Written with my Thursday night writing group with the following prompts: extra bread, to this day, time and place, small injuries, new sense of dread, donut shop, marvelous, no more accidents, easy to. . . , autumn leaves, I smell cat, the bed, warm evening, God’s waiting room, third conflict in a year, running in circles, too much traffic in his head, pigs
When Lily first came to the restaurant where Jamie worked, Jamie would bring her extra bread. To this day, she still tells the story. She told it at the engagement party, at the wedding, and at his retirement dinner: she knew he’d be a good provider, she knew he’d pay attention to what she liked, because whenever she came in to eat lunch when he was working as a bus boy, he brought her extra bread. Not just the regular white rolls, no, he paid attention, he knew she liked the olive oil loaf with whole roasted garlic cloves baked right in. Most people had to order that special. It cost an extra four bits, but he made sure there was a couple of those in every basket for Lily.
Over the years, in all different times and places, of course there had been small injuries, bruises to the ego, disappointments–that’s life, right? But all in all, he’d been marvelous as a husband. It might be easy to dismiss all the wild ideas, the get-rich-quick schemes. Like the time he decided to raise pigs in the city, thinking nobody’d figure it out. C’mon, the neighbors knew those weren’t cats and dogs they were smelling! Another time, he swore he’d invented some device that would prevent cars from crashing into each other. No more accidents! Imagine that! But he claimed it had something to do with time travel, and Lily just couldn’t cotton to that. “Next time I won’t tell you!” he declared and she went to bed mad. “There better not be a next time,” she told him. “Can’t you just get a job like a regular person?”
That was their third conflict in a year. He knew they couldn’t tolerate more than that, so he packed a bag and told her he’d be back when the autumn leaves turned. “Where are you going?” she asked, but he wouldn’t reply.
It was a warm evening and the setting sun cast a light that was red and dusty through the front windows. She watched him leave, as she knew he must, running in circles, trying to escape the traffic inside his head.
The next day in her writing class she poured her heart onto the page. “Have I attracted this man so crazy and beautiful because he holds up a mirror for my own brilliance and fear of inadequacy?” she scribbled in her notebook. “Am I in charge of my own destiny or am I merely a vagrant, squatting in God’s waiting room?”
She forgot how to write in a narrative arc, stringing sentences together like mismatched beads. “Who knows where it might end–a new sense of dread or a blue sky at dawn filled with optimism?”
So she told the story again when it came time for his funeral–how he came home a few days later with the keys to a donut shop he’d just put a down payment on. They worked hard every day from 3 am to midafternoon. It was a good life, a simple life, she liked to say. Because she liked a good story, a story with balance, round and sweet.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.
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