Salmonella

I found her sitting cross-legged on top of the kitchen counter, eating raw cookie dough like it was going out of style.

“And I thought that I was the insomniac in this relationship.”

She laughed like she always did when I said things that weren’t that funny, loudly and hoarsely with a hint of a snort. The first time that I heard it I thought that it was the most honest laugh that I had ever heard.

“You used to be,” she said, holding the unwrapped half of the tube out to me like a peace offering. I pinched off a bigger portion than was called for at three in the morning and positioned myself as close to her as I possibly could.

“So why wasn’t I invited to this one-woman shindig?” I asked around a mouthful of what my mother always claimed was a case of salmonella poisoning waiting to happen. Coincidentally, I heard the most honest laugh that I had ever heard for the first time and ate raw cookie dough for the first time on the very same day. I was hooked on both within the minute.

“Well, for one, you’re not a woman,” she pointed out.

“Noted.”

“And also, because I didn’t want you to think that the reason that I’m about to get really fat is because I’ve taken up sleep eating.”

My chewing slowed to a crawl and I swallowed at the same second that I realized what she was trying to tell me.

“You’re not–?”

“Ready to be a mom? I guess we’ll see.”

She laughed again as I immediately crouched down in front of her, lifting her shirt up from around her stomach and pressing my mouth against it.

“Whoever you are, whatever you’re going to be. Daddy loves you. And don’t you ever forget it.”

And then I pressed my ear against her bellybutton to listen for a heart that hadn’t even started beating yet, for all that I knew.

“Come here, you.”

She pulled my face back up to hers to give me a kiss that tasted like cookie dough, and I reflected that if I did somehow end up with salmonella poisoning, I wouldn’t care. It would be worth it.

Food For Thought

His fingers flitted over the keys so fast that I could barely keep up with them, striking chords so beautiful and melodious that they made my heart ache.

“How did he get so good?”

My sister, the keeper of all knowledge, smiled the small smile that meant that whatever piece of knowledge that she was about to dredge up was known to only a select few that were discerning enough to care.

“Do you remember when we had that big storm about five years ago?”

“Yea,” I answered. It was that storm, the one that the weathermen and women always hoped wouldn’t be outdone by whatever nasty-looking red swirls were coming our way. “It knocked our power out for a week.”

“Well, apparently, Mr. Kole took to playing around with his daughter’s piano to pass the time while they fixed everything,” she said, “And when they came around to make sure that his power was working properly, he said that it didn’t matter because he wouldn’t be needing anything but the lights anymore.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m not.”

“That’s crazy, though.”

There was no way, in this day and age, that anyone could go without electricity for five years.

Could they?

“You call it crazy,” my sister said with a shrug, “But I’m sure that he prefers to think of himself as dedicated.”

I closed my eyes as the final notes of the piece resonated through the auditorium. My sister stood, the rest of the auditorium stood, and I stayed seated. Mr. Kole’s music was still reverberating through my skin, sinking into my bones. The best, most genuine praise that I could give him now was my quiet reverence.

And maybe, just maybe, I could borrow a little bit of his dedication.

They Never Said That He Was An Egg

“He’s done it again.”

I pretended to ignore the young man in uniform as I continued to devour my dinner much slower than was necessary. He had been promoted just a few weeks ago, and it was entertaining to watch his desire to be the first one to respond to any calls to duty battle with his desire to be in my good graces.

“Who’s done what?”

I could almost hear the lieutenant’s eyes rolling. “Who do you think?”

I muttered a curse into my drink as I took a swig. “Do we have to report?”

“We’re king’s men, aren’t we?”

And any other day I would have been proud of that fact, but as it was I would have been fine with any other occupation.

“Horses, too?” I asked, sliding my drink back across the table and standing to belt my sheathed sword around my waist. At least I was in full uniform this time; last time this whole mess had started, I had been off-duty for three hours.

“Of course.”

Luckily, by the time that the lieutenant and I got there, the other soldiers had already managed to collect all of the tiny porcelain shards from around the inside of the castle wall. Now all that there was for us to do was join the ranks of mounted soldiers wondering why no one had ever told them about this part of our job description as we watched the castle physician’s nimble fingers breathe life into the lifeless.

The tiny prince watched anxiously as his best friend was slowly but surely glued back together, and every once in a while he would turn to see that my comrades and I were giving the fallen hero the respect and attention that he deserved. We weren’t, of course, but he was too young to tell boredom from reverence.

Then, finally, the physician held up the porcelain soldier for all of us to see.

“Good as new,” he lied.

“Humpty Dumpty!” the little prince exclaimed, ignoring the new cracks that marred the porcelain as he hugged the doll to his chest.

“Now, sweetheart,” said the queen, who had come to witness all of this for lack of anything better to do. “What have I told you about bringing him up on the castle walls?”

“Don’t do it,” the prince said absentmindedly as his nurse picked him up and scurried after the queen, who was already making her way through our ranks and back into the safety of the castle.

We were dismissed shortly after, and as soon the lieutenant thought that I was out of earshot I could hear him taking bets on how long it would be before Humpty Dumpty “fell” again.