The Woman in the Sky

Virginia Petrucci

The mother in the kitchen really knows how to nail her heart to her head. She feels but she also thinks, and more often than not her feeling and her thinking congeal into this actionable little mouse squeak that doesn’t offend so much as a houseplant. Her squeaks don’t result in much change. I’m not saying that her status quo warrants any change, but I’m also not saying that she shouldn’t shout skyward every once in a damn while.

 

I’m on the balcony, which is also our roof. I’m smoking a cigarette, and the mother in the kitchen is not. The babies are asleep in their room. A room so toasted with love and memorable little accidents. A room without a lock on the door.

 

The mother’s efforts to pale her husband’s scarlet temper are manifesting in the form of banana nut muffins. The husband does not like sugar, but he likes effort. He likes the sight of the mother’s back in the kitchen as she bends to a dutiful nightly scrub. The babies will eat most of the muffins, anyway.


I don’t see the point of domestic yearnings, but I do see the point of order and decency for the sake of the babies. I get the babies mixed up—their ages, their eyes. There are so many of them, and yet there are only two. Their bodies seem to be covered in gray little mouths. The mother loves those babies despite—or because of—the way they wear her husband’s immutable frown no matter how much she butters their lives with maternal comfort. Sometimes I don’t think she notices their frowns at all, just like she forgets that her husband is actually a wild animal wearing a freezing mask.

The mother wants to move beyond the chemical edges of the kitchen, but there’s always something to be done. She cooks and cooks for her husband who eats very little, and although the equation is so obvious the solution never rounds out. She just keeps cooking. Her husband’s settlement is so dear to her, and this is her contribution.


I’m noticing how, if my fingers pool their effort, they can muss the wind. The death of
my cigarette is most satisfactory.


The mother in the kitchen lost it once. Her husband, his pride crinkled, eliminated the
possibility from her mind of any similar episodes in the future. The mother had thought they were having a discussion, but it was explained to her that she was acting out. It’s easier to keep quiet among all the baby noise, anyway.


One of the babies is actually an older child. His sharp blue gaze threatens the husband’s banal brown eyes so much that the husband is actually growing sick with fear. The mother doesn’t see it this way. She sees the boy as a feathered baby with needs she can soothe, and her husband as the craftsman of their family nest. The mother is happy in her own personal spin of time. She remembers a grace that was never there.


The coastal wind is biting the back of my neck and I can see how clearly the trickster
ocean is a sedative for dreamers. A freight ship filled with Japanese cars is pulling into port. Most people don’t make their homes in such places. What a lucky deck I inhabit.

 

The mother in the kitchen is humming about her babies as they sleep one floor beneath her. Somehow, they are safe from the rain of harsh words that constantly bullet her. They are safe from her husband, because the husband is simply their father, and he smells of love. To the mother, he smells of bourbon, but she’s not going to go blazing down that path again—a man as stressed as he should be allowed to drink. The mother walks quietly and almost back and forth; from the window it must look like she’s a little bit insane. It’s as though she no longer believes in the heat of her own footsteps, yet she tiptoes. She’s making so much food that the fridge and the stove and the cabinets are all going to be stuffed with leftovers that the husband will shout about.

 

The wind’s deft invitation to soar is too much to resist. There is nothing in front of me
but the cold, possible stars. I fly away as the mother in the kitchen betters the dinner with her soft, peculiar smile.

Virginia Petrucci is a former columnist for the LA Post-Examiner, and has authored two poetry chapbooks: The Salt and the Song (Headmistress Press 2018) and Recipes and How-To's (Red Flag Poetry 2017). Her poetry has been Pushcart nominated, and her work has been included in Flash Fiction Magazine, Avalon Literary Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, and Best New Writing, among others. She lives with her children in Ventura, California , where she attends law school.

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