by Gay Degani
This is what Loretta would remember if she could remember anything. She was like her mother, a homemaker who could whip together dinner in a half-hour flat if unexpected guests dropped by. She could bake cakes from scratch, put up jelly and jam, and, of course, keep a fastidiously-cleaned house. This was Loretta’s normal, a way of life, like saying the rosary in the morning and reciting the Apostles’ Creed at bedtime.
Oscar, her husband, was industrious, a good provider, with a sense of humor, and, of course, other women noticed. He was often surrounded by Mrs. Perkins and Mrs. Oliphant at summer barbeques and when the firm celebrated winning a case, the secretaries, June, Flavia, Margaret.
Loretta figured she was as happy as anyone, yet the occasional romp in bed was no longer a romp. Not that it was unpleasant. It was pleasant. But it wasn’t the same anymore. She wondered about Oscar romping Lolly Perkins or Flavia Wainwright. How was the sex for him with the pencil-skirted June? What in the world did Oscar do with the six-foot-two Beverly Oliphant?
Then one Monday morning—a morning after a night of perfunctory sex—Loretta filled her red bucket with floor cleaner and hot-hot water and dipped in her Libman Wonder-Mop. She sighed as she pushed her mop wearily back and forth, back and forth.
But Monday housecleaning was sacrosanct and she was almost done with the kitchen. She scrubbed at a stubborn spot near the stove. Then stopped. The oven hood was whistling something. She stopped mopping and cocked her ear. The sound was soft, sweet, seductive. She glanced toward the window over the sink where birch trees danced in the wind. She smiled and continued mopping.
Leaves tapped against the window pane, the wind murmured, and the oven hood whispered, ‘Loretta.’
She tried to ignore it, swabbing her mop, but the susurrations were hypnotic. She leaned over the stove, turned her face upward, closed her eyes, let the music surround her. A slight breeze caressed her face, soft, silken, not cool, but warm, like sweet breath.
There is magic here, she thought and breathed again, but all she could smell was last night’s tuna casserole.
She pulled back her head, bumped it against the hood. Muttered, ‘Just do your work. The morning is almost gone.’
Then she frowned at the cabinets, the farm sink, the seed-glass in the cabinets. Dropped the mop, not hearing the handle clack on the tile. She wiped her hands on her apron and left the house to stand beneath the birch trees. She closed her eyes and felt the shadows of the leaves on her eyelids. The wind teased her cheeks, the hair on her arms danced, and catkins fell from the birches, breaking apart around her like confetti.
A pulse came from the ground through the soles of her feet and into her ankles, her calves, her thighs, and then her apron lifted, her skirt too, as she waltzed with the wind.
Gay Degani has a chapbook, “Pomegranate,” a full-length collection, “Rattle of Want,” and a suspense novel, “What Came Before.” She is currently working on an historical fiction flash novel called, “The Trek,” which tells the story of one family’s journey from Quebec to Louisiana in the late 1700s.