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FOOD FOR THE HEART by Sue Ann Connaughton

Click, click. I lock my daughter and myself in the master bedroom, like secrets hidden within a diary.

Every Friday night, since the mistress interloped, I spread beach towels and picnic fare on the master bed for my daughter and me. Afterwards, she and I talk and talk, until she falls asleep among the smells and debris of the evening’s feast.

When he confessed about the mistress, I bargained. He could spend Friday nights however he wished, so long as he spent the rest of the week as my daughter’s father.

When my daughter was a toddler, I assembled comforting Friday-night meals for the two of us: macaroni and cheese, turkey stew, bread pudding. I played Gregorian chants and read aloud to her, stories with happy endings.

With time, our taste buds have exploded into cravings heated and aggressive: anchovy pizza that brines our lips, pungent Indian courses that burn through our nostrils, and Szechuan dishes that spicen our eyes to tears.

During these soirees, she and I have grown sisterly, conspiratorial: we map her future by comparing pros and cons of cultivating or dismissing specific friends, suitors, schools, professions; by devising life-game scenarios, with multiple choices and diversions; by designing pathways to desirable endings.

By the time my daughter awakens on Saturdays, I’ve purged the trash and tracings from our feast. Dewy cool blows through the screened window, neutralizing the bedroom air. She follows new scents—sausage, apple fritters, maple syrup—to the kitchen, where she’ll find me grilling breakfast and her father downing mugs of black coffee.

This morning, my daughter marched over to her father with the sauciness of her nine-year-oldness.

“You didn’t sleep here last night. Where were you?” she asked him.

I had hoped that time would jade their appetites long before my daughter might question the situation.

“Where were you?” she repeated.

With frightened beggar’s eyes, he looked to me for help.

I turned away to arrange food on a serving plate.

Sausage drippings crackled and sputtered on the griddle.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Sue Ann Connaughton writes compact pieces from a drafty old house in New England. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in You are here: The Journal of Creative Geography; The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts; Liquid Imagination; Barnwood Poetry Magazine; The Linnet’s Wings; The Meadowland Review; and Boston Literary Magazine.

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WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Food for the Heart”

The reader is immediately drawn in by the title, carried along by gorgeous prose, and treated to a full meal in this story. Sue Ann Connaughton understands flash fiction and its myriad possibilities. She sets the scene and conflict upfront, deftly unravels the story in small bites while weaving the theme throughout it, and builds to an ending that leaves the reader smiling and nodding in agreement.