Fingers and Food
A Short Story by K. L. Tabor
Written using the suggestion "Touchpad"
Originally featured on 01-18-2010
As part of our series "The Future Was Now"

The girl was starving. She should have been cleaning her room, as it was Saturday, and it was raining, and despite being ten, a rule is still a rule. Still, she was starving, and this couldn’t be avoided. And so piles of clothes were. Avoided, that is, and a tuna melt was made. A perfect tuna melt with a can and a bowl and that much salt, and this many pickles, just ever so much, and not too much, and don’t mush the toast, until perfect. And melted. And the girl peered into the oven and twitched with delight. Her grandmother’s potholders held tight.

 

“Ow!”

 

“What is it?” Her mother asked from the other room. The dining room, the living room, dusting, dusting.

 

The girl didn’t answer, putting her finger to her mouth, to cool the burn and the mother didn’t ask again, dusting the sideboards, dusting the walls, a white cloth, whirling.

 

A white mark on the finger, burning. The girl cooled it down and dropped to the floor, tuna melt forgotten, dropped to the sink. Finger still in her mouth, she smiled as she sucked. The burn tasted good.

 

And the girl felt happy. And so she smiled.

 

 

The boy opened the car door to let her in, as despite being sixteen, a date is still a date, and a rule is still a rule. And a picnic basket is a beautiful basket, filled to the brim with cheese, and bread, and jam, and berries picked fresh from the yard, and put in a separate container made of plastic to avoid being squished, which they were. Avoided, that is, in that the boy forgot them in his haste for the date, running late. To pick up the girl.

 

“Oh!”

 

“What is it?” asked the girl, sitting on the blanket, watching his fingers pick out the food from the basket, one at a time; phalanges and French Bread, knuckles and jam. Mesmerized, she smiled.

 

“I forgot the berries,” he said. She heard him say, but didn’t watch him say, imagining while he spoke, fingers stained red, picking from the bush, the vine, and,

 

“It’s fine,” said the girl, “This is wonderful,” said the girl.

 

And it was. Sun in the sky and sun in the hair, and sun in their eyes until they are squinting, and the girl is almost laughing, about to laugh, not quite laughing, just saying, “Close your eyes,” with her hand to his face.

 

And he does, closes that is, his eyes and likes where this is going. The girl takes his hand, ever so softly, ever so gently, gingerly, with salt, and a pinch of pepper just like so, until they are perfect. The girl twitches with delight. And wrapping them in bread, takes a bite.

 

 

“Ow!” says the man.

 

“What is it?” says the woman, because even when you are thirty, safe words are still safe words, and rules are still rules, and biting is not nibbling no matter how hungry you are.

 

“You bit my finger,” the man said, angry and tired, and he doesn’t like where this is going. And she does not like where this is going, or where every relationship she’s had was going and then stopped going, as it were. Over. Severed.

 

“Never,” said then man, “Never, do that again,” said the man.

 

And the woman nodded, and looked out the window, chin on her hand and dust on the sill. Saturday and rain dropping in the yard. And the living room needs dusting, and the floorboards need dusting. Dusting, and turning, whirling, and swirling. The rain drops down.

 

And the woman does not smile. She is not happy at all.

Read More By K. L. Tabor

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Portland Fiction Project

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