Tending the Kettle
Ellen started baking in the afternoon and did not stop until around midnight, (after the soufflé had fallen, after the tea kettle cried, after she remembered, suddenly, what she had been trying all day to forget), she was tireless – first prying a sugary plum tart from the sturdy jaws of the oven, then the maple cookies that plumped and crisped within its glowing torso, then ginger snaps, several types of flan, (mint, lemon-saffron, pistachio), cinnamon buns recycled from fleshy, stale rolls – she didn’t stop when she was overcome with nausea, (having unleashed the sweet acridity of a jar of rancid jam), or when a robust blueberry pie overturned, (proclaiming its gleaming magenta guts against the worn linoleum counter), or when she exhausted her recipes and had to invent her own, (tapioca pie, basil Bundt cake, a heaving, mysterious bread), or when she ran out of sugar, (she conceived a bitter chocolate cake, her long face reflected in a pool of thin, black liqueur), the kitchen lights flickered, but she didn’t – even when she caught fragile slivers of her own fingertips in the spice grater, even when she could taste the gas from the oven, even when pastries cowered in every inch of the kitchen, (the living room, the foyer), she did not stop – not until the tea kettle wailed and she forgot, for a moment, that she wasn’t meant to comfort it, and the dark soufflé bloated, rose, and collapsed, and the kettle boiled over; only then did she shut off the kitchen lights, even though the dishes were still dirty, even though the soufflé was still in the oven, even though the oven was still on, even though the house was still empty, even though the blueberries still dripped, in navy clots, to the floor.
About the Writer
Sonja Vitow is a middle and high school French, Spanish, and Creative Writing teacher in Jamaica Plain, MA. Some of her writing has been published in the Harvard Review, The Rumpus, and Gulf Coast. Some of her writing has been described by respected colleagues as, "Why did you spend so much time on that customer service survey?" Mostly she can be found with her dog, which seems right.