The Memory of a Salt Shaker

A Brief Biography of Bernard M. Cox for Those Who Are Concerned


To Robyn

I promise not to make you read sad stories in the morning.

The strange stillness of the house continues to wake Bert even twenty-one days later. Sleep is fitful, but reassuring. Fighting the weight of the covers is difficult. The couch is starting to smell acrid from his night sweat.

He can still function. He cooks. A small pleasure to him, the food adds scents and heat to the house, adds presence. He stirs his oats, picks up the salt shaker and shakes salt onto the porridge, then a little cayenne and fresh ground pepper, stirs again. He butters his toast and spreads some orange marmalade across the surface, pours Earl Grey from the tea pot into his mug and sits at the table and stares out the window.

The soft glow of the morning light illuminates the tops of the houses and trees. Traffic on the road is already backing up. The city is moving. The harshness of daylight is a moment away, no time to notice birds alight on power lines soaking up the first rays of sun. He starts eating the toast, lets the sweetness roll around his tongue and takes a sip of the tea. Light starts to fill the kitchen. Daylight begins the ending of morning.

He takes a spoonful of the oats into his mouth. Strange flavors and textures fill his senses. Earth, smooth, salt, heat, pain, and the slight sensation of flesh under his lips—soft, warm, familiar. The street scene fades and she sees him.

He is walking toward her. His jacket is fixed wide open, the tie sticking up over his shoulder. She takes a drag off her cigarette and turns her back. The lower Manhattan skyline shines on. He walks past her and sits down on the roof deck. She watches him as he looks out over the city.

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