A Fine Specimen by Christie Wilson
Afterwards, they sat, backs against the wall, her head on his shoulder.
“It’s empty in here. Why we don’t use this room?”
“We have nothing to use it for.” She pulled on her tank top. “I got pie. Stay here.”
In the kitchen she took out two plates, reconsidered, gathered the pie tin, a fork. She sat between his outstretched legs. He gave her a big bite. Took one himself.
“Maybe we should have picked this room for our bedroom. You can see the playground from the window.”
She leaned over to look.
“We should come in here more. And this pie. This is good.” He took another bite.
“The lady at the fruit stand makes these herself.”
“People are too impressed with homemade.”
“Maybe. I couldn’t make this.”
“You can make pie.”
“Sure, from a box.”
“How hard can it be?”
“I don’t know. This tastes pretty hard.”
He smiled. “Let’s try. Let’s make this.”
“We don’t have a recipe or anything.”
“Who cares?” He was standing now, crumbs falling from his chest.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, let’s go.”
“We’re going to need pants.”
The small grocery was empty except for a woman and a boy of about four. The boy was putting boxes of cookies into a cart while the woman studied pasta a few feet away.
“Enough, Benjamin. I’ve had enough.” The woman reached for the cookies. Benjamin began to scream.
They could still hear him from the frozen food case.
“It was just cookies. People get so worked up over little stuff.”
“Those cookies could have been the eighteenth little thing today.”
He looked at her, considering, then, “Why’d you come back here?”
“No way. I bet your fruit stand woman didn’t use pre-made dough. We aren’t either.” He pulled her back to the aisle with flour. “I forgot my phone or we could look it up.” He looked around, settling on the magazine rack poking above the next aisle.
She let her fingers graze the bags of flour and sugar. The boy’s whimpers played a tense symphony, barely audible.
He rounded the corner with a small basket and a folded magazine. “This looks easy.”
She backed away and watched him fill the basket, not hesitating over brands or packages, just shoving it all in as she followed aisle to aisle.
“You get the blueberries. I’ll start checking out.”
She tried to just grab them and had two stacked and a third in her hands when she realized that some weren’t ripe. She put them all down and heard him call for her to hurry. Unable to choose, she closed her eyes and groped.
Back in the apartment, he flattened the magazine with both hands and kissed her. “Do we have a rolling pin? Get that butter in the freezer. It has to be hard.”
She moved the butter and opened the corner cabinet. “We don’t have a rolling pin, but here’s that dish my grandma got us.”
He was opening packages and drawers, humming. She washed the blueberries, happy to see their smooth skin so purple in her palm.
“Isn’t this fun? I told you that you could make a pie.”
She said nothing, rolling a blueberry between her fingers, caressing it.
“Read me instructions for the crust.”
“I don’t see the crust, just filling.”
“It’s on another page.”
She flipped through twice. “Flour, one and a quarter cups. One and a half teaspoons of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt. Cube the butter.”
“Just little squares?” He retrieved the butter and didn’t wait for her response before plunging the knife inside and sectioning the yellow into blocks. They sat like small houses. “What now?”
“Half goes in the blender with the other stuff. Pulse it before putting in the rest.”
The noise was startling in the shadowed kitchen. He plopped the dough on the counter. “Can you roll it with your hands?”
She was aiming for a circle, but got a rectangle. She patched thin spots with dough torn from the edge. When it was time to drape it over the dish, she moved so that her back would block his view because it could tear down the middle, or worse, she could drop it, and he would know she was incapable. But the transfer was easy, and she had enough to make another crude circle for the top.
“The filling has so much. Cinnamon, lemon juice. It’s crazy.” He licked juice from his fingers, grimacing. “Taste?”
“Yes.” He pushed his finger to her lip. She licked, flinching.
“We have to make egg wash.”
“Egg wash. It’s for the top.” He handed her milk and eggs. “You make this. I’ll fill the pie.”
“I want to put filling in too.”
“Okay. You’re right. It shouldn’t just be me.”
When the crust was half full, she moved aside and watched him finish. Together, they placed the top circle of dough and made the egg wash. She brushed it on and watched as he slipped a knife in and out, creating his own pattern.
She opened the oven. He slid the pie inside.
They washed the dishes, the counters, and a sticky spot on the floor. He put in some laundry, and she washed down the bathroom sink. Everything needed to be spotless, gleaming.
With five minutes left, they sat in the dark kitchen. The frenzied push for creation had left his face pensive. Her body rocked through air made tangible by expectation.
At the first beep, they rose. She opened the oven door, bathing them in yellow light. He reached inside for the golden pie.
It was perfect, a fine specimen.
They stared at it resting on the stovetop, thumb of the oven mitt gently cupping its side. Light dim from the partially open oven door, she caressed it with her fingertips and felt his hand on her lower back.
His voice was quiet. “We aren’t going to eat it, are we?”
Christie Wilson lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband and daughter. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.