At Night, Cooking By The Garage

Melody L. Heide

It is Saturday evening and outside he grills pork chops. I sit inside the garage at the Coleman picnic table (heavy, small, square. The chair is not a chair -- just a piece of red fabric strung between two pieces of metal). I am reading poetry. The little black dog chews his bone, the same bone he growled at me over last night when I tried to take it from him, which led me to shout NO! BAD DOG! and him, him, to drop the bone, crawl along the floor, ears back and eyes meeting mine, large and pleading. We’ve all got to have our vices, our territories, the things we hold so dearly onto. Me, it’s cooking in the kitchen, and when the husband asks for advice I tell him the grill is his domain and he grins and says, My woman with such tenderness in his voice, it makes me want to stop reading poetry, start writing it. A couple of weeks ago we had a fight because he hadn’t cooked raw chicken within two days of purchasing. He said, Well, it’s not like I’m some guy who buys chicken and keeps it in the cupboard. And it was so funny, imagining raw chicken stuffed between the sheets and the towels, that we both started laughing.

He cuts up some apples, arranges them carefully on the meat and the sweet scent mingles with dirt and oil. The food sizzles. He asks me to read a poem out loud:

Arriving here

is a surprise, like getting what you’ve always wanted

but never thought you’d have-the last piece

of peach pie, all the first editions of your favorite writer-

not to sell, just to keep-that longed for kiss, someone

knowing, really knowing, just how you feel.1

It was like this in the early days, this reading poetry out loud to one another, of slow evenings and curious meals. It’s like this now too, but only when we make time for it. He returns to his grill and I return to my book. Sort of. Not really. Instead, I take a closer look around to what he’s done with the place. Back in July, when we were still settling into our new apartment, he took three days and organized the garage. Our bikes hang by hooks on the back wall. The green canoe, the same one that was our home for a month, is above my head, held up by a system of ropes and pulleys. And on the wall, a poster of The Dukes of Hazzard, General Lee airborne.

A family arrives from somewhere, parking in the spot across from our garage. A dad, little boy and little girl. Suitcases and pillows and sucking thumbs and tired eyes. They’ve traveled far -- from home, or towards home? The dad takes the little boy’s hand, whispers something and they all laugh and I know here is some semblance of home. My own husband bends over the grill, scoops the apples onto a plate, flips the chops. “I think they’re done, babe, why don’t you come take a look.” I place my hand on his back, look closely, say, “That’s alright, if you think so.”

We pack up, close the garage door, the leash in my hand. We’ve made up since last night, the little black dog and I, and in the morning I will cook the eggs, the oatmeal. My husband will turn on the radio, play some music with a rock and roll beat, and I will take a moment to dance around the kitchen with the little black dog in my arms.

1“Gratification” by Susan Wood