My husband didn’t make it on Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire
My husband didn’t make it on Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire—he didn’t even come close.
My idea of happiness?
I nodded and played back memories of chocolate hands like bat’s wings, white, dusty aprons, spatulas stroking thick layers of glaze across the ceilings and walls of cake.
Chocolate mud cake.
I met chocolate mud cake thirty years ago in a sunlit kitchen. Is this what they meant by having butterflies fluttering in my belly? My mother slid the dessert plate across the vinyl tablecloth, but it stopped at a bump. I lifted the plate and flattened the wipeable cherry print. The side of my fork carved the moist brown sweetness. I abandoned the fork. My eyelashes brushed against the cake’s dark walls, and crumbs freckled my face. Best till last. My two front teeth dug into the crunchy icing. My pointy finger pressed down on each smidgen of brown, leaving a spotless plate.
After my husband left post-it notes full of domestic instructions, I baked cake.
After my husband left sales receipts next to birthday gifts, I baked cake with buttercream frosting.
After my best friend Becky stopped asking for seconds of my signature dessert, I decreased the bitterness by coating tins with milk chocolate.
After my husband screeched Becky in an impressive bedtime crescendo—my name is Catherine—I played dead in bed.
When his pot belly slapped against my corpse, I averted my eyes to a crack in the ceiling. My soul wafted through the narrow gateway, lured by beckoning aromas. Cinnamon, vanilla, freshly roasted coffee beans, and a hint of grainy whiskey furnished the space. I turned and peeked through the fissure. He was still pumping as if only his penis was trying to resuscitate me. Mud cake regulars sat next to a new ingredient. What would it be today?
I unscrewed the bottle, fruity, rum? Rum. The upstairs kitchen was timeless, but below the clock tick-tocked. Within minutes, he would belch a bellow. I squeezed the transparent liquid from a pipette into the muddy paste. Curious, I compressed the tube, letting two drops fall upon my tongue.
I added extra salt to the thick gooey concoction. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” Pity, the walls of the upstairs kitchen weren’t soundproof, but upstairs, I could bake cake and eat it too. I licked my fingers and tongue-scooped dangling chunks from the ends of birthday candles. I returned to bed just in time for his gurgling climax and side roll. Tension in my neck and shoulders eased. I moved my legs, bent my knees, phew, I can feel them again. I kept my gaze on the crack.
Caterwauling merged with garlic breath suspended my dream. I scrambled out of the reeking room, opened the pantry, and baked cake, opting for the hand whisk.
The sun rose over the mountains. Rosellas perched in our eucalyptus, and tulips unfurled, elongating their tall stems. The impressionist landscape turned into a Caravaggio when my husband appeared in the doorway in a t-shirt and shorts, searching for his morning caffeine fix.
The frying pan hung from its hook, the eggs sat uncracked in their basket, corn flakes in their airtight container, milk in the fridge, plates stacked, and spoons, knives, and forks slept in. I had just finished removing the calcium deposits from the sink.
When he spotted the cake, his face turned the hue of the cherries I was about to add. He seized my lover like a claw truck, then shot-put my one and only love across the kitchen.
“Can’t you bake something else? I’m sick of your brown lump of shit.” The screen door detached from its hinges, and he hit the accelerator of our Ford, leaving clouds of smoke in the driveway.
While I scrubbed, swept, and squeegeed the kitchen, I decided to radically change the recipe.
Clues appeared between three and thirty.
Don’t fall in love, fall into chocolate.
Science extolls the psychological benefits of chocolate,
but I married him anyway.
My mother said: “You know what men are like? I’ve got a recipe for a lemon cake that’s absolutely divine. He’ll love it.” I slammed the receiver. I left my mother off the questionnaire too.
Jasmine tea leaves fell upon cake pieces in the kitchen sink. I removed the metal sieve, turned on the faucet, and helped the water carry the solid waste into the drain. My fingers poked the concoction of tea leaves and crummy cake into the holes. The stench of has been reached my nostrils. I squeezed the bottle of lavender-scented dishwashing liquid into the sink creating lilac swirls to stop myself from vomiting.
Just before I left, I stuck my first and last post-it note to my husband on the fridge. A bulleted how-to list on how to unclog a sink featuring bicarbonate of soda, a plunger, and a straightened coat hanger. For a full stop, I drew a three-tiered chocolate mud cake.
Isabelle B.L is a teacher based in France. Her work can be found in the Best Microfiction 2022 anthology, Birth Lifespan Vol. 1 and Growing Up Lifespan Vol. 2 anthologies for Pure Slush Books, Flash Fiction Magazine, Visual Verse, and elsewhere.