Chocolate Spiderweb

By on May 30, 2011 in Contest Winners

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Multicolored spiderweb with fractals

“Whoever invented almond bark is a genius.”  The microwave beeps and my sister grabs two oven mitts off the counter.  She stabs the door latch on the microwave, and the door springs open.  She reaches into the microwave and pulls out a glass measuring bowl full of melted brown chocolate.

“Seriously. Genius.”   

She carries the bowl across the kitchen to the far counter.  A sheet of wax paper has been laid out across the Formica.  She sets the bowl on the counter and opens the cupboard overhead.  It is full of sugar.  White sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar.  Other sweet things, too.  Chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, cherry chips, chocolate chunks, vanilla chips, a bag of M&Ms, assorted colors of sprinkles.

I walk to the refrigerator and open the door.  A half gallon of milk.  A package of juice boxes for my niece.  Ketchup, ranch dressing, Worcester sauce.  Diet soda.  Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Mountain Dew.  I push the cans to the side of the fridge, searching for something with real sugar, something that would come out of my sister’s cabinets.  I spy a dark can of something at the rear of the fridge and pull it past all the diets.  Coke Zero.  I crack the lid.  It will have to do.

I watch my sister dump a bag of Gummi Bears into the dark brown liquid. She stirs the concoction with a wooden spoon.  She is blinking more than usual, tensing the muscles around her eyes.  I think about warning her about crow’s feet, but save it for our mother.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

She looks up from her stirring.  “Do what?”

“Run marathons on sugar and diet soda.”  I make sure to follow my statement with a wide smile, keeping my lips closed and scrunching the corners of my eyes in an opposite way than what she is doing.

“I do not!”  She laughs, and I believe her.  It’s nice to hear her laugh so loud.  It is our way, to laugh loudly.  We are all a little deaf from listening to my mom laugh on the phone.

“You do. It’s not a criticism.”  I make this clear.  I am learning to listen to subtext and make my intentions clear.  “I’m impressed.  I can’t even run three miles, and I basically eat potatoes.”  I think about Christmas dinner tomorrow at Mom and Dad’s and the heaping portions of mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole.

Her laugh trails off to a sigh.  She is gone again, crinkling her eyes, grinding her teeth, pulling Gummi Bears out of the mixing bowl with a spoon, laying them out on the wax paper.  I dip my hand back into a bowl full of chocolaty pretzels.

“Wait!  Take a break from those pretzels and try this.”  She grabs a red Christmas tin, with a large evergreen on the front.  I think how strange it is that evergreens don’t lose their leaves.  I have lived in the North all my life.  Winter would be an awful black and white if evergreens lost their needles and couldn’t break up the horizon with their deep greens.

I open the tin and remove what looks like a ball of chocolate.  My sister waits, half of her bears still drowning in chocolate, watching me.  Her eyes are a little unnerving.  Her face is tense with excitement, but her eyes remain heavy and still.  I make a mental note to kill my brother-in-law. 

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Luke Hawley lives in St. Paul, Minnesotaa, with his wife, daughter, cat, and dog. He is a student in the MFA program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and this is his first publication.