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by John Brantingham

You’re making sourdough bread next with Trudy, your shoulder pressed against hers, waiting for the hour when you are to pick up the kids. The commercial for Virginia Beach comes on in the television in the other room. “Did you send the check into the pediatrician?” you ask.

“I’m . . .” but she stops, and you listen to the voice-over about the shore. Trudy’s head is cocked at an angle listening, and she says again, “I’m . . .” but she can’t seem to find the words to finish.

You understand that she’s listening to the description of Virginia, which is where she lived in the years before she met you, which is where she had a son named David because that was her husband’s name, which is where she lost David Jr. and David Sr. to a car accident that was entirely David Sr.’s fault, which is where she learned what love was and could be from bottom to top, which is what she brought out here to California and found you, which is why when you make bread these days, you knead it together while talking, your arm against hers, the mutual warmth greater than anything you could ever have alone.

“I’m . . .” she says again, and before she taught you what it means to love, you would have pulled her out of this daydream, but today you leave her in the joy of her other life for a moment and wait for her.

You love that when you knead bread together, how the flour gets on her. There is a spot on her cheek. Her red toenails are speckled with it.

John Brantingham is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park’s first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has ten books of poetry and fiction including The L.A. Fiction Anthology (Red Hen Press) and A Sublime and Tragic Dance (Cholla Needles Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College in California.