Mathematical Superstition
Gail Louise Siegel

There are two drawers of knives, forks, spoons. She uses the thin, bent utensils, giving her children the better set, as if they will savor its smoothness and heft against their lips. As if they'll be grateful.

She's listening to the radio, making pancakes, when the traffic report starts. A rollover on I-94 with four teenagers dead. She thinks of her daughter's friends in pine boxes, the crowded wakes, the animal wailing. She dreads it; she longs for it. As if another child's death will improve the odds, protect her own.

There's an unopened box of poker chips on her son's top shelf, a graduation gift. She doesn't unwrap it, or offer it in a rumpled paper sack when the monthly truck collects used clothes and board games. If she tosses the box, he will never return.

A van backs out of her neighbor's driveway hauling the wife's possessions: a spinet, bird cages, wardrobes. Three of ten, four of ten, now five of ten homes had looked happy, were not. She re-calculates her marriage's chances: better than even.

She's passed fifty, and against expectation, isn't dead yet. Others are gone: cancer, more cancer. She imagines trips: toes dipped in wild streams, landmarks seen through rectangular, tinted windows. Years left, less the chance of adventure. She works through the equation.

Gail Louise Siegel's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in lovely places like Brevity, Story Quarterly, 3:AM, Quick Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly and Post Road.

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Photo detail on main page courtesy of Ruthven 78.

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