Mikki Aronoff ~ Three Micros


Mother’s stone qui­et as she smooths and straight­ens and tugs at the lace table­cloth. Her lips tight­en as she sets, then resets, the cut­lery. First she does x, then paus­es. Then she undoes x. Then she tries y and undoes y. She’ll glow­er if I try to assist. I count, to myself, the sec­onds between her adjust­ments, cal­cu­late the median.

It’s just me and you, moth­er,” I blurt out, hop­ing she’ll relax. Her silence has always meant dan­ger here, be alert, so I take two steps back, shield myself against a reply which doesn’t come. I catch myself start­ing to hum, stop, then count again.

Finally, z must please her. She pats the table once and returns to the kitchen, where I’m not allowed while she’s cook­ing, so I wait in the din­ing room and think about what we can dis­cuss at din­ner. Mother has wea­ried of my hum­ming and has for­bid­den me to do it, but I’m burst­ing to share my new dis­cov­ery, that it’s impos­si­ble to hum while hold­ing your nose. It sur­prised me immense­ly to hear that, and I imme­di­ate­ly gave it a test. My face furied and steamed like it does when I feel bam­boo­zled. And not being able to hum increased my enjoy­ment of hum­ming. “Pinch your nose and try it your­self,” I want to sug­gest. Humming means no dan­ger here.  Humming means we don’t need to count. I pray that she will join me. Perhaps I’ll tell her over dessert.

Mother’s been silent for a while. My fin­gers mark the sec­onds till she swings open the kitchen door, pinch­es my upper arm, her sig­nal for me to help. I churr my way to the stove, hoist the casse­role from the oven, car­ry it to the table, count till she sits down.


In the Pink

I’m rolling anoth­er dol­ma and there’s a peck­ing at the door. Who pecks? Not any humans I know. Do I or don’t I. No, I decide, go back to stuff­ing mint­ed rice back into grape leaves, try to wrap them so they don’t tear. I’m try­ing for three dozen. Each time, I have to remind myself: Like an enve­lope. Bottom, up. Sides, in. Roll.

Now the pecking’s insis­tent. And a voice to go with it, famil­iar but raspy. “Madge! Madge! Open the god­damn door!” Harvey, my neigh­bor, is drunk. Again. Madge split last Christmas, and our hous­es don’t even look alike. Harvey’s not a bad sort, if you remove the booze, so I crack open the door. He’s lean­ing a bit too much and hug­ging his lawn flamin­go. He won’t be able to make it back across the snow. I drag him and his bird in, pat the couch, toss him a blan­ket, return to the kitchen.

Ten min­utes lat­er, someone’s pound­ing on the door. “I know you’re in there, Harv!” It’s Madge. Has she come back to rec­on­cile? I can’t stand in the way of that, so I open the door again. “Left my ugly Christmas sweater at Harv’s,” she explains, push­ing her way through. “I need it for the office par­ty.” She grabs my hand, leads the way to the kitchen with only a quick glance at her ex snor­ing on the sofa. A bit of drool snakes down his chin, his arms are wrapped tight around the flamin­go. They’re both look­ing a bit pinker.

I fin­ish wrap­ping and rolling, shove the dol­mades in the microwave. Madge takes a Michelob from the fridge, rais­es the bot­tle to me. “Cheers.”

In a few min­utes, the timer dings. I set the bowl aside to cool. Madge grabs my hand again, leads me towards the liv­ing room. We tip­toe in, con­sid­er Harv and his bird on the couch. He’s not going to move for a while, and Madge needs the key. She jerks her head in the flamingo’s direc­tion. “She’s why I left.” We go back to the kitchen. Madge scoops up a hand­ful of stuffed grape leaves, throws her head back, toss­es them into her mouth like popcorn.



~ after The Sea Maidens, by Evelyn de Morgan, 1886

I shuf­fle off all mod­esty and my mor­tal sweat pants, leave them rum­pled on the cubi­cle floor as the tech­ni­cian rush­es me towards the machine. She’s hov­er­ing over my absent atten­tion, inter­rupts a blue movie start­ing to loop, some­thing about a prince with a six-pack. My brain is an unruly fer­ret. Work with this! she nags, with a not-too-kind tap on my nog­gin. I’m not in the mood for a life coach. I’ve dri­ven an hour in traf­fic to get here, and I’m feel­ing cranky. I point to a pin on my day­pack, a bunch of waves and a whale, grum­ble about all the plas­tic water bot­tles I’ve drained for this test.

The techie leaves me and my bloat to slosh and squirm in a sea cave of met­al. She dash­es to a pro­tec­tive booth to snap images and tell me what to do. Breathe! Two-syl­la­bled insis­tence. I need to pee bad­ly, but gulp air instead. Then a crescen­do: Hold IT! My bot­tom half scales and glis­tens, flips and swish­es, then stills. Breathe! I float and weave among kelp and urchins, drift into a grot­to. A con­sort, await­ing res­cue, crooks a fin­ger that beck­ons promise. I swim over, hear his sad tale, splash and undu­late with long­ing. Hold IT! I spin and twist till my tail points up.  Breathe! My lungs swell to her decrescen­do-ed com­mand as the machine spits me out. Buoyant again. I race to relieve myself, put on my sweats and dri­ve home rewind­ing the loops. Back in my La-Z-Boy, I switch on the TV, surf the Hallmark chan­nels, find a prince.


Mikki Aronoff’s work appears or is forth­com­ing in The Ekphrastic Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Intima, Thimble Literary Magazine, London Reader, SurVision, Rogue Agent, Popshot Quarterly, The South Shore Review, The Fortnightly Review, Feral, Sledgehammer Lit, Flash Boulevard, The Phare, and else­where. She is a three-time Pushcart nom­i­nee and a nom­i­nee for Best Microfiction 2022.