“The Kitchen” By Diane Payne

Grandma cooked up enough food to fill the wagon, the wagon she had me pull from her apartment
to our house. She knew Dad wasn’t home and hoped he wouldn’t notice all the
food she had made for us, hoped we’d eat it quickly, then hide the rest. Later that day, the
day everyone learned Mom’s cancer was deadly bad, an aunt also stopped by with a
casserole and offered to do our laundry. Dad was home then, and even if he wasn’t drunk
drunk, screaming that he drank  because we made him so damn angry, he told our aunt,
my mother’s sister, to take her damn casserole back home and that we kids could do our
laundry. “I don’t need your charity,” he screamed. Our aunt gave us that desperate look
of love and sorrow, and the smell of her freshly baked tuna casserole lingered the few
minutes it took for me to fill up the wagon with Grandma’s banana bread, strawberry
jam, potato salad, Jell-O with pudding on the top; I stopped to lick some pudding off the
Jell-O before Grandpa opened the door and saw the food in the wagon and looked like he
was about to cry because my mother, his youngest child, was lying in a hospital while
our drunken father wouldn’t let anyone help her kids, and even though I was warned
to not eat a damn thing over there, just bring the food back and head right back home, I
ate a slice of banana bread before walking back home to find the smell of tuna casserole
in the kitchen replaced with the stench of whiskey and anger.

Diane Payne’s most recent publications include Obra/Artiface, Map Literary Review, Watershed Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Kudzu House Quarterly, Superstition Review, Blue Lyra Press, Fourth River, Cheat River Review.,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Souvenir Literary Journal, Madcap Review and Outpost 19. Diane is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press) and co-author of Delphi Series 5 chapbook.

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