Back in the
By A. F. Knott
held the half carton of eggs in her right hand after closing the refrigerator
door and pushed her oxygen tank with the left. Halfway across the kitchen, the
plastic tubing snagged Tinker Bell, jerking her off the treasure table and
snapping her wand in two when she landed on the floor. Dan had bought Tink on
their trip to Pennsie twenty years back. Out of the blue he had pulled the Olds
over, said, ‘Bette, stay here,’ went inside the store and came out five minutes
later with the box. He had gotten himself a pint of Popov as well, but when
Bette opened the box, there she was, Tinker Bell.
knew if she still had her old four-wheeler, she would have swung wide of the
treasure table. They sent her a two-wheeler this time, too big for their
kitchen. She looked at Dan’s newspapers piled so high there was hardly room to
move. Bette told him, and more than once, to say "four-wheeler" when
he called the company. She figured he must not have been listening when she saw
the two- wheeler. Bette had been wanting to turn her oxygen tank off anyway and
shove the whole kit and kaboodle into the corner. Last week, the doctor told
her she couldn’t do that. He also told her she couldn’t turn it up or she’d
stop breathing, that either way she'd stop breathing. That’s what happens with
emphysema, he told her, too much oxygen and you stop breathing.
did not know that,” Bette said.
looked at Tinker Bell’s cracked wand and didn’t know what to do. She put the
eggs down, picked up Tink’s pieces and set them on the old wooden table. She
looked at the broken wand for a while then turned and pushed her tank over to
the stove and fixed Dan’s eggs. She only made him the half dozen, but made them
the way he liked, sunny side up, the way she’d be making them for the last
fifty years. Bette knew he’d be weak as a kitten after rehab or she would have
brought out a full carton.
Dan walked through the door, he spotted the eggs, and the first thing he said,
even before a hello, was: “You know what I like, Bette.”
your bag, Dan?”
I’m already being interrogated here? I just walked through the door.”
nudged the plate of eggs across the table toward his chair and pulled her chest
way up to speak.
know what you like, Dan,” Bette said, exhaling slowly.
had better know what I like, Bette.”
knew you’d be weak as a kitten, Dan, so I only made you a half dozen. And four
slices of toast, buttered both sides, the way you like it.”
half dozen is nothing. Back in the day there’d be three, four, five egg cartons
in the ice box, Bette."
know, Dan. I was the one who put them there.”
dozen is child’s play. How many times have you seen me eat two dozen?”
I’ve seen you eat two dozen plenty of times, Dan."
laugh sounded like an old lawnmower. When she started coughing, her cough
sounded like someone shaking a coffee can filled with rusty nuts and bolts.
pointed at the eggs.
only a half dozen you got there, Bette. I step through the door and there’s
already a problem. Is that what I get? And I don’t see something else. You know
what that something else I don’t see, Bette?”
gave her nasal prong a tug and didn’t answer. She pulled up her chest in order
to take a breath.
need a hint? We used to sit at this very same table and smoke our Chesterfields.
Incidentally, we can’t do that now because of that contraption of yours. But
what else was always there on the table that’s not there now? My Popov is
what’s not there. My Popov always stands right there by the soup tureen but for
some reason it’s not standing there right now. The price is right, and it
tastes great. Smirnoff is shit. I could make better in our bathtub
looked at Tinker Bell’s broken wand and smoothed the oxygen tubing behind each
ear then cinched it tight under her chin. She reached down and turned her
oxygen up, all the way up and felt the breeze inside her nose like the breeze
off the ocean that time they stopped in Point Pleasant on the way down to
Atlantic. Dan had taken her out on the boardwalk and bought her fresh squeezed
orange juice. The breeze off the ocean hit her in the just right. That had been
ten, fifteen years back at least.
eggs are getting cold, Dan. You must be weak as a kitten.”
am weak as a kitten, you got that right.” Dan dropped into the chair. “That
place was a fucking dump. Food was shit. I walked out the front door. I told
them that, ‘Your food is shit,’ I said, and walked out their front door.”
watched Dan take a bite of egg. She felt good now, tired, but good. The breeze,
she wasn’t sure if there was a breeze coming through the window. She realized
that couldn’t be. The window was closed. Dan had nailed it shut years ago. She
wasn’t sure where the breeze was coming from but felt like closing her eyes.
going to close my eyes for a spell, Dan, while you eat your eggs.”
are calling these eggs? These aren’t eggs, Bette. These are shit."
wiped the plate off the table. It smashed against the stove. The yolks slid
down the white porcelain and looked like sad clown’s eyes for a second then
like nothing. Bette opened her eyes for a moment and was about to say something
but didn’t. Her head dropped first onto her chest, then bounced against the
and now what, Bette?” Dan said. “You know you’re going to have to do those eggs
over and this time the full dozen. That’s the way I like them.”
looked at Bette, her head resting on the table. When he gave her a shove,
Bette’s body toppled over onto the floor, dragging Tinker Bell and her broken
Wand with it. Stacks of newspaper fell on both of them.
For crying out loud, I step through the door and this what I get?”
A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage
artist, writer and cofounder
of Hekate Publishing, whose mission is to unite artists, writers and represent
the under-represented. Sometimes sells collage in New York City's Union Square
Park . Work can be found on flickr.com/photos/afknott/ among other places.
Welcomes exchange of ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.