Ma kneaded the dough firmly, stretching it, molding it, folding it, her hands flour white. I always watched her hands. She made her pie crust from scratch, and everyone knew there was something special about Ma’s pies. She’d serve them at funerals, mostly. You almost wanted someone to die, just to have an excuse to have some pie. Die and pie became congruent not only in rhyme.
I attended many funerals growing up. Every single one was for a stranger–until now.
“Don’t fret so much, baby,” my husband said. “It doesn’t have to be–”
“Yes it does,” I said, kneading, molding, folding the dough.
“Baby, your moms made amazing rhubarb pie. It had a mother’s love. But that taste is different for every mom. It’s special. When we have kids–”
“Don’t talk. Please. Just let me…”
He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me under the ear. “Hey,” he said. “Every pie tastes great to me.”
“I know. I’m sayin’, if you don’t think they’re good enough, that’s okay. I’ll eat ’em and love ’em till you get it right.”
I kissed him, and he went to bed. I put the pie in the oven and smoked four cigarettes while I waited for the pie to bake. I could barely wait for it to cool before I tasted it. Fuck. What was I doing wrong? The same recipe, the same hand movements…
Time was up. I brought my imperfect pies to Ma’s funeral.
“Who serves pie at a funeral?” a kid was saying.
“Kind of morbid,” another said. They were both enjoying a plate, their lips stained with rhubarb. They didn’t know funerals like I did. They didn’t grow up surrounded by crooning muzak and adult tears and black clothes and the smell of…
That was it. Embalming fluid. All those years as a mortician, running every facet of the funerary traditions, Ma smelled of the stuff. It seeped into her pores. She barely needed any extra after her death.
Those hands, kneading that dough. That hint. That smell, tied to memory. It was in the taste, too. She was embalming all of us, little by little. Because we were all one foot in the grave, no matter which way you sliced the pie.
Today’s three prompt categories were, “A mortician,” “Like Ma used to make,” and, “Kids these days.”
I’m not sure if I want some pie or to watch Six Feet Under. Could do both, I guess.