John and I pace the house by candlelight to keep our feet from going numb. The kids hug each other in our bed, which is too tall for them to reach easily. They have to stand on tip-toes, grab handfuls of sheets, and pull themselves up. Normally I say, “You can do it,” and let them try alone. Tonight I gave them each a boost. It’s so cold that John puts his fingers in his mouth to get them warm. Just one hand to start, even though there’s more room.
Years ago––before we married, bought a house, had kids, and then were laid off––we used to go to an Italian restaurant called 18. I asked the waiter, “Why 18?” and he said, “That’s how many months the Parmesan ages.”
John’s mouth was so large he could eat the chicken Parmesan in three bites. I counted once. He asked, “Does it gross you out?”
“No,” I said. “It turns me on.”
He puts his other hand in his mouth. I put both of my hands in his mouth, too. I call for the kids and they say, “It’s cold,” and I say, “But Daddy is warm.” They shuffle toward the sound of my voice. They are wrapped in sheets and the sheets drag on the hardwood floor and in the cold the hardwoods creak. John and I kneel so it’s easier for the kids to put their hands in his mouth. There is enough room for all of us. With his mouth full of hands, John begins to hum “Yankee Doodle Dandy” for the kids, and the vibrations of his voice start in my fingers and travel to the rest of my body.
At least there is this.
Notes from Guest Reader Sherrie Flick
The great, specific detail in this story drew me in from the start and kept me engaged and in scene. I love that the husband’s large mouth isn’t the focus of the piece, but instead works to tell a larger family story. The mix of realism with just a touch of magical realism, the mix of love and despair, made this flash stand out from the many I read this week