Colleen Kearney Rich
It is too much, he thinks as he crushes the shopping list in his hand,
then he realizes he must have said it out loud because the woman with a
hairnet is staring at him from across the chrome counter, holding the slices
of turkey in her hand. She tilts her head and looks at him expectantly.
"No, that's fine," he says, and she puts the honey-baked turkey on the
scale—it is the boy who eats the honey turkey, not smoked; his daughter who
prefers peanut butter and jelly, but not just any jelly, it must be grape
jam, and she knows the difference.
At first, he thought to hell with it, they are kids, what do they know about
brands of turkey and the making of jelly, but he came to realize he was the
one who didn't know.
When Liz was first diagnosed, people clucked and said what a fighter she
was, and he repeated what they said, wanting to believe that they were right
about her, this Liz who collected projects like stamps, sweaters she never
finished knitting, half-done crossword puzzles left on the kitchen table,
thirsty herbs on the terrace, this Liz he had only ever seen quit things.
When she quit for good, just before the chemo series ended, they clucked
again, thinking—he was sure of it—that it was just her time, that God needed
another angel, that He didn't give people more than they could bear.
He takes the deli meat and thanks the woman, swallowing the anger that rises
in his throat, threatening, like a bone, to choke him, the anger that the
books all tell him is OK, but that isn't—not in his book.
Colleen Kearney Rich has had stories in matchbook, SmokeLong Quarterly, and others. She's a
founding editor of So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art. She lives in Virginia.
Read her postcard.
W i g l e a f