Middle of Winter

A woman rinses a plate under hot water. Her name is Marie.

Marie has washed four plates, three soup bowls, two skillets, and five saucers. She counts each one as it goes into the rack.

Her boyfriend leans against the kitchen wall. He has a name but it doesn’t matter at the moment.

He wears faded blue jeans, so faded they’re almost white. The jeans are worn on his right knee and a small tear is growing. He wears a white t-shirt. Marie wonders why he isn’t cold in the middle of winter. He talks of late spring.

In late spring he wants to move to New York.

Marie desires to go west.

The boy talks and talks. Marie listens to the water and the sound it makes as it hits a plate. More like an echo.

She has heard him talk about this subject before. She knows what he is saying. Even if he doesn’t.

The water wrinkles up the skin on her fingers. This would make Marie laugh if she were in a better mood.

The boy leaves and goes off into the living room. He is three years younger than she is.

Marie would like to pick up a pan and beat it against the wall until she chips away a hole into it that the wind could blow through. She would like to see snow melting on their kitchen floor. She would like to see the look on his puzzled face as he attempts to find an object to cover the hole that Marie made in the wall that lets in as much snow as it can.

The weatherman said six or seven inches tonight. Marie hopes it would bury the kitchen table and chairs. An avalanche through the apartment, covering all up, within inches of the ceiling. She would like to see the look on his face as he went out in the morning to make coffee and find a mound of snow covering his coffee pot.

The boy watches TV as Marie scrubs flat noodles off the side of the saucepan.

The boy returns. He offers other options. He mentions that long distance might work.

Marie has a hole inside her larger than one she could ever make in the wall. Even if she used her car.

Marie washes the next plate. It’s number five. It’s not dirty.

Neither will be number six.

The boy watches her impassively.

She should say something but now knows it wouldn’t matter.

He is resolute.

The wind comes in through the crack at the bottom of the back door and blows through the hole in Marie. It blows her stomach out of her body and into the dishwater where it sadly sinks into the gray soapy water.

The boy still gazes at her.

He will never know.

About the author:

Ron Burch lives in Los Angeles.