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C.L. Bledsoe


It was difficult for Eliza to wake earlier than her father because the man suffered from chronic insomnia, but when she could, she liked to stand over him and pretend his gold sheets were the sides of a copper pot and his snores were the simmering of water boiling him into broth. More usual were the mornings she slipped from beneath the canopy of her bed to find him already in the kitchen, slurping coffee and reaching to scratch his socks, which Eliza had taken to filling with a seasoning blend of sea salt, minced garlic, and black peppercorns. He smiled when he noticed her salivating in the doorway, beckoned her to come sit on his lap and share her dreams. He was always interested in her dreams, which were full of strange animals with their tails tied together; or furniture with broken legs no one knew about, so that use caused them great pain. He always laughed loud at these dreams, though they frankly haunted Eliza. After he left, she'd change the onions in his sheets and catnap through the morning until her mother awoke and they could play together. These times were bliss for Eliza.

Eliza's mother had taken to sleeping in a separate bed from her husband because of the smell. Neither of them slept well apart, but neither was willing to consider the problem long enough to find a solution.

Some mornings, when she was bored, Eliza would stand over her mother and whisper entreaties into her ears to fillet her husband. She fried meats and wafted their smells into her mother's nose while soothing music played softly.

Eliza's mother wasn't eating because the smell of meat, along with the smell of onions, garlic, and several herbs, made her feel nauseous. Mornings, when she woke, her daughter eyed her, full of rage and need. More than anything, Eliza's mother missed the smell her husband had once had—something like fresh sandalwood. Now, it was all oil and onions, long hours and promises.

The weaker Eliza's mother grew, the stronger Eliza seemed to grow. Likewise, Eliza's father lost weight because he simply didn't have the time or the energy to eat. He came home late from hard days and collapsed into bed, too tired to even complain about the parsley crunching in his pillow. He missed his wife's smell, which was something like the air after a thunderstorm. Now, all he could smell were onions. Sometimes, he stood over his wife's bed and listened to her cry in her sleep. He'd lay in bed where the snores of his fat daughter drowned out his wife's pathetic tears.

After several months like this, one morning, Eliza's father rose early. He could hear Eliza's throaty snores, and knocked on her door, but she didn't stir. He opened the door to his wife's room and found her sitting on the edge of the bed. She turned smiling eyes up to him and rose to embrace him. She was a breeze against him, warm air and little more. Over her shoulder, he could see her form, still. He knew his own was in the other room. She breathed deep and stepped back. "Sandalwood," she said and laughed.

"The storm is over," he said, taking her in his arms once more.

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