On 43rd street, a yellow house sits like an egg, waiting to hatch a new family. For the past few weeks, the newly married have tried naked and naked again but the wife remains un-pregnant.
It is afternoon and the wife stands in the kitchen, anticipating her husband’s return from work. She is making raisin bread. Her straight brown hair is pulled back neatly. In a pan, milk warms and slowly bubbles, like the small bubbling of drool from a baby’s mouth. After gingerly feeding the mixture margarine, everything else is more than ready and soon there is a small bump of flour rising in the oven.
At 5:25 P.M. the husband gets the mail and walks through the front door. The wife goes to him and they kiss in the foyer and share raisin bread between their lips until the January sun sets.
Another morning rises without pregnancy. The wife goes to the kitchen in a sheer nightgown that she received as a wedding gift. The husband enters, dressed in a work suit and tie. He hugs her waist from behind as she makes breakfast: white eggs with yellow nippled yolks, sizzling on a pan.
“Did you get the mail yesterday?” she asks.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” He chuckles and goes to the foyer. A white envelope sits like a dove on the floor. He picks it up.
“What is it?”
“It’s from the doctor.” she leaves the kitchen and then they are both reading, breathing over this white letter, and it’s not good, and the husband’s hands are shaking as he holds the paper, and something about infertility, and words of sorry and it’s okay rain into the room from the clouded syllables in the husband’s mouth, but the words in the letter have already flooded the wife’s eyes.
That night she cannot cook. She sits on the carpet in the living room, looking out the window. He comes home. He decides that he has to be the strong one. Tonight he will make dinner. As he cooks, she wraps her arms around her empty stomach. He makes pasta to fill both of their bodies. The water boils. After eleven minutes, the noodles are done. The meal is well made and the sauce is good. He joins her in the living room. They sit and eat. But as forks scrape away, making a metal echoic music of their lives, he knows he will never be able to fully satisfy her.
After the meal, he goes to the bedroom for sleep. Tomorrow he will bring up adoption. She does not join him in the bedroom right away. A wing of a baby bird flutters by the window. She follows it to the sliding glass door. Her fingers undo the latch. Like a dream, she drifts out the door.
Hours later he wakes, startled with her next to him in bed. Her fingers determined and attentive, comb through his beard as if making a nest.
“What are you doing?” he sits up.
“What?” She continues to slowly play with his hair, at ease. He sits still for a few seconds. Perhaps he could like this new and strange sort of affection, he thinks. But then as she’s playing with his beard, their eyes meet.
“My God!” he jumps. A baby bird swishes its feathers, trapped in her eyes.
“What?” she coos.
“Nothing, nothing.” he insists. He backs away, pulling her fingers away from his beard. She pouts but simply turns over in the sheets of the bed and falls into a deep sleep. He puts a pillow between their bodies and hesitantly closes his own eyes. He looks to the window. He probably still has four hours until he has to wake for work in the morning. He’s tired, he’s imagining things, and it was nothing, he tells himself, it was nothing…
For the next couple nights, she disappears out the screen door again. She comes back and crawls into bed next to him with twigs in her hair. Her hair worsens. Its straight brown style turns into wild knots. The husband can occasionally hear a small bird chirping outside and he can hear leaves crunching below feet. He tries to pull the bed sheets to cover his beard so she cannot make a nest of him. He starts to shave twice a day to keep his face bare. He stays later at work. When he gets home each day, the wife eats raisins and seeds. She plucks seeds and raisins one by one into her mouth.
One night, fed up with her behavior, he brings home a warm meal to eat at the kitchen table together. He sets the table with silver rimmed plates and glasses from their wedding night. He lightly kisses her on the cheek, for the first time in weeks.
“Let’s eat,” he tells her. He pulls out a chair for her and has her sit down. He pours wine and takes a sip. She copies the way he holds the glass rim up to lips and sips. He picks up his silverware and begins to cut into the meal: a golden brown and perfectly cooked chicken.
But she does not eat the meat. She picks up her silverware but cannot bring herself to eat the bird. Her eyes pool but she dries them and decides to sit in a quiet anger.
Expecting this, the husband finishes his meal and does not pester her. He finishes and goes to the bedroom to get ready for sleep, even though the night is still early.
Minutes later after dressing for bed, the husband enters the hallway to go to the spare bathroom. He is out of shaving cream and needs to search the spare bathroom cabinets for more. His walk comes to a slow and cautious stop in the hallway.
A coach roach sits on the windowpane by the kitchen window. Its antennas swivel about the window ledge’s coat of thick white paint. The wife inches close to it, and then swoops to snatch it between barred traps of her teeth. The husband hears the crunching and swishing of its intestines and fluid insides between her gums. He hears her swallow it down the tube of her throat. And that is when he vows that he will never kiss those lips again. He locks the bedroom door.
The next morning he rushes out the door so quickly that he leaves his briefcase. He has a meeting with a client later and has to come home during his lunch break to get his briefcase.
He turns the corner in the street leading to their small yellow house. A floor company van sits in the driveway. Workers carry wood planks into the front door. The driveway does not have room for him. He has to park on the street. He gets out of his car and enters the house.
The living room carpet lay in rolls, pulled up. The room conveys an emptiness. Men wearing white shirts work putting in plank after plank of wood. Instead of a flat floor, the planks form raised clockwork. The wife stands wild haired to the side. A silk kimono drapes over her limbs. She points to different places in the floor, directing where to place each board. As she does this, silk drapes down from her raised arms, creating a winged silhouette.
The husband goes towards her. The past few weeks of his silence verbalize into a raised voice. Fear flutters in the wife. She cowers to a corner in quick, swift movement. The workers grab the husband by the arms and pull him back.
“What the hell, man. You don’t run at a lady and yell like that” one worker says.
“Mam’, do you know this man?”
“No.” the wife innocently shakes her head. Her arms causally rest alongside her thighs. The husband glances at the womanly body he used to hold and love so dearly. For a moment, he wants to collapse into her warmth and caress her skin again. But she only knows what exists now: the twig and branch like planks creating a nest of a new home. Her arms give a flash, waving the men to carry the husband out the door.
When everything is done, the men go home to their own families. A liquid moon pours over night sky. The lumpy living room couch and cushions rest on the side of the road, waiting to be taken by anyone who drives by. Planks comfortably curve and curl around her. A baby bird coos and flies in. It nestles its feathered body in the motherly warmth of her breast as a wind blows through the open windows.
Kathleen Roland is a writer from Jacksonville Florida. She currently attends the University of North Florida with the quest of obtaining an English degree and minor in creative writing. Her work appears in Élan Literary Magazine and Just Poetry’s Spring Anthology.
Artwork: Brooke Shaden