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The Last Straw

By Kat Stubing

Wife wakes up at 6:00 in the morning and takes a shower. She sprays the tiled walls with Lysol foam and wipes them down while the conditioner works its magic. She dries off, gets dressed, and turns on the lights on her way out, so Husband knows it’s time to wake.

Downstairs, the coffee is percolating. Wife snatches two sticky swirly straws from the island counter and places them into the sink next to an unsoaked pot and three crumby plates. She takes the bread, peanut butter and jelly out of the pantry, and sets them on the counter. She makes four sandwiches with peanut butter on each side so the jelly doesn’t make the bread soggy. She slices them diagonally. Each sandwich is wrapped in aluminum foil, then tucked into a plastic baggie with care.

Wife checks her smartwatch. Picture day. Time to rouse the Children. She pops open the dishwasher, ready to throw the knife and cutting board inside, but finds that it is full of clean dishes.

Wife goes upstairs and wakes the Children by opening the curtains and cooing about sunshine and a blessed new day. The Children wipe the Sleepies from their eyes.

“I want Daddy,” says Daughter.

Husband’s snooze alarm goes off with three knocks against the door as Wife heads back downstairs to unload yesterday’s dishes.

Son arrives at the island counter, where Wife has placed two bowls, two spoons, one cereal box, and a carafe of milk. “I don’t like this kind anymore,” he says. Wife removes a different cereal box from the pantry and places it in front of him, before continuing to load the silverware drawer. “Can you stop doing that so loudly?” he asks, covering his ears.

Daughter creeps down the stairs in a dinosaur onesie. “You can’t wear that to school,” says Wife. “Go put on the outfit I laid out for you.”

“I don’t like that one,” she says.

“Then go ask Daddy to help you pick out an outfit.”

Daughter goes back up the stairs, while Son rifles through kitchen cabinets.

“What do you need?” asks Wife, pivoting to loading the dishwasher with the plates left behind by late night snackers.

“There’s a food drive at school,” says Son, placing a can of beans in his backpack, “if our class donates the most, we’ll win a pizza party.”

“That’s for tonight’s dinner,” Wife wipes her hands on the sink towel and looks into the pantry. “Why don’t you take this instead?” she suggests, handing him a can of Spaghetti-Os.

“But these are Dad’s favorite,” he hands it back.

Daughter is back, still in the onesie, now with bangs she didn’t have five minutes ago. Wife sighs and checks her watch. 6:45.

“Husband,” she calls up the stairs, “the Children need to leave in five minutes!”

Wife returns to the kitchen, where Son has abandoned his breakfast to watch television on the couch. “Remember how I asked you to put your bowl in the sink when you’re done?” she asks him.

“I forgot,” he answers, eyes glued to the screen.

Wife scrubs down the unsoaked mystery pot in the sink, chipping away at the chocolate residue caked to the bottom.

Husband shuffles downstairs. The Children jump up for a bear hug. “How are my little monsters doing?” he asks, kissing the top of each of their heads.

Wife’s phone buzzes. Morning meeting with the board has been moved up to 8:00. Daughter wails. Son has changed the channel without her permission.

“Good morning,” Husband says into Wife’s hair as he rounds her side, dropping a third sticky swirly straw into the pot she’s scrubbing, “you missed one.” The impact freckles her blouse with cocoa suds.

Wife stares at her wrinkled reflection in the warm soapy water, and like a child ready for bed, she falls in.

Kat Stubing was born into the sticky heat of summer and has been searching for the right words ever since. She received her BA in Media Studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is a proud member of the Brooklyn Women’s Writing Group. Her poems and short stories have been published in a variety of literary magazines, including Beyond Words, Allegory Ridge, and Hare’s Paw, among others. You can find Kat online at and on Twitter @katjoyst.


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