Just Dessert

Jeanine Skowronski

OK, yes, we did it, but the thing is, we had just spent so much of spring semester staring at Harrah’s broken heart.


Yes, absolutely, we could see it. You could see a broken heart, too, if I told you what to look for. Slouched shoulders; curved spines. Lovesick hearts don’t pump; they pull so your chin clings to your clavicle and your nose grinds toward the ground and you can’t look up to see the sun.


I know because I’ve had, like, at least 13 of them, though Harrah’s broken heart was the first I saw outside looking in. She hid it pretty well, to be honest, under fat, flattened hair, double-lash mascara and these spiky mohair sweaters. But then Steve started driving around town with Maddy Heller in his passenger seat. And I swear, you could hear Harrah’s heart sputtering, like a Sarah McLachlan CD stuck on repeat, skipping a beat, fumbling, fumbling, fumbling toward misery.


We had to do something to get her blood flowing.


So, the pies. Right, the pies. The pies were technically Nora’s idea, but you can’t really blame her. She was just riffing.


“Want to go get some pie?”


“No.”


“Want me to go get you some pie?”


“No.”


“Want me to make you a pie?”


“NO.”


“Want to pie Steve’s car?”


Harrah sat up straight, shoulders dropping backward, not drooping forward, chest puffing out, not pushing in, forehead perpendicular, not parallel to the floor.


And, I mean, you get it, right?


Time for dessert.


We picked up the pies at Pagano’s. Table Talk, but snack sized. Blackberry, because Harrah said those were Steve’s favorite, and cherry because we knew they were hers. Nora thought of whipped cream and I grabbed a bottle of rainbow sprinkles, held onto its fat bottom as we searched The Odeon parking lot for Steve’s white Acura.


I don't remember how we knew the car was there, just that it was, and then there we were and no one else was around so, you know, splat — we used the car to crack the pies open, flattening the thin silver tins with our palms and spreading the dark jam with a few bends of the elbow.


And, sure, the scene looked like a crime. Jammed fingers, clots of cream, busted black and red berries splattered against shiny, white paint. But, I promise, it was all very, very sweet.


Nora even sang: “Who are we?”


“National exemplars,” Harrah crooned back. She throttled both bottles of whipped cream and squirted a whole heart on each hubcap, but her shoulders slumped as she finished topping the front right tire.


That’s when I noticed the soft, blue sweater draped across the passenger seat. And that’s why I shook the sprinkles loose from hood to trunk.


You can blame me; I wasn’t riffing. I knew they’d get inside, slip through the car’s cracks, wiggle beneath the windshield wipers, nestle under the floor mats, and settle into the folds of each seat; hundreds of small, but brightly colored crumbling pieces, not so easily ignored or discarded.





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Jeanine Skowronski is a writer and journalist based in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Lunate Fiction.