Iowa Writes

LISA HENNER
Childish Things


        "Why don't you dump that jerk and run away with me?"
        The hairs on her arms stood on end, her breathing quickened.  She sent the email to her trash folder, sent the mouse back to its corner.  But his words lit more than the screen.
        She'd meant to sit at the computer for only a moment before folding the wash she'd pulled from the line.  Smoothing creases into the t-shirts and jeans, she thought about packing them in a suitcase, loading the car, and driving to meet him in an anonymous convenience-store parking lot.
        What would they talk about as they drove to the music festival?  She opened dresser drawers, tucked away her husband's socks and briefs while envisioning the man she'd known for several years but only seen a handful of times.  He wasn't much of a talker.  Would he tell her his thoughts?  Maybe she'd fill up a nervous silence with her habitual chatter.  Was he still wearing a close-cropped beard or would he be clean-shaven?  Would his hair be shaggy and unkempt like in the Facebook photos from last fall?

        "Why don't you dump that jerk and run away with me?"
        The hairs on her arms stood on end, her breathing quickened.  She sent the email to her trash folder, sent the mouse back to its corner.  But his words lit more than the screen.
        She'd meant to sit at the computer for only a moment before folding the wash she'd pulled from the line.  Smoothing creases into the t-shirts and jeans, she thought about packing them in a suitcase, loading the car, and driving to meet him in an anonymous convenience-store parking lot.
        What would they talk about as they drove to the music festival?  She opened dresser drawers, tucked away her husband's socks and briefs while envisioning the man she'd known for several years but only seen a handful of times.  He wasn't much of a talker.  Would he tell her his thoughts?  Maybe she'd fill up a nervous silence with her habitual chatter.  Was he still wearing a close-cropped beard or would he be clean-shaven?  Would his hair be shaggy and unkempt like in the Facebook photos from last fall?
        She slipped on her garden shoes.  She thought about draping her arms around his neck.  Kissing him.  She pulled the weeds from between the beets and attacked the quack grass between her rows of carrot tops.  His hands.  She'd never noticed his hands.  Were they smooth and hairless or did he have black fur that curled out from under the cuffs of shirts and sweaters?  She felt his hands move down her back, strong and sure, and calloused from a lifetime of throwing hay.
        She moved on to the rows of peas  She was in his arms, naked, between white commercially pressed motel sheets.  She pulled the pods from the flowering vines and placed them into her basket.  His desire made her smooth once more; it swept away years, wrinkles, stretch marks.  She caught sight of the lanky frame of her husband across the yard as he bent over to fix the tractor.  She felt the weight of his body on hers, solid and sheltering.
        Sitting on the back porch, she opened each pod to free the peas.  She inhaled the earthiness of their mingled sweat.  She slipped off her shoes and wriggled her toes dry.  He held her close and finally told her his story, about his boyhood and his manhood, his desires and his day to day.  She pulled a chicken from the fridge and began to cut the backbone from the legs.  They lay entwined for hours.  She sprinkled salt, ground pepper, then filled a Dutch oven with chicken and broth and carrots and onions.  They stretched out on a blanket in the park, staring up at the stars, holding hands—loosely but not tentatively.  She measured out flour, salt, and baking powder.  He pulled her up to dance.  She broke eggs into the mixing bowl.  They swayed to the band in the darkness.  She whisked in the buttermilk.
        "Dinner ready, Mom?"
        "Half an hour.  Set the table."
        She wet her hands and pulled the mixture into balls.  And after that weekend, then what?  She scattered the dough onto the steaming broth and covered the pot tightly.  Would they just come home and go on as before?  She filled a saucepan with water and submerged the peas.  Would they run away forever?  She lit the burner.  Would they write sonnets to one another and live on love and language?  She pulled down her grandmother's platter from the cupboard.  Would he close back into himself?  She lifted the lid of the casserole and poked at the dumplings with the tip of a paring knife.  Would she grab and clutch at him to bring him back?  She wiped down the plate with her dish towel and covered the tiny blue violets of the wedding china with the chicken and the dumplings and the peas.
        She called out the back door.  "C'mon you guys, let's eat while it's hot."

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


LISA HENNER

For the past four summers, Lisa Henner has found inspiration and amity at "writers' camp" (officially known as the Iowa Summer Writing Festival), where she wrote this story.  She is co-founder of the Driftless Writing Center in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

This page was first displayed
on April 04, 2014

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