E.K. Smith

 

 

 

Another Withered Leaf

A thin fragrance of pumpkin and potato peels had lingered there for as long as she could remember, a product of almost a century of cooking and baking seeping into the damp floorboards and worn cedar plank walls of the cabin. She sat in front of the only window in the dim room, swaying softly back and forth in an old rocking chair with a bowl in her lap. Her hands moved rhythmically as she continually thrust a pastry cutter against a mound of unyielding dough. The scones would not turn out because the warmth from her lap was gradually infiltrating the steel bowl and melting the butter across the bottom of the mound. Cold butter was the key to good scones. Her hazy eyes were fixated on an unfamiliar groove in the enormous trunk of a 200-year-old evergreen just outside the window. The tree’s deep, massive roots had penetrated the foundation of the cabin, forcing it to stand subtly off kilter.
Her mind had long drifted away from wondering about the origin of the groove. She saw herself wiping down the sink with a soapy sponge, running water through it, picking up the baby from his high chair… unsnapping the snaps, peeling off his tiny clothes and diaper, lightly stroking the little rolls of fat on his stout legs, smiling at the creases. She envisioned his bottom flattening against the sink as she gently placed him in it and his eyes closing in response to the small stream of lukewarm water she drizzled over his head from her cupped hand. She had been so proud of the protective reflex that had led him to close his eyes, as if he were the first baby in existence to react to his external environment. She watched herself as she lifted him out of the sink and held him against her chest… her shirt becoming translucent with moisture, droplets rolling off his smooth pink back onto her arms.
The sound of the bowl hitting the floor wrenched her from her reverie. She coerced her body into an upright position, feeling joints crack violently in all her limbs. She walked over to the fireplace, stepping on the dough on the floor. The soft, greasiness of it felt good under her bare feet. A frame containing a picture of the baby was removed from the mantle, leaving a clean imprint in the midst of the dust where it used to stand. Hours later, when her husband came home with a truck full of groceries from the nearest town, he saw the picture hanging over the groove on the tree with his wife sound asleep on the browned pine needles beneath it.

E.K. Smith‘s work has been published in Thickjam, Clever Magazine, The Smoking Poet, and other ezines. She is currently working on a chapbook.

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