Almost al dente

The third noodle stuck, high above two lying limp on the tile. She threw a fourth. It also stuck. A fifth fell. The sixth stuck.

So she kept throwing them. Some stuck, some fell. She didn’t yet know what to do with the fallen ones or the ones that stuck. She still had a whole pot to go.

She began to aim, adjusting her throw and her grip. Some she grabbed near the middle and flicked at the wall like she was trying to ring a milk bottle to win an overstuffed penguin. Others she flung for the fuck of it. For some, she wound up, stepping to set her weight to one leg, her arm twisted behind her, and then she whipped forward to frisbee the noodle, which often splatted against the fridge.

She thought about cleaning. Then about cheating. She could move them, she told herself. Who would know? Who would care? Who the hell would she tell? Maybe later, she decided.

But now she struggled. She saw where she wanted the noodles to land. She even had an idea of how. But she lost sight before she let go. They knocked against other noodles and fell, more collecting on the floor.

That became the game. With the few noodles she had left, her last lives. She flung, some fell, some swung into new places and opened new spaces. She finished and took it in. It looked like nothing except spaghetti. She framed it anyhow.

Cereal idle

a sketch

She could spend hours in the cereal aisle. She would come up with games to play. Standard ones, like if you could just have one for the rest of your life, which? What about if that was the only thing you could eat for the rest of your life? Or what cereal makes the best milk? Which has the best mascot? Or box in general?

One time she pulled a notebook from her backpack and sat down in the aisle. Back against the peanut butter, she drew a bracket. A cereal tournament.

First seeding. She ranked the cereals by the company that produced them. Then she ranked the divisions. The store-bought brands were relegated to a play-in game determined by which was less of a knock-off than the others.

The second round was still underway when one of the store’s employees walked up and asked what she was doing. She told him and he smiled and walked away. But before he exited the aisle, he spun back and asked if he could make a copy of her bracket.

She would draw him one once she finished this round, she said. Would he mind getting a sandwich for her from the deli? She was hungry.

Yeah okay, he said. By the time he returned, Frosted Chex had been eliminated in an unbelievable upset.

Sow

a sketch

The woman stared at her garden. My garden, she thought. She had never had a garden before. Not really.

As a kid, she would water her mom’s plants. Until one time her parents went away for a few days, she forgot about the prayer plants in the bedroom that otherwise remained empty.

“You killed the prayer plants,” her mother accused her. Her mother small but powerful with her hands holding together the brown leaves that, when green, would fold toward one another in solemn conspiracy.

Her mother’s words rang ridiculous at the time, but she roiled in recall.

“You weren’t here. You let them die,” she burst.

Years later, her mother — sitting in a circle of family and friends at the point late at a party when the ice has melted — would offhandedly say that this was the worst thing her daughter had ever said. Then, she smiled at her firstborn, for a time her only, as if the memory bound them.

Two days after her mother passed, she remembered the plants. She drowned them. Accidentally but still. It wasn’t for a few more days that someone told her what she’d done, was in fact doing at that moment she learned that plants can drown, that they drown at the root.

Colada morada

a sketch

The water was a purple kind of brown, as if it knew the word gloom. Still it looked inviting under the dust-burnt clouds. The water’s color belied its warmth. But not to him. He saw colada morada. He saw his grandma, stirring her royal blue pot of berries cooked past a pudding, standing in an oversized shirt and pajama pants, avocado mashed into her hair. She explained to him once why she did it, but he couldn’t remember what she said. He didn’t remember much of what she said other than the things she would always say. Those sounds would never leave him. They were too of their own, like a faraway star so close in the sky.