1959, at 20
In the kitchen, scuffed linoleum embraces the tickle of blue dropping from cornflowers jammed into jelly jars. The light outdoors now aslant, cool on the dirt that birthed the hay. Beetles begin their journey south. Ticks clamp deeper into the feast. A startle of wings in the brush, and the dogs begin their howling, pitched lower than the wolves they come from. I switch on a lamp, shush the dogs, and listen, this dry third week, for your return.
1974, at 35
Okay. I oath this to you this morning of shivers, of snow curves on panes, swear three times, sketch finger crosses over my heart, then thieve your toast, your hands too slow. You shrug, fasten your robe, place another slice on the fire, your round cheeks sunning absolution, stoking my regret. I scrape my chair towards your shining. I will, I say, stay.
1996, at 57
There’s an angle to the day, summer air gone. We amble through mist, then sun. Unburdened bones picked white jut from black soil. Fox barks echo and bounce on stone. Bites of horse flies. All this continues. A moment of birdsong opens the way. Sleep in us, we head home, the coiled breeze a stew of sassafras and smoke, recording the taste of apples, of time.
2013, at 74
I slip mother of vinegar into the bottle handed down from grandmother to mother to me, drop in berries for the sweet steeping that presumes a luxury of time. A beam of light passes through a window in need of a wipe, illumines the yeast hovering on the bottom, a murk of a cloud-creature. I pull up a chair, attend to the mother as I did my husband, swim to a siren memory of biscuits torn and buttered. I stay for a spell, rise, set the table for one.
Food Is Glue, Is Solvent
Two subjects I avoid writing about have big feet, so the door won’t close: eating, and my mother, who, as soon as I began puberty, tightly controlled my caloric intake although I was not overweight. Food was a core experience for our family, an exciting way for us to explore other cultures (the only positive activity we all shared). But mealtimes with mother were fraught. I became a foodie who’s afraid of food, a daughter who feared her mother. Hence the difficulty of writing about either, unless slant. In writing “Biscuits Torn and Buttered,” I didn’t set about to write about food, it just dropped in to visit. And stayed. It became an integral part of the sweet and sour of a couple being together or apart.
Why biscuits? My first positive food memory comes from a family holiday in Kentucky. Every morning, sausage, grits, and biscuits were piled onto our table in the state park’s lodge dining hall by aproned waitresses who probably always had a carafe of coffee in one hand. Surely judged by my mother, my brother and I tore into cumuli of oven-baked flour and fat. Steam rose as we split them open, and we made sure to use up all the tiny, square butter pats, each sitting atop a tiny paper square. Because everything about the vacation was glorious, from dashing around under the cool spray of Cumberland Falls to the pervasive smell of pine, the food association remains strong and pleasant. Give me biscuits dropped or popped out of a cardboard tube thwacked against a table edge, no matter. Pass the butter and a couple of either and I’ll stop talking. I’m not surprised they insinuated themselves into a story.
Mikki Aronoff’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Ekphrastic Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, London Reader, SurVision, Rogue Agent Journal, Popshot Quarterly, The South Shore Review, The Fortnightly Review, Gentian Journal, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Sledgehammer Lit, and elsewhere. A two-time Pushcart nominee, she is also a nominee for Best Microfiction 2022.