The women make their pies from scratch. Their hands are cracked and white with the baking flour that settles into the creases of their knuckles. They dip their fingers inside the pie filling, tasting it with the tips of their tongues. Their lips are painted red like the name on their husbands’ fighter planes. Stella Sue.
For the past five months since their husbands left for war, they have learned to stretch and save, to make every scrap of food last. They know how to render the lard. How to trim the blood spots from the meat. The fat glistens like white gold.
Each of the women prepares coffee in early morning after their children have left for school. They take care to reuse the coffee grounds. The liquid is a dull brown and not black. It is faded like their roots.
The women’s children press their hands together at suppertime, heads bowed. Their scalps are combed and clean. The women make sure of this. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, the children recite. Their smiles are innocent when their hands turn into guns. They point and shoot. You’re dead, they yell.
The women miss their husbands. They eye the young men in the market as they bag their foodstuff. Sometimes they have the young men deliver their groceries to their homes. The women remove their wedding bands from their fingers and leave them on butcher blocks or kitchen windowsills. They want to feel the young men’s skin, smooth as gunmetal, behind closed doors.
When the women gossip it is always about other women. How tight the flag is folded when it is passed to them, so it doesn’t fall apart. They wonder when it will be their turn. They sip their coffee from bone white teacups, leaving lipstick stains on the edges. Even after scrubbing, the mark never seems to come clean.
Sometimes the women meet in sitting rooms or at kitchen tables and talk in hushed tones as their children sleep. They reminisce about school dances, football games, high school sweethearts. They rub cold cream on their chapped hands, avoiding each other’s eyes. They massage the blisters on their feet, conceal their unkempt toenails. Their hair is tied up in kerchiefs, hiding their rollers. They wonder how long the curls will last the next day. They look out kitchen windows, past empty clotheslines, just beyond the town’s center. They watch the night sky, uncertain. They watch as the lights from the factory blink a tired Morse code.
First Published by Pure Slush Books