Occasionally, a tiny fragment from one of the darker corners of my mind somehow finds its way into my mind’s writing corner. The picture prompt for last week’s Angry Hourglass flash fiction contest (won this week by Josh Bertetta) was pie themed, chosen in honour of Pi Day. And when sitting and thinking of pies and plots, the question I just couldn’t get out of my head was: what is really in that pie??
“Ma? What…what are you putting in that pie, Ma?” he’ll say, suspiciously. Cautiously.
He’ll edge across the kitchen, eyes darting as if he can see the dark smell that’s snaking round the room.
“Meat,” I will say. I’ll let the word land with a dull thack; a heavy slab on a heavy slab. “I have put meat into this pie, Tom.”
Tom’s wide eyes will slowly digest the large bleeding cuts on my oak chopping board; the sliced chunks dropping from my blade to my pan. “M-meat, Ma?” he will say. And he will do what he always did, even when he was a child: he will grab the situation and try and make it stand up straight. “But you are vegetarian, Ma…”
He’ll become mesmerized, then, by the hissing and popping of fat in my pan, as the red flesh shrinks to brown in the heat. Bright to dull. Blood to mud.
And then he’ll lift his eyes to meet mine, searching desperately for the mother he thinks he knows. For sunshine yellow sweetcorn; for tender green florets. And he’ll silently beg for fluffy pumpkin fillings and feather-light toppings; for cinnamon dustings and warm toffee endings.
“Where’s Dad, Ma?” he will suddenly demand, as he snaps from his pie-high dreams.
I will move the meat around with my spoon. I won’t resent Tom’s concern for his father, because pastry can cover a multitude of sins. (When Tom was a child I covered the truth portrayed in bowls of bleeding blue fruit, with toasted mallow towers, and sugar-spun clouds. I let him live in a world where black coffee and his father’s mumbled apologies could wash down the past; time after time, slice by slice.)
“Dad? Dad!” Tom will call, as he searches the house; as I fill my pie dish with sizzling flesh.
Upstairs, he’ll find a duvet, dolloped like a huge dirty meringue on the bed. Lumpy. Raspberry flecked.
And as his trembling fingers peel back the duvet, I’ll be laying a pale, waxy blanket over my pie.
I’ll ignore any lumps. I’ll just crimp the edges.
Because pastry can cover a multitude of sins.