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by Jen Ippensen

Jane watches the broth in her soup pot. The surface trembles. But, she thinks, below the surface nothing changes. Everything stays the same and the same and the same. She loses a year of her life, then more, waiting.

It turns out it’s not true what they say. It does come to a boil. It just takes a while.

In the roiling water, carrot chunks clash with chopped celery, cut green beans collide with cauliflower. Stray hair strands around her ears curl in the rising steam. She’s never been to Yellowstone. She and Ronnie planned to swing up that way when they moved west. She always wanted to live in a coastal town, between sea spray and mountain mist. Santa Monica maybe.

Three years back he drank a bottle of Jack with Bobby Jones, ran the old Ford through a ditch into the corn field two miles over, crashed into an irrigation pivot. When he lost his license, he lost his job hauling grain for Marshall and Bill.

Next fall, Ronnie promised. Three years ago.

She stirs, stirs, stirs, back aching, feet sore, ankles swollen from extra lunch shifts she’s been picking up at the diner on Main. From food-truck life she’s been living at the local county fair. She transfers her weight, foot to foot. She presses a piece of cauliflower to the side of the pot, applies pressure. It gives way.

That’s how you know it’s done.

She replaces the lid and leaves the pot on the stove, blue flames flickering beneath the burner. She carries their bowls to the table.

“We’ve been through this,” he says.

“We had a plan.”

“Wasn’t practical.”

“So you’ve said.”

Spoons scrape the sides of their bowls. He eats. She stirs in near silence, thinking of the envelope, thick with tips, tucked in her purse.

“Cauliflower’s a bit soft.”

“I know,” she says.

On the stove, pressure builds in the pot. The lid trembles.

“I prefer potato.”

“I know,” she says, stirring.

Steam rises from the pot until the lid bubbles up and broth, escaping, runs over the rim, onto the burner, where it hisses, evaporates, disappears.

Jen Ippensen lives and writes in Norfolk, Nebraska. Her work can be found in Every Day Fiction, Midwestern Gothic, and Collective Unrest, among other places. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. You can find her at www.jenippensen.com or on Twitter @jippensen.