The Kansas Bread

The wind was picking up and you could hear the heavy slop and flop as she tossed the whites one by one across the clothesline. Dusty sprites danced behind her, crossing the bit of Kansas dirt she called home.

That old screen door was beginning to smack and creak in its frame as the wet sheets caught the stiff gusts and stretched back and fro, flag-like,waving sodden surrender. The sky was still bright blue, and she made the mental calculus that it was just a blow- the desperately needed rain wasn’t in the cards for today.

She retrieved the baskets and headed towards the screen door. As she got to the stoop she could smell the bread baking in that smoky oak-fueled stove. Dry hands reached for the door-handle as she dragged the nested baskets behind her and parked them beside the pine-topped table her father had built for her Mama as a wedding gift. Leaning down, weathered hands pulled the hot bread from the oven and placed it on the windowsill to cool.

It was the same sour dough recipe she learned from her Mama all those years before. All those years, all those evenings she and her Daddy would sit on the stoop, sharing her childhood dreams, and a big hunk of Mama’s sour dough with dollops of honey and wet churn butter. He’d say the same thing every time- “It’s like angels from heaven was a’workin’ yo mama’s hands direct when she’s a’makin dat sour dough, Dorsey- angels from heaven”.

The pump handle creaked as she pumped some water into the big bowl in the sink. She whistled for the old red dog as she placed it on the floor. Same old red dog she’d argued with Daddy about that hot and terrible summer almost 20 years ago.

“Dammit and all the saints Dorsey, yo mama won’t tolerate no stinky ole mutt in her clean house, she ain’t having it!”

“I know Daddy, but he’s all house broke’d, and she ain’t here no-ways.”

Daddy found Mama gone on his birthday. Laying under the clothesline in the yard, fresh whites folded in the basket, Mama’s last breath gone with the last of her chores. Thirty-five years together, and for months he’d refuse to accept that Mama was gone, all through that dry achingly hot July and August.

Late that August there was a patch of cool welcome nights. They were on the stoop, enjoying the evening, and some fresh sour-dough she’d made from Mama’s recipe, with the fresh butter and honey. Daddy finished his bread and leaned back against the step.

“Dorsey girl, It’s like Mama’s reachin’ from heaven and a’workin’ yo hands direct when you makin dat sour dough- angels from heaven”.

It was just that for the next 19 summers, doing the laundry, making bread and sweet tea, gathering eggs, while Daddy worked his crops and stock. They’d sit quiet on still Kansas evenings sharing a bit of that Kansas bread- Mama’s recipe and Daddy’s wheat.

Dorsey opened her eyes and stepped up from the table. She shuffled to the window by the ancient sink and retrieved the loaf from the sill, tilting it onto the towel on the sideboard. She took Mama’s big old bread-knife and sliced 2 thick, still warm slices, slathered them in soft sweet butter.

Out on the porch her tired eyes looked out at the clear sunset sky. The last of Daddy’s wheat and Mama’s recipe in her hand, Dorsey took a bite and smiled as she chewed.

“Angels in heaven, Dorsey girl, angels in heaven”.

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