Swallow

 

Annette Lapointe

 

We ordered doughnuts on Wednesdays because the meetings weren’t optional.  We’d meet up in the foyer, reeking of our cigarettes, and bolt our sugar-fixes, the deep-fried comfort that we couldn’t walk into that room without.

Heather and I sat together in the meetings.  The agenda glowed across the room, old business and new business and our potential for continued funding. Someone always wanted to know the origins of bullet points, or the policies behind a change, and I’d watch my lunch hour ticking away in that place.

I was always hungry.

Darren thought it might be symptomatic of my client base.  I worked with emotional voids of post-marital agony, trying to re-orient themselves and desperate for me to build them new selves to go out into the world wearing.

I handled resettlements.  Post-prison, post-divorce.  Post-natural disaster.  Economic chaos refugees trained for highly complex fields that no longer existed, who needed jobs and homes to accompany their cars full of rumpled business attire.

       I think I’d like to work with computers.

    I always wanted to be a cowboy.

       Find me a job, a home.  Anything.  Can I be someone’s housekeeper?  Someone rich?

So many people wanted to be servants.  Butlers.  Old-fashioned housekeepers carrying rings of keys.

Ex-husbands came to me wanting to become wives.

  Help me.

Client satisfaction numbers are down, year-over-year,  for 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13.  We need to know what’s causing the decline.  Our funding is under threat.    

          Is there a reason you haven’t made them happy?

I couldn’t imagine happy.  Sugar was the closest I could find.

We ordered doughnuts every Wednesday until Kari-Lyn’s histaminic response tripped over an eclair topped with almond slices, until her epi-pen was found to be expired.

Heather rode with Kari-Lyn to the hospital.  She texted that they were fine.  Go on with the meeting.

It wasn’t true.  Kari-Lyn’s alive, but she’ll spend her career in supported living, re-mastering toileting and her gross motor skills.  I visited her, once or twice.  They said she was happy, but if that was true, then happiness is asymptomatic.  It might be.

I go running on my own, after work, skipping the gym to shower at the YWCA.  They sell Nanaimo squares at the snack bar.

If I abstain, go home, I pick up store-brand pastry on the way home.  Just me.  I eat them in front of the computer, watching videos about historical cases of poisoning.

It’s very domestic.  They were all murdered by their housekeepers.  Their wives.

The sugar makes it safer.  You can eat the fried dough for hours and never feel a thing.  I can swallow, and swallow, and my body never rejects it.

 

Annette Lapointe is the author of three books: Stolen (2006), Whitetail Shooting Gallery (2012), and You Are Not Needed Now: Stories (2017).  She edits The Waggle and occasionally throws her own work into the mix to see what will happen.

 

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