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Abigail Allen

Tahiti

He told her to cut the crusts off. He told her to cut each sandwich into four squares. He had to have the crusts cut off. He told her he had to have the crusts cut off--and it had to be soft white bread. It couldn't be whole-wheat bread or rye bread or any other kind of bread except the white kind.

He told her to make egg-salad sandwiches on Mondays. He said he wanted egg-salad sandwiches every Monday. That's what he had to have on Mondays. He said not to put any pickles or olives or anything like that in the egg salad. He said he just wanted the chopped eggs and mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper in the egg salad and nothing else. He said he didn't want to see any parsley or anything green in his egg salad. He told her that with the egg-salad sandwiches he wanted grape Kool-Aid--not any other flavor, only grape. That was what he wanted on Mondays.

He said she could surprise him on Thursdays. He told her she would have a little more leeway on Thursdays. On Mondays, he said, she would have to stick to the egg salad. On Mondays, he told her, after the strain of the weekend, he would need to know that the egg-salad sandwiches were waiting for him. But on Thursdays she would have a choice. He told her that on Thursdays she could make pimento-cheese sandwiches. That was one thing she could make. He told her he wanted only mild cheddar in his pimento cheese. He told her he didn't like sharp cheddar, or even medium cheddar. He said sharp cheddar--and even medium cheddar--gave him a headache, so he had to insist on the mild cheddar. He said he didn't want any pickles or olives in his pimento cheese. He just wanted grated cheese and chopped pimentos and mayonnaise. He told her he didn't want anything else in it. He said that with the pimento-cheese sandwiches he wanted Hawaiian Punch. He wanted just plain Hawaiian Punch. He didn't want any canned fruit dumped in it.

The other thing she could make him on Thursdays, he told her, was peanut-butter-and-strawberry-preserves sandwiches. He said he wanted smooth peanut butter. He told her he hated crunchy peanut butter. He told her he wanted her to mix the peanut butter and the strawberry preserves together first. He said he wanted them mixed together first, before she spread them on the bread. He wanted root beer with the peanut-butter-and-strawberry-preserves sandwiches. He told her to be sure he had root beer with the peanut-butter-and-strawberry-preserves sandwiches.

He told her he wanted them to eat their lunch on the screen porch in back. He said he had to eat lunch with her out there, on the screen porch--unless it was cold. He said that, unless it was too cold, he would prefer to eat on the screen porch. And he wanted her to eat with him. He wanted her to be eating with him out there. He said he wanted to talk to her. He said he needed to talk to her, that he wanted to hear her talking.

One day he told her she had picked out the right table cloth. "Fruit," he said. He said, "Apples, pears, grapes, strawberries." He took the pitcher and poured some Kool-Aid into his glass. Then he poured some into her glass. He told her how happy he was to be here. He told her the weekend had been grueling.

"You poor darling," she said.

He said that being here with her and having the egg-salad sandwiches was like being in heaven. He told her the porch and the yard were like heaven.

She turned her chair so her back was to him. "I have always dreamed of going to Tahiti," she said.

He asked her if he could have the last square of sandwich. He said if she wanted it that was fine, but if she didn't want it he wondered if it would be all right if he went ahead and ate it.

She said he could have it. She turned her chair around so she was facing him again. She watched him eat the last of the sandwich. She got up and went in the house and came back out with a tray. On the tray were a bowl of water, a bar of soap, and a washcloth.

He told her he was ready. She moved their plates to one side and put the tray on the table. He slid his chair back a little. She told him that wasn't necessary. She put the washcloth in the bowl of water. Then she squeezed the cloth out and rubbed it across the bar of soap.

He sighed and looked away from her.

She sat on his lap. "If you weren't so wonderful," she said. "If only you weren't so wonderful."

He took the cloth from her and washed the purple Kool-Aid mustache off her face. Then he gave her the cloth and closed his eyes while she washed the one off his face.

There was a tapping on the screen door. The neighbor was tapping on the door with the handle of her umbrella. "Hello," the neighbor said. "Can I come in?"

She jumped off his lap, and they ran inside and slammed the door.

The neighbor let herself onto the screen porch. "I hear you!" the neighbor shouted. "Let me in! You let me in!" She was banging and banging on the back door with the handle of her umbrella. There was the sound of breaking glass when she hit one of the panes.

They did not breathe. They were looking at the door, at the broken pane of glass, and they did not breathe for a moment. 

____

She was under the covers with the thermometer in her mouth. He told her to keep the thermometer under her tongue. He said if she didn't keep it under her tongue it wouldn't register her temperature accurately. He kept asking her if she still had it under her tongue. Then he looked at his watch and took the thermometer out of her mouth. He held it up to the light.

She said, "What's my temperature?"

He was holding the thermometer up to the light. He told her it was broken. He kept holding the thermometer up to the light and telling her it must be broken.

He gave her the thermometer.

"It's normal," she said. "My temperature is normal."

He went to the window and looked out. He told her it was going to storm. He told her it was going to storm but that it would probably be a nice day tomorrow. He said he thought the sun would be out tomorrow.

"I want to go to Tahiti," she said. "I want to go to Tahiti right now."


Abigail Allen's fiction has appeared in Crania, Apalachee Quarterly, Confrontation, Mid-American Review, and other magazines.  This is her third story in MR.  She teaches composition at Century College in White Bear Lake, MN, and has just completed a novel, Here in Amerique.

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