Still Life, The Ekprhastic Review, 8/22
His wife Deborah gathered the cleaned apples into a bowl. She had a flushed, animated energy, ripples David felt against his skin from his seat across the kitchen. The phone had rung at five that morning, and though he’d gone back to sleep, he could see she had not. Their three kids already off to school; a chicken roasted in the oven; a raw pie crust, edged neatly, cradled within a pie pan, ready for the apple filling.
Deborah lay a towel onto the counter, drew out the peeler. Her hands were trembling. “Best to use a combination of apples in a pie. That’s what my grandmother always said.”
On the wall next to him, a still life painting. Apples, red and green, radiant against a dingy-brown table; a pewter teapot stood next to the bowl, self-contained, stout, exactly how he’d pictured Deborah’s Midwestern grandmother. She had lived on an apple orchard, a place Deborah and her sister Cynthia played as children.
The peeler whispered in the quiet.
He pointed toward the painting. “There’s one fruit that’s different. All these years, and I never noticed.”
“A pomegranate.” Deborah kept her eyes on her work.
His heart knocked against his ribs. Whoever had called, it couldn’t have been about one of their kids. Could it? He said, “Deborah. The phone call this morning.”
“It was Peter. From the hospital. Cynthia lost the baby.”
“Oh, God.” His words slipped out in a groan. Over four months had passed–longer than any of Cynthia’s other pregnancies. He glared at the painting now, irritated by its simple, domesticity.
A dozen apples lay pale and bald on the cutting board. Deborah adjusted each, inspecting for flicks of skin. “Peter said Cynthia doesn’t want to see me.” She drew out a knife, began slicing.
“Best to let her be for a week or so.” Like the other times. “She’ll come around eventually, Deb.”
His wife gave an involuntary cry, then pinched her lips, holding back tears, he could see. They had three children, never any problems. As if paying penance, she continued slicing, focused on the flash and click of the wet knife.
Enough. He crossed the kitchen and touching his wife’s arm, whispered, “Stop for now, Deb.”
Her hands didn’t stop moving. He added, “Please, sweetheart.”
She lay down the knife, and he led her to the table, where she collapsed, crying. Rubbing her back, he gazed at the ridiculous painting. Why would the artist include only one pomegranate? It didn’t make sense. And though he could ask Why? Why? Why?, no one would be able to tell him.