"The more I think about it, the more I don't see how we'll win with straight-ahead blueberry." Eli opened some cabinets. "Blueberries are in season. Everybody is going to show up with the same pie."
"We don't have to win. We just want to make a yummy pie, that's all. Not some avant-garde bacon and peach monstrosity. I want ours to be liked."
"Liked? No, baby. It's easy to make a likable pie. I want to see people fucking love whatever we make. I want to see forks go in mouths and swoons happen. I want to see finger licking, not liking." Eli wouldn't stop moving around the kitchen. He frowned. "I want to help you cook this thing, but what's always weird about Saturday afternoons is that I need a nap."
"I won't sleep, but I'll go in there with you."
They held hands and walked into their bedroom. They rented the parlor floor of an oversize limestone town house on Clinton Street in Carroll Gardens, in Brooklyn. The tall front windows were near exactly like the ones Emily had dreamed of when she first came to New York a decade earlier. Emily had repainted and washed those windows when they moved in. The rest of the place was good, though unloved around its edges, with a noisy refrigerator and a parquet floor that would be amazing if their landlord would just sand and polish and care for it. They did their best to keep everything clean and bright, except for the bedroom, which had chocolate-brown carpet and blackout shades. Eli had painted the room a deep red when they moved in two years earlier, just a few months after they were married. It was a much sexier color than Emily would have ever thought she would like in a bedroom. When her mother had come down for a conference and stayed on their couch, Emily had kept the door to their bedroom shut.
They lay down on the bed, over the sheets.
"Did you get enough done today?" Emily asked.
"Nope. The boys in Japan want eighteen more bikes. And I'm falling behind schedule. I don't love the stress."
"Send them a pie." She laughed and her eyes crinkled. She knew he liked seeing her laugh. He brushed back her bangs and kissed her.
"Maybe I will if we can make one worthy of their undying love "
Eli kept talking about work. His six-year-old company, Roman Street Bicycles, made single-speed bike frames that were in demand all over the world. Eli was having trouble managing growth. He was determined to touch each frame and get involved with every build, and if he kept meeting demand, soon that wouldn't be possible. Emily was thinking about work, too, about a proposal she was doing for a company that wanted to re-brand a line of cotton blankets.
"What's a good name for a blanket?" she wondered aloud.
"I knew you weren't listening." Eli buried his face in her neck. Warm blanket, she thought. Soft blanket. There are so many things, Emily thought, that gain nothing from being reconsidered. Her group had been paid well a few times for suggesting that a company not change a thing. But a good brand consultant couldn't do that every time. Eli threw an arm over her. His hand slipped behind her back. It amazed her that after four years together, they could fall asleep intertwined. She thought she would need an abstract word in front of blanket, Moomja or something. Eli. The Eli blanket
"Kiss me," she said. "Kiss me for one minute before you fall asleep." He did and she was happy that she knew what to ask for from Eli. She would make that trade and stay too prim with everyone else but never with him. To be too ensconced in your marriage? Why was that bad? Emily did not consider herself a dreamy person. She believed life was made up of trade-offs and this was surely a fair one.
She woke up an hour later with her brow sweaty. She wiped her forehead and blew out air a few times, opened her eyes wide to see in that dark room. She smelled onions frying. She pulled her hair back and went into the kitchen. Eli was mixing something in a little bowl. He was in a pair of khaki shorts and nothing else. The Roman Street Bicycles logo, made up of the letters RSB wound through the spokes of a bicycle wheel, was tattooed on his left shoulder blade. Sometimes she scratched at it, as if she could take it off with her nails. Eli didn't like it when she did that. Now she touched his back without scratching him and looked around the messy kitchen.
Copyright © 2013 by Ben Schrank
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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