumps she knew
would reappear as undissolved white streaks later. She began to
toss in the shirts with sweat stains and grass stains and food
stains and who-knew-what stains. She paused just before adding her
daughter's favorite shirt to the churning soap.
She didn't know what her
sister-in-law was thinking when she bought that awful shirt for
Mira's birthday. It was pink, which didn't bother Ellen. But it
was sequined and stopped just short of Mira's seven-year-old
navel, which did bother Ellen. "Just relax, Ellen," the
sister-in-law had said, scratching her substantial ass, which she
had squeezed into a black mini-skirt for the occasion. "Mira
loves it. Stop being such a stick-in-the mud." Mira's squeals
of delight made it virtually impossible for Ellen to return the
pink sequined atrocity. Ellen blanched at the thought of her
daughter going to school dressed like a tiny whore, but was too
tired to fight.
Today she held the pink
shirt and suddenly felt ashamed. She'd been bullied. She brought
the shirt up to her nose, halfway expecting it to smell of
cigarettes and cheap perfume. But it didn't—just chalk and
bologna. Her hand poised over the washing machine, Ellen stopped
herself from releasing the shirt. Instead she closed the lid and
listened to the agitator whir to life.
Ellen wiped the steam away
from the bathroom mirror with the cuff of her robe and once again
stared with dismay and surprise at the almost middle-aged woman
gazing back at her. She hardly knew her, this pale woman with the
early crease creeping across her forehead and the bluish circles
beneath her eyes that blinked cliché. The doctor's wife. The
little woman. The rest of the day before her held little to look
forward to: a trip to the grocery store for milk and chicken for
dinner. A trip to the dry cleaners to pick up Carl's shirts.
Vacuuming up the dog food crumbs from the tile grout in the
kitchen and the carpet in the den. More laundry. Perhaps an
at-home hair-coloring treatment in a shade of beige to cover the
few wiry grays that had begun to emerge in the last year. Ellen
pinched her cheeks right on the apples and watched them pink up
for a moment, and she could almost see the twenty-year-old girl
she used to know.
Still in her bathrobe—much
later this morning than usual—Ellen found herself marching into
Carl's study. The room was not supposed to be just his study, but
rather the "family library," and yet she thought of it
as his. Ellen stood in front of the back wall and looked at Carl's
enormous medical school diploma in its shining mahogany frame. Her
own college diploma sat on one of the expensive built-in
bookshelves lining the wall, near the top.
She had met Carl in a
freshman biology class at college. They became lab partners,
sharing shy glances over the steel sinks and protective eyewear.
He was gentle and smart, wooing her with music on her answering
machine. Of course they fell in love. Carl went on to medical
school, and Ellen happily followed him. She thought she had earned
a Master's degree in something while he struggled through Gross
Anatomy—she barely remembered now—and they soon got married.
She knew she must have been smart once, capable of more than
carpooling and spot cleaning. At least she thought she had been
smart, or good at something. Hadn't she?
Suddenly, Ellen hiked up her
robe, flicking it behind her damp knees, and in her bare feet,
climbed up the heavy shelving. She could just reach the edge of
her framed diploma. Her fingers fumbled, grappled. Her toes
slipped, and she knocked the frame off the shelf altogether. It
fell onto the rug with a jangly clatter. Ellen hung onto the
shelving for a second, her robe flapping open, and she wrenched
her neck looking over her shoulder at the frame lying face down on
the floor. She closed her eyes, let go, hoped it wasn't broken.
Ellen had gotten pregnant
with Mira near the end of Carl's medical schooling. They were
poor, choking on student loans, but took comfort in the fact that
his medical residency at least came with a reasonable paycheck.
But the hospital Carl got assigned to was in a small town, and
Ellen couldn't find a job. She panicked.