Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Ellen is a writer and library assistant based in Wellington since 2016. Her work is interested in the silences, ironies, and physicality of everyday life. You can find more of her short fiction and poetry in Salty, and the US-based journal The City Quill.
The kitchen was filling up with steam and the cayenne was clinging to their throats and getting into their ears. It was late. The crickets were chirping wildly outside, and the screen door was no match for the near-deafening sound.
The woman was sitting at the table, her face lit with blue light from her laptop. The man was chopping onions.
The woman looked up from her screen, screwing up her face. “Jesus. Could you just turn the fan on?”
The man set the knife down and reached across the stovetop to turn on the switch. She turned back to the screen.
He picked up the knife again and began slicing the onion into thin wet tendrils. His hand moved carefully across the board. It was his favorite part about making his famous grilled cheese and onions. Breaking down the white globe into its component shells. It reminded him of those quaint but poetic ideas about the universe as a harmony of spheres. A tight, tenuous enclosure that you could cup in your hands like a big vidalia.
He peeled a residual shred of skin off the last slice. His hands were sticky with the stuff.
“Seriously Matthew, it doesn’t take that long to chop a fucking onion.”
He looked up. His eyes were stinging. It was difficult to hear with the stinging. The steam and the heat. The deafening sound. His head seemed to ring. It occurred to him that he had to pee. He slid the onions into the oil and left the room. He walked toward the bathroom door and paused. His eyes still stung but the air in the hall was cool. He blinked an onion tear down his cheek and kept walking down the hall, out the front door.