Great pies a-flyin

by James

They were late.

There was no car pulling into the drive, no lights playing along the hedge fronts.

She moved slowly back into the kitchen and stared at the pie. It was golden and topped with delicate pastry stars and moons. Steam piping through the bird’s beak poking the crust filled the kitchen with the heady scent of rich red wine and herbs from the garden. It was the finest pie she had ever cooked, base blind baked, and the meat inside three days under red wine then seared in tiny batches for maximal flavour.

The pie was ready, and they were late.

Once more to the front room, twitch aside the nets. Nothing.

Nothing on her phone, no missed calls. She called the answerphone to check for signal, no message there, and nothing on the web to say the bypass was backed up again.

She found him in her favourites but didn’t press her thumb. His was always in the hands-free cradle, always. But why not call? Why not just call and say, darling, we’re five minutes out? Just this once it was in his pocket, and the ringer would startle him, he’d twitch the wheel, get it back, car steady on the narrow twisty lanes. Then he would dig in his pocket for the phone, in the pocket trapped by the seatbelt, and just for a moment he’d use his elbow to steady the wheel and pull out some slack with his other hand.

Or the car was already upside down, rear lights cosy red beneath the closing fingers of mist that would closet them from the road. They were late because there had been accident and that’s why there was no phone call. He was unconscious, and the children were suspended from the seatbelts meant to hold them fast from danger now their chains as petrol ran in rivers seeking sparks.

She ran in tears through the house, through to the kitchen where the perfect pie sat steaming gently, this terrible, terrible mother caring more for shortcrust pastry, lamenting its ruination at the moment her children were going to die.

She seized the dish by both handles and out into the garden with it, letting it drop as she ran and then into the upswing, inverting the dish as it moved past her head. The pie turned slowly in the air, single contrail of steam as it sailed over the chicken fence then exploded in a great whoosh of steam and beef shrapnel.

Feathers floated to earth. One slow moving chicken regarded her dumbly beneath its coating of rich wine gravy. She let the pie dish drop from her burning fingers, wandering dumbly across the garden and back into the house. She stood in the bombsite kitchen, clammy and hot from an afternoon’s slaving.

The doorbell rang, a moment later followed by his key in the lock, and the moment after she was on her knees hugging her children by the front door.

She stood at the stove while the children guzzled baked beans and fish fingers and he picked at his freezer potluck herrings. He wondered about the awful mountain of unwashed dishes for such a thrown together tea.

He asked her, wasn’t there wonderful pie you’ve been planning? Didn’t it turn out so well?

She knelt between the children, hugged them together as they ate.

She said, ‘It turned out perfect.’