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Lot’s Wife

Story by Rebecca King (Read author interview) December 17, 2013

art by Ash Baker

Each morning, we wake with salt in our bed. It’s nearly invisible against the white sheets, but we feel it rub against our skin whenever we shift, whenever we twitch in our sleep. It makes us dream of sand dunes and wind whistling through beach grass. It makes us dream of home—our old home. There, it was not so unusual to find sand in our bed, but sand is softer, more forgiving than salt.

Here, there is no sand, only hills and rain and concrete. But there are reasons for leaving places that you love: better opportunities, family. I can’t think of any more.

When you come home from your shifts at the restaurant where you knead bread, temper ovens, and tower cakes, I find salt in your ears, in the crooks of your arms, and crusted in white patches at the corners of your eyes and along your lashes. I ask if it’s raining outside, or if you have been crying. I ask how on earth it’s possible to end each day covered in so much salt, and you can’t answer. When we kiss, your mouth tastes of brine.

The truth is, we moved for my mother who went ahead and died anyway once we got here. We moved because I had a job offer that paid twice what we made at our bakery in that seaside town, but upon moving, the offer dried up faster than fish out of water. We thought about turning back, but there was nothing to go back to. The bakery sold before we’d even put it on the market, and now, I’m losing you too, one pinch at a time.

In the mornings, I start pulling up the corners of the sheets to gather the salt, to gather you into the middle, to pour you into empty jam jars that I keep on top of the refrigerator. I sweep the house, piling small white anthills on the hardwood floors. Your wet footprints from the shower, when they dry, leave white rings in a trail down the hall.

Before bed each night, I hold you in my arms, and your elbows, rough and pale, scratch my skin. I ask you for today’s special, and you tell me what you would have made at our bakery by the sea. Lemon bars with lavender crust. Apple pie with gruyere cheese. Orange sponge cake with sticky almond icing.

Sometimes, we visit Google Earth. We pretend to drive past our bakery. We pretend it’s still ours, which is easy to do since it still has our name on the front. We drive past the sea and the frozen waves of beach grass, until one day, the bakery is gone, and the red pizzeria sign, its brilliant red roof, glares at us through the screen. “Beachside pizza,” the pixilated sign reads. We stare into the windows, trying to spy your ovens, or the cooling racks we had installed.

You are shrinking. Your shirts hang loose, and your belts need new notches. I swear the top of your head used to touch my nose. You can’t sleep anymore without listening to the ocean lap against the shore like white noise in the night, so I set my computer on repeat. Occasionally, the battery dies, and we wake in the pitch black and sudden silence, straining to hear a noise that no longer exists.

When I kiss you, your lips are coarse as gum drops. Your tongue is a saltlick. You ask me when we are going home, and I tell you we already are.

About the Author

Rebecca King lives in the Midwest. She founded Origami Zoo Press, where she now works as an editor, and received her MFA from Chatham University. Her stories have appeared in Corium Magazine, A-Minor Magazine, decomP, killauthor, and others.

About the Artist

Ash Baker is a Seattle-based freelance photographer. She first fell in love with photography while working on her fashion accessory company Adorned. Although loving design, photography quickly became her primary artistic focus. With an educational background in the healing arts, she has fine-tuned her intuitive abilities which are the key inspiration for her work. She believes that magical lighting plus emotion caught at just the right moment is something worth finding every day.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Two

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