Write On!

To Do: Bread

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm

by Jennifer Strange

Dried drosophila on the windowsill, baked in the summer sun. It’s autumn now, and Ann wonders if she should still be hiring those men to cut the lawn. “Slow growing,” she mumbles, wiping her finger across a slat of the mini-blinds. Dust, but not so much you’d notice unless you stared it down slowly like she has.

It’s 9 a.m., so Ann makes the morning coffee. The swirl of the milk receiving the coffee settles her, unifies the world. She starts a psalm but trails away in the middle of the first verse. Her days run like this now, starting a thousand tasks and trailing away from each one, wishing she had been a runner but never trying to run, looking deep into the forest while driving straight through, putting off the serious tasks in favor of the busy ones.

Ann thinks better of going outside these days. The last time she went to the store, she forgot to buy peanut butter but did get six bars of castile soap even though she already had eight at home. “It’s non-toxic,” she joked to make herself feel better, but it’s easier to avoid the self-loathing if you can’t ever embarrass yourself. So she went home and told herself she would call someone or write a letter or water the plants.

A few days later, Ann remembered those limp plants again. She started to sing a little song to them: “All creatures of our God and King . . . well, they’re not properly creatures, are they?” And she let the water pool onto their dirt until it was a rich black.

After coffee, Ann sets to work. She manages email, she learns about what’s happening in the world, she updates her status, she looks at her “to do” list. By then, it’s lunchtime. She marvels at the brilliance of working from home, sipping her tea at her own table and looking up to see that man walk his dog again. Neighbors! Ann smiles.

But then it’s time for Ann to encounter a real doozy of a task. She grinds her molars, she thinks about the shriveling nerve, she furrows. And in a few moments, she has solved the problem to great relief. “What a privilege to have such meaningful work,” she sighs. Ann checks her “to do” list again for something else rewarding to accomplish.

“Busy hands . . .” her mother always said. She nods in tender agreement, for she likes having remembered it so well.

In the afternoon, Ann makes bread. It’s the kneading that draws her to the task, the quiet thump-thump of the turning and the time it requires. She presses her fists into the dough, she folds it back upon itself, she doesn’t mind the flour on her shirt. Her midsection wears a line of it to flaunt her birthing hips.

When Ann sets the mound in a bowl to rise, she looks for a dark place to set it. “Even the darkness is light,” she thinks as she clears off a space in her pantry. The making of her home is a slow craft, like roasting a pig on a spit or baking the perfect bread. Lots of hurry and heavy lift, then lots of wait. Ann hears a large bluejay making an argument to the others that they should all join him in the war against an injured one. “Leave my sidewalk,” she wishes aloud to the lesser creature. Nature blue in squawk and squall, that mean gang of jays will have the dying one out of hiding.

Time for the second kneading, so Ann retrieves her dough and punches down the growth. The smell of yeast fills her yellow kitchen. She will eat half of the loaf, maybe, with her dinner. She will tell herself it’s fine because this is the fruit of her labors. God said so.

That night in bed, reading a novel she’s read before, Ann fears a nightmare and sets a pillow behind her back. Her cat finds her but sleeps on the couch. Ann finally falls asleep but wakes every two hours, for she has forgotten a thousand things. “Tomorrow,” she tells herself. “I’ll get up early tomorrow and do that.” So she rises with the sun, and naps until midday.

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  1. […] October 2011, “To Do: Bread“ […]

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