Eating Now

Flash
Andy Cochran


BLT!
Photo Credit: Dana McMahan

I half-wake to her voice sounding in my ears, lilting and tumbling till she laughs, then fluttering on, a butterfly skipping through a yard then over a fence and gone. Can’t make out the words the way I couldn’t have counted the flecks on that vanished butterfly’s wings. She asks another question, her voice fainter, pitched higher, a hint of anxiety. It’s a one-syllable question—maybe my name. I hope my name. Again she asks, now tired and frantic. And quieter. That’s the worst. Distant—as if she’s lashed to the floor of a boat drifting off into fog.

I keep my eyes shut and listen. No voice. No her. Nothing but fog.

I listen.

When I open my eyes, I open them to a dark room, blinds pulled shut against the sun.

Rise, dress, leave my room.

In the kitchen: Dad standing at the end of the island, biting into a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. A second BLT on his plate. Bacon sizzles on the stove. Next to the stove, two plump tomatoes he picked from the garden that for the first time this year she did not plant. The rows aren’t straight, the plants not explosions of growth. Just plants.

Dad pushes the plate with the BLT on it to the other side of the counter. “Enjoy.”

“It’s yours.”

“There’s more on the way.”

My stomach snarls as I sit on the stool.

He sends four more pieces of bread down into the toaster and slices one of the tomatoes. He’s already showered and shaved, his hair combed. His face was ashen when he said goodnight to me but now it’s colored up.

I consider telling him how I woke up hearing her voice. How it faded. How losing her voice felt like losing her all over again.

His head nods with the slicing blade. He’s into the rhythm of the slicing, as if it’s music.

I wait till I’ve swallowed another bite of BLT—which, I begrudge, is delicious—to say, “What’s with you?”

Dad spreads the toast in a row on the counter and picks bacon out of the pan. “I’ve decided to have a good day.”

“Didn’t know you could decide such a thing,” I say through another mouthful. “Thought the world just sort of smites you or doesn’t.”

“Who cares?” He tamps down the just-made BLTs and drops one on my plate. Lifts the other to his mouth, takes a huge bite, and looks over my shoulder.

Chewing, I turn to follow his gaze.

Sunlight streams in through the sliding doors and showers the garden where she stoops no more to coax plants from the soil and never will again.

The weather has his him feeling high.

The weather.

I turn back around. Put my head down. Eat.

pencil

Andy Cochran has published short fiction in Saw Palm, Foliate Oak, and The Rectangle. He teaches composition at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University as well as an MA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida. In The Ghoul, his novel-in-progress, a young man in 2297 searches for his mother’s killer. The first iteration of “Eating Now,” very much a story about grief, emerged while he was at work on The Ghoul. Email: andrewgeorgecochran[at]gmail.com

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