A hammer strikes against the shaven brown shell. Hard. Once again, precisely at the center. The thud, strong as the hammer itself, shakes her resolve. Not today, not now, maybe later. One fiery look from her husband, his clenched teeth tightening the sides of his face with faint blue veins floating under his skin, and the crack in her heart widens just a little more. A hairline sliver of fleshy tenderness appears when the third bang rams the split running through the shell’s skin.
With friction diminishing between the crust and the tool, her heart throbs like a bellow forging fires at a blacksmith’s.
Her spine tingles as his hot breath and burning scowl boil the air inside the kitchen. Like the sunbaked gas ballooning outside.
She feels for the pen in her pants’ back pocket, pulls it in her fingers. He will or won’t? Whether he will or won’t, it’s not the time to think. Or to think about this anymore. She picks a sheaf of paper tucked inside an envelope for days from behind the canister of toor daal and slides it over the kitchen counter. The pen rests over it.
With the final stroke of the rusted metal, a reeking, gooey liquid spreads around. Her heart bleeds, too, thinking of life after, as hollow as any dried coconut kernel. The shell breaks apart into two rancid parts with rugged hurtful edges. A reflection of their marriage. He calls her, dropping his mallet on mosaic tiles, done with a petty job. Jobs he’s often urged for because her right arm is weak. Her humerus bone bent and broke long ago, a result of an unannounced rage burst, leaving it vulnerable to any force, any blow—of hammers, hands, soles.
The tool crashes on the dull brown pattern, making a resounding ring, then lulling itself, placing her at the edge of an abyss of remorseful dilemma. Her days will be peaceful, she assures herself, same as her kitchen with a new stillness, but only after a ringing jolt.
Her eyes point him to the envelope. She waits for him to whack the iron of his knuckles at her waning blush. She waits for him to pick the envelope and react—yell, hit, leave. She waits for a permanent solace to crawl in finally, seventeen summers later. She waits for the hardest blow.
Just this once.
Rashmi Agrawal lives in India and writes by a big window, enjoying the diverse seasons. She has won the Strands Publisher Flash Fiction contest and has been shortlisted in the international Harambee Prize recently. Her words are available or forthcoming in Full House Literary, Door is a Jar, Alien Buddha, Inked in Gray, Dollar Store Magazine, and others. Her short stories have found space in various anthologies. Nudge her @thrivingwordss.