When Maggie died they brought casseroles and cheese platters and lasagnas and brownies and a pecan pie in a pink ceramic dish, chipped along one side of its rim, and we didn’t like pecan pie and we didn’t eat it and the dish sat in the refrigerator for weeks. The pecans curled into themselves like dead bugs, and the sugar crystals grew slick and waterlogged and glistened obscenely when the refrigerator light clicked on, and the crust broke down and disintegrated, its crumbs joining the North, South, and East walls of Solomon’s temple and rows sixteen C through forty-two A of the Coliseum, and her bones. And in the middle a deep dent began to form, as if God himself, who my wife still believed in, and spoke to, she said, every day, was pressing firmly at the pie’s axis with one finger. I said, What’s he saying to you, God, and my wife said He isn’t talking I am.
What are you saying to him, then.
That I hate him, she said. That’s what I say.
I couldn’t think what to say to her then so I opened the refrigerator and saw the pie there a curdling thing and said Let’s throw this away already and my wife said No, we might need it. Don’t.
That’s the night I went into Maggie’s room with the white paint can and I peeled down all her posters and I pushed all the furniture into the center of the room. I had been at work, but they sent me home, and now what did I have to do? I painted. I painted over the toddler crayon scribbles, the connect-the-dots of thumbtack holes, the tape flecks and stains. Every day I painted, every day my wife went to Mass, and we lived on Campbell’s green bean casseroles for a month or more.
I kept on painting the room, over and over, the air in the house was toxic fumes, even though I opened every window. We went about in sweaters and slippers, like old people in an assisted care home, only there was no one to assist us, really; though it is true that they brought us all those casseroles, all those brownie trays, and that pie.
Until they stopped, retreated to their own, childful lives. Until my work said come in and please be productive, or we are sorry but don’t come back.
The night before I was set to return, I finished a whole wall and watched it dry for a while. Then I stood by the kitchen door and watched my wife cook frozen hamburger in a pan and I watched her eat it alone from the pan, with her fingers, forgetting I was there and might be hungry too. I said Well what’ll I eat then. And she said There’s that pecan pie. I said Yeah because no one likes it, and she said, It’s all we have left.
'She Was Crossing The Road and a FedEx Truck Hit Her, As If It's Any Business of Yours' was published in New South Journal in Winter 2018.
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