Friday, February 11, 2011

FICTION: SATISFIED by Melaine Ryther

She wasn’t good at a lot of things, but she could cook. It was one of the reasons he kept her around. Her chili was one of his favorites. It usually kept the peace, at least for a while.

The pot started to steam and hiss, sending goose bumps up and down her arms. It reminded her of the sound the radiators used to make coming on at Aunt and Uncle’s house. She had learned early on to hate that hiss, especially when she had been bad.

She twitched, then turned the flame up higher as she reached for the wooden spoon. She stirred the jalapenos into the thick bean and meat mixture, swirling clockwise until they disappeared into the brown muck like lost souls being sucked into a vortex of damnation.

When did chili get so philosophical, she wondered?

Probably about the same time she first seriously thought about killing him.

The question of why had long ago been answered. The infidelities. The cut lips and black eyes. The broken ribs. The never-ending threats. She could have gone to the authorities, but what good would it have done? He would find a way back and his fury would be like nothing before seen. Besides, in her family they had always taken care of their problems in-house. "Don't even think about tellin' no one, Eva,” she remembered Aunt Alice telling her. “You don't like the way things are around here, then you leave, hear?"

She did. At age fifteen. She had been tired of it all back then, as she was tired of it now. That left the question of how.

She reached for the cyanide. The chili’s spice-rich aroma would hide any hint of the poison’s slightly nutty smell. She poured the carefully measured amount into the pot and stirred it deep into the dark blend.

The only thing she regretted about leaving that first time was that she did it on an empty stomach. When she had heard Uncle John’s truck pull up that Friday night (twenty minutes after closing time, you could set your watch by it), she climbed out her second story window and fled into the night with the clothes on her back and five dollars in her pocket. She knew she’d make it somehow. Nothing, after all, could be worse than staying. Not even the hunger. The hunger that stayed with her for those two years she lived on the streets.

She heard the garage door open. Home at the usual time. (You could set a clock by it.) She sighed softly, pleased that she was at peace with her decision. For the first time since she could remember clearly, she didn’t tremble at the sound of his key in the lock. Yes, she would leave tonight, the second such escape in her short, bruised life.

She spooned a hearty, man-sized serving into his bowl and set it on the table.

Then she reached for a second bowl.

This time she wouldn't leave hungry.

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