He was sitting on the front porch
again, smoking a cigarette. Legs stretched out, looking toward the sky.
him from the kitchen. His shirt was untucked, and he hadn’t even
close the screen door. There must have been a dozen mosquitoes inside
She breathed in the thick summer air
and stepped forward. She knew what she should do. What her sister had
telling her to do for months. What her friends keep saying at work,
explained she needed overtime because he had overdrafted their account
Probably at the bar. Probably after work. But—she loved him once,
All those years ago, back when she first got pregnant, and he said he'd
her and they'd all live happily ever after? Didn't he deserve another
Just one more chance?
She stepped toward the door.
“Can you close the screen?” she
He didn't answer.
“Dave, did you hear me?”
“Yeah, I heard you,” he said.
“What's wrong with a cross breeze?”
When he looked up at her, she almost
“Will you help me in the kitchen?”
“I'm making bread.”
He hadn't helped when she planted
the small patch of wheat out back all those months back. Hadn't lifted
when she thrashed it herself, milled it into flour. She figured out how
it on a series of posts on DIYmom! that somehow brought her comfort.
the back and forth of the banter in the posts, how one mom argued that
only natural to harvest your own wheat because who knows what kind
chemicals are even in flour these days anyways, while another one
back that she was a working mom and didn't liven in medieval Russia, so
Medal All Purpose was just fine. For her part, Lana wrote: “just
want to make
something from scratch, just to know how it feels to see it through to
without quitting :)” She got 10 likes and a few down votes, and a
asking her if she wasn't sure she needed to see a psychiatrist.
Lana faltered in the door.
“I'm going to mix the dough and
start kneading. You know I've been working up to this for months.”
She could hear the kids playing out
front, but he wasn't even looking at them. Sometimes she didn't know
was looking out to.
She decided she would do it, ask him
at every step to join her in the kitchen. Symbolically. Literally. She
wouldn't, and she was almost looking forward to it.
“Help me mix?”
“Fine, I'll do it myself.”
“Help me knead?”
“Right. Didn't expect it. I'll just
do it myself.”
“I'm going to let it rise, so do you
want to come preheat the oven?”
She wasn't even sure if he was there
anymore. Maybe, she thought, she wouldn't even notice he was gone.
whole years. Maybe he'd been erasing himself the entire time, inching
out the front door, further down the porch steps, so that one day he'd
the street and it would all just seem so natural.
It took nearly six hours, from start
to finish: from warming the water, to mixing the dough, to kneading it
without a few stray tears making their way in. From letting it rise, to
the oven, to baking it and watching the outsides brown into a perfect
The smell was enticing. Fresh-baked
bread always was.
She pulled the loaf out, and noticed
it was pitch dark outside. Was he still sitting on the porch? The kids
scribbling lines into their notebooks at the kitchen table, hurriedly
homework before bed.
“Smells good in here,” he said, as
he walked in through the kitchen, reeking of cheap vodka.
She should have known he'd show up
for the final step. He always did.
“Can I grab a slice of that?”
She looked at him, square in the
eyes, and for the first time in over a decade, said, firmly, no.
he could respond,
she launched into the speech she'd been waiting for, since she posted
DIYmom! six months ago.
“Damn it, Dave, did you even help me
bake the bread?”
She waited a moment, tried to leave
an emphatic pause. She had it all ready to say: the part about how you
see things through without quitting; how a marriage, a family, took
perseverance, just like growing wheat and baking bread. She could make
effort, couldn't he see it? How much help did he offer her as she baked
bread? How much? Didn't that just say something, about their marriage?
he feel like a freeloader? Wasn't he already halfway down the street,
mind out the door?
But he smiled, and he had crooked
front teeth, and it felt like twelve years ago again, and he was
picking her up
after work in his old pick-up, the one she constantly needed to jump.
the kids looking up at her, then, and stupidly, stupidly, let it all
“I baked it, so I get to eat it.”
And she grabbed a hold of the
kitchen knife and sliced off a piece, put it on a plate, and ate it,
the steam rise out the middle of the loaf, thinking it looked a little
the trail of his nightly cigarettes on the front porch.
Kristina Zdravič Reardon is a PhD student
in comparative literature at the University of Connecticut and earned
her MFA at the University of New Hampshire. She translates from
Slovenian and Spanish and her translations and stories have been
featured in World Literature Today, The Adirondack Review and other
journals, as well as Flash Fiction International (Norton, 2015).