a wistful woman

His wife sat next to him on the porch. Out of the corner of her sight she watched him breathe like a man in the middle of a heavy labour. She’d see him stand up and look down the road and say ‘Alright boys, time to go.’ every time he heard an engine, or what might have been an engine, gearing in the distance. She’d sit silent when he realised no one was coming and shook his head in frustration. She’d have time to think ‘What can I do?’ just before she fell back into the muddled fadedness that was taking up more and more of her days.

She’d start remembering her mother and her mother’s children – eleven in all, and she the oldest – and how her mother would fry up big chunks of pork fat to pour over greens and onto bread. Then she’d be there, in the kitchen, fourteen years old and holding a cast iron skillet, tilting and turning it, with the heat from the stove so real and hot she could feel the burn on her face. She’d turn around to talk to her mother who was saying something about the baby in the other room, and she’d think, just for a second, ‘How good momma looks for a dead woman.’ And as soon as she thought it, ‘dead’, she’d think ‘That’s right. Twenty five years now’ and that was always enough to bring her back. To the sun on the porch and to her to husband. His white hair and impatient stance. Looking, watching, waiting…

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