by Stephen V. Ramey
“Idiot,” she mutters under her breath. I pretend not to hear.
“Butter?” I pass the rectangular ceramic tray bearing that golden log. It’s actually an I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter stick, but we like to pretend.
“Do I look like I want butter?” she says. Her eyebrows arch like millipedes recoiling. I set the not-butter down.
“Apologies, Dear.” A platter of pancakes graces the center of our breakfast table. Blueberry, I believe. Or chocolate chip. The lighting is not so good in the morning. We should have placed the windows on the southern wall, or the east. Live and learn.
She holds the newspaper between us. A headline screams of destruction, Fifty Dead in Typhoon. A grainy photograph of a woman bent over a child, hair whipped over her shoulder. The child’s eyes are wide.
“Tragic,” I say. Did the person who took the picture help them afterward? Did he or she walk away in search of better shots? “Do you think the typhoon will hit us next?”
“Idiot,” my wife mutters under her breath.
“Butter?” I say, grasping the ceramic tray. The I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is beginning to soften. Soon, it will be easy to believe it is butter.
The paper rattles. An inside page turns.
“Those pancakes look delicious,” I say.
“I wish you would stop calling me that. I may not be the smartest man you’ve married, but I have my pride.”
She lowers the paper. “Do you? Do you really?”
“Of course.” I pick up the ceramic tray. “Butter?”
She blows out a breath. “If it will shut you up.”
I extend the tray, head bowed as if presenting a sword to my queen. She pinches the stick between thumb and forefinger. It clings to the ceramic for a moment before releasing.
She inserts the end between her lips and bites. Her face scrunches up as she chews. Her eyes water. She swallows and replaces the remainder on its tray.
“Isn’t that better?” I say.
She returns to reading her paper. I set the tray down, grab the topmost pancake, and flop it onto my plate. I take another from the stack’s middle, one that would not have been visited by flies, and place it on hers.
“It does taste like butter,” she says. Her eye peers around the paper.
“Remarkable, isn’t it?”
She folds the newspaper and sets it down, picks up her fork and knife. “No.”
“No, I don’t think it will hit us next.” A flash of smile. “They’re called hurricanes here.”
“Oh,” I say. “I didn’t know.” I slide Aunt Jemima to the table’s center. “Syrup?”
She lifts the bottle. I watch it tilt from her hand, the hand that bears my ring, and I smile. Sometimes it’s the little things.