In the farmhouse kitchen, her shoulders roll as she kneads the dough. She stretches and pulls, stretches and pulls. Storm clouds have gathered and engulf the room in a dark shroud. Angry red tinges her knuckles and the tips of her fingers are starting to crack again—she hates the bone-dry days of January and February on the prairie—and once she’s formed the loaves and placed them in their boxy pans, she will wash her hands with lukewarm water and rub in a dab of lotion from the jar on the windowsill, next to the bottle of electric green dish soap. But the glutens in the flour need more work—another ten minutes until the dough for the white bread is soft and elastic—and she pushes down the pain, occupied with thoughts of her old life, from the time before their banishment to the Midwest.
As a young girl, she ran among the oak trees, a crown of their leaves atop silken locks, and today she discerns the faint odor of those forests in the old frame house, whose quarter-sawn floorboards, molding, and fireplace mantels in the parlor and dining room are all made of oak. That aroma fades, however, overtaken by the yeasty smells from the oven, where a large loaf of caraway rye bread is already baking. She closes her eyes and inhales, but the woody smell is gone. A crack of thunder breaks the silence and intensifies the gloom in the kitchen, which has become as hollow as a cave, and she glances over her shoulder to the empty hall leading to the living room.
She wants to turn on the radio in the old pie safe, but sticky bits of flour and water still cling to her fingers, not yet rubbed off and incorporated into the mass of dough, and bad weather always makes it harder to get good reception on the set. Instead she hums a tune as the ball rolls around the floured surface of the worktop.
It hasn’t dawned yet, but the song in her head is the one Orpheus played on their wedding day, leaking tears of joy to watch her dancing in the meadow. Near that very same spot, Aristaeus later spied her and gave chase, sending her to a doom with fangs.
A floorboard creaks and her head turns to the doorway again. As always, nobody stands at the threshold—yet something invisible draws her that way, a yearning, a towing toward the light, a stretching in her chest of something unseen that goes taut and then expands and contracts with each breath. Sinews vibrate like the kithara strings singing her husband’s mourning, bringing all to tears.
Gazing over a shoulder, she sighs and inhales, craving another fragrant reminder of her sylvan home, though all that comes is a thunderclap echoing outside the window, where bits of sleet beggar the glass pane. Her hands are clean now and the dough is smooth and elastic, shiny even, but she stays put and continues kneading, ignoring the unknowable pull that gnaws day and night, waiting for the moment when a figure really appears, emerging from the hallway with extended hand and a swift-footed determination that resists the urge to look back.
By David Dominé
David Dominé, adjunct faculty in Global Languages and Cultures, holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, an MA in Spanish Literature from the University of Louisville and an MA in German Literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He also completed studies in literary translation at the Karl-Franzens Universitat in Graz, Austria. He has published numerous articles and non-fiction books with topics ranging from folklore and architecture to bourbon, travel memoirs and regional cooking. This piece was originally published in Flash Fiction Magazine in January.