A short story for the weekly CAKE.shortandsweet Wednesday write in
Melt in the Mouth
So, yeah, her pies were award-winning. Melt-in-the-mouth deee-li-cious. Man, that was years ago. She’d make these rootin’, tootin’ All-American-Apple pies. She’d come home with empty pie tins and arms full of shining, silken ribbon from church fêtes. At school bake sales, everyone would ask me for Mom’s pie; it was always the first to sell out. We always raised the most money for the school’s ‘Dollars for our Boys in Afghanistan’ campaign.
I liked imagining Toby, the bristle of a scraggly boy beard on his face, opening up the envelope in their desert mess tent. He’d be laughing with his friends as buttered cents, and dollars scented of cinnamon wood smoke, tumbled out of the package. There’d be an inky letter covered in crumbs explaining the latest bakery triumph – that’d be from me – my explanation; so he didn’t get too easy with getting the cash. I wanted him to appreciate Mom more than he did before he left.
But her pies were a bit of lie; I helped her make them, so did Grandmomma Jackson. Now, Grandmomma Jackson wasn’t my real Grandmomma; she wasn’t even that old. She was shaped like a juicy pear, full red lips, long blond hair. She was Toby’s babysitter when I was really little and Mom still took me to kindergarten. Grandmomma Jackson had known my Mom since forever.
My role in pie making was to prick the first batch. I’d prick Dadda’s tie pin into the soft, dough blanket which covered the apples, I’d make smiley faces, ladybug patterns. (I did notice that none of my pies made it to the bake sale.) When I went to bed, Grandmomma Jackson and Mom made more pies late into night, especially when Dadda was working shifts.
I had a dream that night. I remember that so, so clear. A black double-insect body of a Chinook on the dusted white horizon, blood-coloured sand blowing in a zephyr through an empty canvas village. Somewhere an alarm went off; I wondered where the troops were.
The alarm kept on going on and on, I woke up and realised that Dadda was carrying me out of our small house. He was choking in the smoke. I was too heavy for him, so he half dragged me out. It all happened so fast, but I remember that, as he struggled with me, my feet grazed across the floor. See, I still have the scar from the carpet burn on my ankle.
I remember the hospital’s surgical cleanliness, talking to the cop, I just kept on repeating,
“Mommy told me to put it in the fire. She told me to.”
I remember Grandmomma Jackson rocking back and forth in the plastic chair in the waiting room,
“We’d had a disagreement about Toby. About the pies; I thought they needed more apple schnapps. I don’t think we drank that much. I really don’t.”
Dadda swore a lot at that time, called Grandmomma Jackson a ‘cheap, old whore’. She never really came around again. Mom came out of hospital eventually, back to a house which stank of burned plastic, I could trace cinnamon though – even after every thing was all cleaned up. We still don’t speak of Toby.