Shopping for Dinner at the Equinox
 

Ten, with a belly the other kids haven’t started teasing him about yet, the boy has skipped school today, put on his favorite windbreaker with the fleece lining, and pushed his blond hair off his forehead. Perhaps, dear reader, if we follow him, we’ll discover his plan, learn his reasons for hiding behind a bush when the school bus turns the corner and then rushing to the city bus stop instead. See him there, waiting in front of Safeway for the Number 43 and the trip downtown where, I’m quite sure, he’ll head directly to Pike Place Market with its sellers of fish and squeaky cheese, tulips and daffodils, sausages, peapods and young garlic shoots, and its views of the ferries crossing the Sound on this glittering spring day. Green, he’s hidden behind the lighter green of lettuce leaves and the darker green of broccoli rabe, the green globes of artichokes and grapes transported from California. Ah, he’s buying food for his father’s birthday dinner, since his mother stormed out of the house two days ago, and the thought of Dad with no favorite food for his birthday has led the boy down here, to watch the men toss fish to each other and to decide between salmon and clams, John Dory and shrimp, the season’s first halibut and a nice mountain trout, for he’s a sweet boy, wouldn’t you agree?, and he wants this dinner to be perfect although he really has no idea how to cook it and wishes wishes wishes his mother were there to teach him instead of off somewhere—who knows where? not even us—after their fight. After buying his ingredients, he’ll ride the bus back home and have all day to wash, chop, braise, simmer, steam, grill, and hope the fish cooks through without burning, before setting the table and frosting the chocolate cake he’s baked from a mix, spreading the green butter cream and decorating it with spun sugar goals and plastic soccer players.

 

 

 

Paradigm Shift at Seattle Center
 

Tear it down and build condos—or no, build a park, a vast greensward—or an amphitheater or a museum or a radio station or covered parking—or no, keep it, keep it. The Fun Forest (with its ancient Windstorm roller coaster, its rickety merry-go-round, games of darts, indoor mini-golf course including a mini Space Needle, and its Ferris wheel that provides views of the real Space Needle just next door, and of all the rest of Seattle, from Queen Anne Hill, across Elliott Bay to Alki, down toward the docks, and even, when the clouds lift, over Puget Sound to the Olympics, already capped with snow) what, in the middle of the city, is it a forest of? Through the drizzle, watch little figures, families, parents and children in matching slickers, and follow one, then another, to read their thoughts. They climb into the Ferris wheel’s gondolas, ride on carousel horses, clamber into the spinning airplanes, slide down the splashing log ride, toss darts at the balloons, and shoot water into the toy clowns’ open mouths. This girl wants a hot dog for lunch and that boy bemoans the fact that his mother won’t give him another $5 to spend on skeeball, and that father there dreads his soggy bike ride to work on Monday, but when they get home they will all sit down together at the kitchen table and write letters pleading for the Fun Forest, licking the freshly sharpened tips of their pencils and writing, because the kids love the sound those balloons make when they pop and love the cheap stuffed animals and giant inflatable Tweety Birds they win and love the thrill of the rattling steel coaster, and because the parents remember that they had their first kiss—not with the person they’re currently married to—on that Ferris wheel; and down at City Hall the following week, the city council members will receive the letters, and even though they have a soft spot in their hearts for the Fun Forest, they know that it hasn’t paid its bills for years and that only 3 percent of visitors say they enjoy the place, and so after they reply to each of the letters with an autographed photo and the promise to consider its requests deeply, they burn the letters rather than filing them away. That night there are nine fires in nine office waste paper baskets, like the lights of nine campfires in the autumn woods, and the city council members dream red dreams—the red of a clown’s tongue, of a painted horse’s mane, of paper amusement park tickets, of maple leaves turned, and of fire, the sparkle of sparks which drift up toward the patternless blinking of red lights atop the Space Needle, the bloodshot eye of a single beneficent god—and they know that the decision they have made is a good one, that the parents will remember those kisses anyway and the children will skate on the new skating rink in their red winter coats happily, and some day the new skating rink will grow old and the new climbing sculpture will grow red with rust, and the trees of nostalgia will grow again.

 

 

Maya Sonenberg is the author of the story collections Cartographies (winner of the Drue Heinz Prize for Literature) and Voices from the Blue Hotel. More recent fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Fairy Tale Review, Web Conjunctions, DIAGRAM, New Ohio Review, The Literarian, and Hotel Amerika. She teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Washington-Seattle and has received grants from the Washington State Arts Commission and King County 4Culture.

Photo by Simmons B. Buntin.

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