Tuesday, September 27, 2016

“Alice Makes a Pudding” by Alexa Farley

Her plan was to take the broken pieces to the garage before Jack got home from work. The last thing she wanted was for him to walk into the kitchen and see pieces of the damn chair all over the floor. She just needed a minute. A minute to catch her breath, to pick herself up so to speak, to stop her heart from thumping so damn loud.
A broken chair. Now this was a new low. Literally. She sprawled out on the kitchen floor, her legs sticking out in front of her, one slipper part way on and one all the way off. She hated seeing her feet, all purplish and scaly. Her toenails were never clipped well enough, seeing as she could hardly reach them without passing out from her stomach pushing into her chest so hard. She hated the reminder her toenails gave her that she needed to lose weight. She hated the reminder so she kept her slippers on most all the time.
Alice saw there was a cut above her knee. Her house dress had slid up to her thigh and there was another deep gash that was staining her dress red. Her dimply pasty white flesh was now streaked red. Like strawberries and cream.
When she went to pull her dress down below her knee, she noticed her hand was shaking.
This was all Jack’s fault.
Alice had been avoiding that damn chair for the better part of a year now. As soon as it started creaking when she sat down she’d switched it with another from the set of four they’d received from her parents as a wedding present. Jack must have moved it back for one reason or another.
“Damn it, Jack,” Alice muttered, and tried to push herself up a little straighter. Pieces of the chair were strewn around the kitchen floor, splinters reaching as far as the dining room. She’d have to get the broom out and try and get the bits she could see under the oven from where she sat.
I’ve hit rock bottom, she thought, and laughed without pleasure. The last fight she and Jack had had about her weight he’d yelled at her, arms flailing. He’d looked desperate, frantic. She almost felt sorrier for him than she did for herself. 
“When’s it gonna stop?” he’d yelled. “When’s it gonna end? 400 pounds? 500?” 
When was it going to stop? She didn’t know if her battered pride could handle another chair exploding beneath her. She thought about the pills he’d brought back from Mexico last time he and his brother had gone down to Tijuana. Jack had said he was worried about her health, which was partly true, but she knew by the way he glanced at other – thinner – women that there was more to it.
“They were cheaper if you bought the bundle, so...” Jack had said by way of explanation when he handed her the box of pill bottles. She hadn’t touched them yet; she was so mad when he’d brought them home. It was spite, really, that she wasn’t taking the damn diet pills. She would’ve loved to have lost some weight, but to hell with him if he thought he could push drugs at her. Now she was thinking about it. How fast could they work if you doubled the dose? Or tripled? Hell, she might as well take a whole bottle, see how he liked that.
She rubbed the back of her head and felt a lump. Must’ve hit the floor pretty hard. Alice took a deep breath and started to turn herself over onto all fours. She felt like a giant walrus, and her knee hurt like hell when she put weight on it, but it was the only way Alice was going to get up. She used the kitchen table to pull herself to her feet and took a minute to catch her breath, then glanced at the clock – about an hour ‘til Jack got home. Alice limped over to the closet and picked up the broom.
With each sweep of the broom her bitterness grew. Why’d he move the chair anyway? They only ever used two of the four chairs. The other two were blocked in by their square table which was pushed right up to the wall to make some room in their too-small kitchen. It’s like he was setting her up.
“What, Jack? Trying to teach me a lesson?” Alice panted, as she reached the broom under the table to sweep up more of the splinters way back in the corner. By the time she was done she was sweating and she pulled at the front of her dress, making a fan and a vent for her heaving, damp breasts. She brought the bits of wood and the larger pieces all out to the garage in a heavy-duty black garbage bag and left it leaning there against the wall, the sharper pieces puncturing the bag, sticking out like accusing fingers. 
Alice stood in the kitchen doorway, trying to catch her breath. She stared at the table with its three remaining chairs.
And then, as if a fresh breeze came through and blew the darkness off of her face and out of her heart, she smiled and clapped her hands together in front her – “Let’s make us a chocolate pudding!”
Opening cupboard doors, grabbing ingredients, measuring, pouring, mixing, Alice hummed as she cooked. She was always happier when she was cooking; it gave her a chance to get things straight in her head. It didn’t take long to whip up a dessert she’d made for her husband at least a hundred times. She stuck a finger deep into the chocolate and put it in her mouth, her eyelids fell closed as she let the joy of the pudding wash over her.
It was the simplicity of pudding that won her over. It practically made itself.
Wiping her finger on the front of her dress Alice reached up to the shelf holding the nice bowls. She took down two: green for him, yellow for her. (She liked the yellow bowl better, and besides, the green one had a chip in it). She poured half the pudding into the yellow bowl, and then, before pouring the rest of the pudding into the second bowl Alice turned and left the kitchen; house slippers scritching down the hall as she headed to her bedroom.  
Reaching for the box under the bed meant getting down on all fours again, but it couldn’t be avoided. The pain in her knee barely registered, though, as she grunted, pulling the box out from its hiding spot. Alice ripped open the package, with its incomprehensible Spanish writing and took out one large bottle. The writing on the bottles was also in Spanish, but she saw that there were 200 pills inside. Enough.
Once back at the kitchen counter, she began the tedious task of opening a capsule, pouring the powder in the bowl, and tossing the empty capsule in the compost bucket on the counter.
Open, pour, toss. Open, pour, toss. She glanced at the clock – twenty minutes ‘til Jack returned. Open, pour, toss. Open, pour, toss.
Finally, the bottle was empty and there was a small white mountain of powder on top of the rich brown lake of the chocolate pudding. She stirred the powder in; at first, a beautiful twister of white in the chocolate, and then, getting darker and darker, somehow it just blended right in.
Just a bowl of delicious chocolate pudding, Jack’s favourite.
She poured the pudding into the green bowl and put both bowls in the fridge to chill and firm up. It was just as she was putting a fresh bag in the compost bin that she heard Jack’s pick-up in the driveway and smiled. He was home.  She’d have to ask him to help her pull the table away from the wall so she could get another chair, and then they could have their dinner.

Alexa Farley writes poetry and short stories in the Georgian Bay area of southern Ontario. Her inspiration is drawn as much from the beauty that surrounds her as it is from her own ridiculous fallibility.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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