January 19, 2009

Rachel in Her Cups
Michael Zerger

Rachel considered the last task before her. The washing of coffee cups looked almost daunting in scope and perhaps best left to the dishwasher. And yet, this was the end of it. This seemed the last opportunity to view things as a whole, as they were.

As the sink filled with water and lemon-scented soap created a froth of bubbles, Rachel began setting the cups into it. Perhaps unconsciously, she immersed them in life’s order.

Roland loved his coffee as he loved her. The first cup was a white ceramic with the badge of his unit. Fresh out of the Navy when they met, he looked sharp in his starched whites and just a little silly in his Dixie Cup hat, playful and a little unreliable. Like his whites stored in some distant closet, the cup was now somewhat stained and worse for wear. Into the water. swirl, wash, rinse, dry and into the box.

The water was a bit hot and Rachel took time to run some cool water into it. The next cup was a crudely made ceramic, her first pottery class project. She had given it to him while they were dating. Dunk, yes, that's better, the water was just right. Wash, rinse, dry and into the box. Next the bright red cup with the Kliban cat on it and a chip in the handle from when they had knocked it off the counter while making love in the living room. Then the various red and white cups with white and red hearts he had given her, each of them stuffed with chocolates or the little notepads she was so fond of. Swirl, dry, into the box. The cup with the school mascot, the school he had left her for, leaving her to understand in his absence how much she loved him. And the cup with the logo of the computer company that was his first real job. With some semblance of stability established, she had left her home to begin a new one with him. And to accumulate cups.

And so it went, swirl, wash, rinse, dry, and into the box. Cups for schools, cups for companies, the cup for the Irish Wolfhound Rescue Club. Four boxes of cups. By the time she finished, the water was getting cold, her hands were red and chapped, her eyes rheumy. She pulled the plug in the sink. Water, soap, and memories swirled down the drain. One by one, she carried the boxes outdoors to the tables in the yard and with a highlighter marked each box $.25 apiece.


Michael Zerger resumed writing prose poetry 10 years ago and has recently begun writing flash fiction. Some of his work can be found in Apotheosis and Bewildering Stories.

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