Magic Yeast

by Louisa Howerow Read author interview December 15, 2003

“Mrs. Latford phoned me again . . .”

Her mother’s voice, hung in the air, momentarily unheeded, before it fell, twisting itself around Katy, pulling her away from her daydreams into the world inside the kitchen. She hurried to place the large brown mixing bowl and a wooden spoon on the kitchen table.

“You were fighting.”

“I just–”

”Pulled Melissa’s hair.” Her mother tore open the bottom of the flour bag and sprinkled the rest of the flour in the bowl. “I need the new bag.”

The bags of flour were kept in the bottom cupboard and Katy had to kneel down and pull the seven pounder out with both hands. She heaved it up and held it snugly against her middle. A puff of fine white dust blew up. She wrinkled her nose and held her breath to stop a sneeze, but it came anyway.

“Fights. At school. Always at school.” Katy’s mother thumped the flour bag on the table. “You’re covered in flour.”

Katy looked down and began to rub her top

Her mother pushed her daughter’s hand away, and tied a large striped tea-cloth around Katy’s neck, like a bib. “Couldn’t you land her one outside of school?”

“I don’t hate her then.”

“They used to strap kids at school for fighting. Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

“I got a detention.”

Her mother poured the white flour and a large pinch of salt into the mixing bowl. She reached for the yeast and held the brown foamy liquid close to Katy. “Smell. That’s magic. Mushrooms and wet wood earth.”

“Can I pour it?”

With her fingers Katy’s mother deftly scooped out a deep well in the salted flour. “Say the magic words.”

“Abracadabra,” said Katy and poured in the yeast.

Her mother added more water, eggs, oil, more sugar, and each addition came with a large flourish. “We’ll live by a lake, and have a garden, and make rolls.”

“I’ll never see Melissa.”

“Stupid cow.” Her mother mixed and beat the mixture, and with each vigorous stroke, her voice rose “She was calling you names. She was. Wasn’t she?”

Katy stood very still. She lifted her toes up and down, inside her shoes.

Her mother’s eyes gleamed; her face flushed. “You’re going to be somebody, Katy. Remember that!” Bits of dough spattered the wall as she gestured defiantly with her wooden spoon against injustice and stupidity. “We’re going to leave this town behind.”

“I’ll go swimming in a lake.”

As if finding herself momentarily in the eye of a storm, her mother stopped, “First we have rolls to make.” She took her daughter’s outstretched hand and sprinkled it with flour.

“With raisins?”

“With raisins. With plum jam. With apples.”

Katy wanted both of her mother’s hands to hold her thin small one, hold it forever.

“We’ll eat like royalty.” Katy’s mother pinched off a piece of dough for her daughter, a piece just the right size to keep Katy at the table, but not too large.

Katy followed her mother’s lead. She folded her dough, pressed it down with the heel of her floured hand, gave it a quarter turn, folded it, and pressed again. The dough became smooth and supple with tiny bubbles just under the skin, perfect.

About the Author:

Louisa Howerow's flash fiction has appeared in on-line journals, such as the-phone-book, The Danforth Review, Tryst and Ygdrasil. One of her non-fiction flash pieces will appear in the October, 2003 print issue of Front Porch.