“Fork Play”

There is a fork here. I consider lifting it and placing it against my husband’s right temple then applying pressure. Gentle at first then with extreme force. I don’t imagine the blood that would flow because I do not like blood. Instead I imagine the fork attached to his head like a handle.

This morning my five year-old made breakfast. She proudly toasted her waffles and stood on the stool at the counter cutting them with fork and knife. I entered the kitchen just as my husband told her she must use a different fork. The one she chose, he said, was too big for her, and instead she must use the tiny forks he bought at a garage sale two years ago and that even the three year-old finds degrading. Those are baby forks, my daughter howled. Use them, he said, his voice quiet and perfectly mean, and if I see you use any fork other than these, I will spank you. I intervened and my husband yelled that I intervened.

Finally he left for work and I gave my daughter the fork she wanted, a small salad fork that she’s used everyday for the past year without incident or her father’s notice. Still, she was afraid to use the chosen fork in case her father was not really gone but only hiding somewhere close so as to suddenly reappear and catch her act of defiance. But soon enough she used the fork and became happy. It was a dangerous happy. It made my daughter’s eyes grow dark when she smiled a different smile, one that held a secret, a deception that her mother easily taught her.

When I returned from taking the girls to school, I took the small forks and crushed them beneath my boot against the pavement outside. I planned to say they became mangled in the dishwasher. My husband would not believe me. Just as he did not believe the hole in his favorite shirt grew from the size of a pinprick to the size of a grapefruit on its own. It had my help.

After school, the girls and I made the forks into a mobile that we hung in the playroom though really I wanted to hang it over my husband’s desk, so that every time he switched on the heat then sat at his computer to read images of others’ hearts, the air from the vents would gently push the forks together, making a song that was only his. But that would be going too far. At times I go too far, and then my husband retaliates in ways I should have foreseen but never do. Once he stole my laptop, knowing I never bother to back up. The hurt of it made me blind for days. Stories, poems, words—gone. Now I have hard drives hidden throughout the house. Would he ever hurt the children, I wonder. Not the hurt of yelling and spanking but real hurt that touches places unseen. I try to imagine it and cannot.

The forks are lovely in their spin beside the window. Five of them, warped and beautiful and dangling by their necks. I watch and realize that there are questions to which I want to know the answers. If our car went off a bridge into the lake, would it fill with water right away? Would we have a moment to unbuckle and discuss our plan? Would it be possible to roll down a window, open a door? Would I have to break the window? Would water rush in? Would we be able to push against it, to get out, to swim up, all of us kicking and holding each other’s hands?

The forks clang together and make their music and my girls begin to dance. We are together in this room, in this house, and for now we are safe. And when that changes, I will clutch the fork, place it against my husband’s head and apply the necessary pressure.

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Candace Chambliss

About Candace Chambliss

Originally from Chicago, Candace Chambliss presently lives in Dallas, TX with her family. Prior to settling in Texas, she lived in New Orleans, where she was a criminal defense attorney on behalf of juveniles.