On cool summer dawns Auntie kneaded the bread with droplets of blood. I saw the pin sink into the thumb, the wink, the finger brought to her lips for a vow of silence. But we both knew I’d never betray her. Auntie hid the crusts in the hollows of crossroads trees, to ward off sickness. Where was Uncle? I’d ask. Asleep in the woods, she’d reply. We practiced putting on makeup sitting cross-legged in thickets with dresses hitched up, her white panties always pristine and glowing.
Once she woke me up to see the comet. We stepped into a night of fireflies and rotting fruit. The comet was a black button encircled in fire. I blew it a kiss and Auntie swayed next to me in a linen nightgown, her body a silent bell.
After that I kept vigils for my celestial beloved. Wouldn’t have seen him otherwise, the man in the orchard. Wouldn’t have seen Auntie walk out barefoot in the soil, curlers unspooling from her hair.
Through the laden branches the limbs gleamed, unmistakable. Up came the house dress with the makeshift pockets. Down came the cotton whites, a puddle of light on the dark clay.
My breath fogged the glass. When they pulled apart he was dissolved into darkness, and she meandered back into the house, pausing to glance at the sky crisscrossed with gold. I heard her bedroom door shut and I stole out into the night.
There he was. Asleep in the woods, his whole body a frown. His pants all too short and shoelaces for a belt. I scooped handfuls of dirt and foliage and covered him until he was one with the land. He fretted and sighed. I made soft shushing sounds. And the stars kept falling.
In the morning Auntie mixed sugar and berries, the sticky purple up to her elbows. The mass bubbled and squelched. She smiled at me and I was pleased, the keeper of something momentous.
I climbed up next to her and dipped my hands into the bowl. I was certain only about a limited number of things, but I’d just seen the stars trickle across the world, and knew some were on their way back to us. Inside the tangy pulp, our fingers met and locked.
Clio Velentza’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, (b)OINK, Lost Balloon, The Letters Page, and Noble / Gas Qtrly, among others. She lives in Athens, Greece and is a winner of The Best Small Fictions 2016. Find her at @clio_v.
Found photo courtesy of Global Pillage