• Lammergeier Staff

Bread Still Raw | Jamie Good


Summer comes, and I think I will never feel sad again.


*


Sometimes I think about what I would say in an irreversible argument with each of the people that I love. I keep a list, glued over some of the pages in a nineteenth-century poetry book about war. I take satisfaction in ruining the book. I don’t want to read about war.


*


I’ve been struggling lately with who I am and what I want. It seems as though I only want things until I have them. As soon as I have them, I wish they were anything else.


*


Everything is the same as it was yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, but all of a sudden it feels bad. It feels like pulling warm bread out of the oven, but cutting through the alluring, crunchy crust and finding the insides underdone and doughy. It sticks in my mouth like glue and I don’t want it but it was made for me to eat. I can’t get it out of my teeth. It coats my tongue and every word that comes out of my mouth is heavy and unrisen.


*


Yesterday, my mother saw a doctor for the first time in over a decade. I’ve been nagging her to go for years. I’ve been telling her that fifty-one is still young, that she is not old but anemic. She tells me she crunches ice because she likes the texture. I tell her that’s bullshit. My father tells her there’s no reason for someone outside all day to look so pale. I send her an article about anemia. She doesn’t speak to us for the rest of the afternoon.


*


In this list, I write down everyone’s name, and a secret I could never tell them. I give this a lot of thought. My mother used to make sourdough bread nearly every day, and she would always cut into it before it was done, so I could try some. She would watch me with her excited, expectant face and I would chew and chew and chew and chew and try not to think about raw dough collecting in the bottom of my stomach like wet sand dripping through an hour-glass timer.


*


The doctor called my mother last night, telling her to go immediately to the Emergency Room for a blood transfusion. She was there all night. They said they had never seen anemia so serious, that she’s lucky she has “made it” this far. One of her heart valves was damaged.


*


I had a dream last night that I ran away to the Bahamas with a man I was having an affair with. I left my girlfriend back in Washington. I only remember the dreams I have where I do something wrong, where I wake up feeling guilty and ashamed. I have a girlfriend and I can’t stop thinking about men. Men make me uneasy. Homosexuality makes me uneasy. Men make me feel like eyes live underneath my skin.


*


I don’t tell my girlfriend any of this.


*


I’m never going to tell my mother her bread is always raw, that she cuts into it before it’s done. But I could. If we were ever in an argument that I never wanted to end, if I was sure this was it, I could say, “Mum, your sourdough bread is undercooked every single time” and that would be the end of everything.


*


My father comes home from the hospital, walks into my room, sits on my bed, and looks at me. I put my book down. “Your mother has tried to kill herself.” After a moment, he breaks into a grin, slightly sheepish. “I’m kidding,” he says, and I can’t draw my knees close enough into my chest. “She’s fine. But she could have died. She could have fainted and hit her head on something, or she could have fainted while driving and crashed the car. She’s so stubborn she’s nearly killed herself.” I say nothing. I am waiting for the part where he says she is going to be okay.


*


After running a certain amount of miles, I’ve sweat so much that my eyes sting. My shirt is soaked in sweat, my arms are soaked in sweat, my face is soaked in sweat. There’s no escaping it. I try to wipe sweat from my eyes but my fingers and hands are sweaty too, and the absence of sweat quickly fills again. I’m just creating room for more sweat. My eyes burn. I run the last few miles with my eyes shut, trusting my feet to feel along the invisible border between grass and unpaved roads, to run along the shoulder.


*


The bread is only undercooked because my mother is so excited to share it with me.


*


I think my father’s jokes are always in poor taste. I think everyone’s jokes are always in poor taste. I think I am the only funny person alive.


*


My fiancée killed herself three-hundred-and-sixty-two days ago, in a one-person car crash. The first responders initially reported the accident as two people, as in, there was another person in the car with her. They didn’t clear up the mistake for hours. I think about that a lot. For those first few hours, I thought surely I must have been the person in the car with her, but I am here.


*


Winter comes and I think I will never feel okay again.


*


My mother can’t lift anything or otherwise exert herself for the next month. All of her farm chores become mine. I carry oats and seeds and grains out to the chickens and pigs and I water the gardens and I scrub the kitchen and sweep the floors and feed the cats and dogs.


*


I tear out the lists glued in the book of poems because I feel ashamed.


*


I tell my mother to be grateful that her anemia cravings were limited to ice. Other people crave dirt and cardboard and paper. My parents belong to the generation that believes that you are not allowed to be sad because someone else always has it worse, so it brings her comfort to hear me say this. She nods, laughs, tells me she is grateful, she is always grateful.


*


My father told me two months after my fiancée died that I need to move past it, that I need to continue on as many others in my situation have to do. Many widows are often worse off than me, he tells me. I know, I tell him. I ask him what he would do if my mother died tomorrow, if he would take his own advice.


He thinks about this for a long time.


“No. I think I’d take off. I’d go on a trip. I’d go somewhere and never come back. I’d keep travelling forever.”


“What about me?” I ask.


“What about you?” He says.


I look at him.


*


I moved back in with my parents three-hundred-and-fifty-four days ago, though I didn’t realize it at the time.


*


I think about men and I want to cry.


*


My birthday was forty-seven days ago. I turned twenty-one.


*


Her birthday was seventeen days ago. She would have turned twenty-two.


*


I have been dating my girlfriend for eighty-seven days. That is almost three months.


*


Everything seems like it is too long and not enough.


*


The morning after my mother’s Emergency Room visit, I found her leaning against a fence post out in the pig pen, wearing her apron, coat, and gum-boots. She’s misplaced her glasses. She always misplaces her glasses. I run out to her, glasses in hand.


“Oh!” she says, surprised. She takes the glasses from me almost absentmindedly.


I tell my mother that she can’t die, I don’t want to do all of her farm chores.


She’s insulted that I think she will die, and not because of her health. My mother is one of the people who never grew out of the childhood notion that she will live forever.


“Even if I do die,” she says, pauses. “Eventually. Maybe in a hundred years. Or a thousand,” she adds, thinking. “Dad will help you.”


I repeat back to her what my father said to me nearly ten months ago about taking off on a trip.

“For fuck’s sake,” She sighs. “Your father’s an idiot.” She leans over to pick up a sack of oats.


I push past her.


“I’ve got it,” I say. “Let me get it.”


*


Three-hundred-and-sixty-three days ago, my late-fiancée was eleven months older than me, and still smaller than me. She’s always been smaller than me, even when we were kids and still growing. The sack of oats feels nice against my body. It feels like three-hundred-and-sixty-three days ago, coming into the living room of our shared apartment after work, picking her up, and spinning her around. I hug the oats tighter, determined not to let them out of my sight.


Today, I’m older than her. From now on, I will always be older than her. I tell myself I am just like Lewis and Clark, exploring new, uncharted territory, but this doesn’t make me feel better.


*


Lewis and Clark were assholes, anyway.


*


It’s colder this time of year. How long we are willing to spend outdoors grows less and less. My mother thinks it’s a good time to start making bread again, to make the inevitable seasonal house-arrest comforting. She walks into the pantry to lift the Kitchen-aid mixer off of a floor-level shelf.


“Jesus Christ!” I yell. “Let me get it, will you?”


She says nothing, stepping soundlessly out of the way. My chair scrapes against the wood floor.


“I’ll get it,” I repeat again, louder than I need to, just to fill the room with something other than silence.


*


My brain thinks only in permanence.


*


I don’t think bread has ever taken so long to bake in the history of bread-making. It can’t come out of the oven fast enough.


*


If I ever become wealthy, I will move somewhere where the sun does not hide for nine months out of the year.


I will take my girlfriend.


I will hire a doctor more stubborn than my mother to follow her around, to make sure she never dies.


I will never drive my car anywhere. I’ll take iron tablets and antidepressants every day. I’ll sit outside in the UV Rays until I am too full of Vitamin-D to feel sad anymore. I’ll take cat naps so I am never asleep long enough to slip into a dream. I’ll build a little robot to pick up sacks of oats and kitchen-aid mixers off of the floor for my mother. I will take care so that nothing ever, ever changes.


I will forget how to count.


*


My mother pulls the loaf of bread out of the oven, heavier than she thought. She lies down before she can cut into it, and for once, the bread finishes cooking.





Jamie Good is a queer writer and undergraduate student at Western Washington University. She has both fiction and creative nonfiction published in literary journals including Sincerely Magazine and The Writing Disorder. When she is not in class or hunched over a computer, you can find her in the woods, running, swimming, or looking for mushrooms. She is almost always listening to an audiobook and complaining about her excessively orange cat, Peanut.


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/136508122-jamie-good

TikTok: @jamiempgood

Instagram: @jamiempgood


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