Vignette: “Defeated”

A man leans on his stone-top counter, his tired eyes possessing a will of their own to ignore the blackness outside the kitchen window, the hour of the night. The first bus of the day rumbles away from its stop outside. That would make it 5:17. A wine bottle shakes in its cubby. Sounds of rain and wind suggest an autumn crispness to the air. He suspects–he knows–that it would be bitterly cold instead. If this kitchen is no longer a place of warmth and solace, it at least provides protection from that.

Before him, tendrils of scarlet descend through a tumbler of water. Berry flavor, innocent in low-carb tastiness. It is something.

The fruity drink-to-be morphs further, the red besieging the clear with an almost violent efficiency. Blood in the water. Larger bits dissolve as they sink, giving up more of themselves to the cause. Rocks entering atmosphere. Shrinking with progress, refusing to admit how temporary they are. Ignorant, perhaps, of being consumed.

Behind him, the broccoli stir fry pan is still dirty. A wine bottle nobody bothered to cork. Bits of decimated green on the counter, flimsy slices of white–the water chestnuts. He likes them. Water chestnuts will have to be part of his future, somewhere in that Big Country song. Rolling hills, the unknown.

A meow and soft brush at the shins announce the family pet. A sigh escapes. Cats don’t understand sighs. The tabby usually chatters at the blue jays, happy in his contained world.

The kids are both at sleepovers. No audience last night. How much do they understand? Too young, he supposes.

Papers are scattered about the island counter. A mortgage statement, the high-cost phone plan, a Macy’s receipt. Artillery. Pie pieces. Numbers calculated on the couch while he evaded sleep. Safety in the quiet dark.

His eyes roll to three clumsily-painted tiles hanging above the stove. The outer ones are his daughter’s, such vibrant green and purple. Nearby is the simple black coffee maker, still chugging strong after fifteen years of brewing. Above, the cobweb he’s always been reluctant to reach with a broom, so close to clean dishes and cutting boards.

“Christ,” he thinks, “I liked this kitchen.”

The beverage is now completely red. Crystals made it to the bottom, like sediment. If he stirs it, will more flavor be offered up? Would that be the point?

Another sigh. Another ‘coulda-been’ floats to the ceiling, toward the cobweb.


Kitchen with pantry door crease down the middle, red trim and dragon image on the periphery.

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