You check the front porch for packages. Leaves skitter around in the wind. Nothing. When you go back inside, your dog runs figure 8s around your feet as if you’d been gone forever.
Your throat has hurt for 9 straight days. You search the cabinet over the stove for the bottle of Vitamin C. Your son says vitamins only work at the first sign of a cold; after that, you have to take Zinc. He is an endless source of medical trivia, gleaned from Google searches. All you find is Fish Oil capsules but you take two anyway.
The mail arrived without you noticing. Still, no packages. You bring the letters in. Your dog trips around your ankles. There is a letter from the food pantry asking for canned goods. Thanksgiving is Thursday. You have no turkey, green beans or cranberries. You will buy these and bring them to the food pantry. Even better, you will volunteer to cook and serve at the community dinner because you have no plans for the holiday. You will sit with the loneliest looking person and ask them about their life. You will really listen.
Your son asks for an egg sandwich. You can’t remember how he likes his eggs, so you cook them over easy. The seeping yolks distress you. You cook the eggs some more. Half the English muffin gets stuck in the toaster. When you poke it with a fork, it rips to shreds. You eat one of the broken pieces, burning your lip. You utter choice words.
You dig the ham out of the fridge. Your dog begs. You toss him a tiny edge of ham, then top off the eggs on the one-half English muffin. Your son isn’t fussy. He is sitting in the living room wearing his robe. Watching TV/texting. He thanks you as if you’ve presented him with a full Thanksgiving dinner.
You check the front porch. A sad leaf finds its way inside. Your dog barks at it.
You unplug the toaster and shake it upside down. Black crumbs litter the countertop and disappear under the microwave. It is too much, really, to clean out the old toaster; you’re not even sure where to start. You dump the toaster in the sink.
You look on the side of the fridge for the calendar to mark Thursday as the day to feed the poor. The calendar with inspirational sayings, a gift from your sister, is still turned to September. You don’t change it.
The handle on the refrigerator is smudged. Fingerprints from your son’s nightly bowl of mint chip. You have a roll of paper towels somewhere infused with dish detergent so they make suds when you wet them. This, when there are poor people out there waiting for canned goods. They must get lima beans, whole tomatoes and sauerkraut, dusty from the back of the cabinet. “Please, no expired food,” the letter said, and you feel terrible, really, because you’ve never looked for expiration dates before donating food.
You hear the box thump on the porch, see the UPS driver sprint back to his truck. Your dog tries to follow you out the door. You nudge him away with your foot.
The box is heavier than you’d thought. You balance it on your hip and open the door, using your foot again to keep your dog inside. You put the box on the table and look at your dog, who is sad in the way only ankle-high brown dogs can be. You bend down and scratch behind his ear until his tail becomes a metronome. You are forgiven.
You call to your son, does he want another egg sandwich? He yells back, “no thanks.” Polite kid, you think. Maybe you’ve done well.
The dog needs a walk. You think about asking your son. You think about doing it yourself. But you’re very tired, exhausted really. It is Saturday, 11 a.m.
You ordered the urn 3 days ago, expedited the shipping.
Your throat hurts worse now.
You look for scissors in the junk drawer, with the dead batteries, bent paper clips, the eyeglass repair kit and ice scraper. You remind yourself to put the scraper in your car because last night was a near-frost.
The white handled scissors slice easily through the packing tape. There are too many Styrofoam peanuts inside the package. They spill over the table, float to the floor. Your dog tries to catch them like oversized snowflakes on his tongue.
It is glorious, really, a work of art with its glossy magenta and shiny sky blue. It makes your eyes burn. You find it impossible to imagine that your father has been reduced to ashes. Not enough to even fill a shoebox, the funeral director said.
You could have time-shared the ashes with your sister. Six months on the east coast, six on the west. You both laughed about this option, then felt guilty for laughing when your father just died Wednesday. In the end, burying the urn in the family plot made more sense. But in your kitchen, the urn is unimaginably beautiful. As if it should be put on permanent display. “Stay with the plan,” you can hear your sister say. She is spiritual and believes your father is omniscient now. You don’t know what you believe.
The dog licks your sock. You sit down, kicking at the Styrofoam peanuts, wondering when the first snowfall will hit, and if it will be another cruel winter.
You become tired of wondering. You rummage in the basket on the kitchen table for the leash. Maybe even the dog’s sweater because it looks very cold out. When you were on the porch, you thought you saw a few stray flakes, the beginnings of a flurry.
Cari Scribner is a freelance writer/journalist for more than 20 years, has thousands of bylines in local, regional and national newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs. Scribner has been in 6 NYS Writers Institute Workshops, selected for classes of 12 from among hundreds of submissions. Most recently, participated in a master’s fiction class under the tutelage of author Lydia Davis. Her work is forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, The Tishman Review, and Brilliant Flash Fiction.