Richard stirred his herbaceous red sauce, watching out for errant searing splatters. He placed the stirring spoon beside the sink, grabbing the emptied bottle of plain tomato sauce in the next motion. He rinsed out the thick, red remains under the faucet. He grabbed a fresh plastic grocery bag from the sleeve hung on the wall and looped both handles through the sturdy plastic hook hammered a foot below. He slid the tall, slender jar through the opening of the fresh bag, being sure not to drop it in and slamming the glass against the wall.
Garbage, his subconscious said. This is garbage now. The words were never spoken, and he was never truly aware of them, but he had heard them, loudly.
He went back to stirring his pomodoro sauce.
Allison entered, partially acknowledging Richard’s existence, mostly acknowledging the sauce. It smelled of finely chopped basil and minced onion; bits of minced garlic and the smallest bit of red pepper flake, too. She recognized most of the smells because she had smelled this recipe before – it was one of Richard’s favorites to make.
“Hey,” she said.
“What up, ba-ba?” he said back, slurring the word “baby” in the way Allison found cute.
“Babe,” she said, in the tone that chilled Richard’s spine. Damn it. I know I fucked something up today, but which fuck up did she notice? I’m pretty sure I didn’t fuck up in the kitchen — or did I?
“Yeah,” he said.
“You know, you don’t have to throw away the tomato sauce jar,” she said. “If you have too much sauce for the two of us, you can put some in there and just keep it for another day or something.”
Hm, he thought. Maybe I wasn’t stupid today. He nodded, and frowned approvingly – not a bad idea.
Allison grabbed a couple of carrot slices from the salad bowls, slipped them in to her mouth, and made her way out…before stopping at the doorway, noticing Richard’s inaction.
“Are you going to take it out?” she asked.
“Mm?” he hummed.
“Are you going to take the jar out of the bag?” she said.
“Uh,” he searched. “Yeah…I mean – yeah.”
“Yeah, I mean,” he said, slurring “I” and “mean” in to one barely audible jumble. “Yeah. I mean. You. Can. Also.” Each word fumbled out of his mouth bit by bit.
She had a feeling…
“Grab it,” she said, daring him.
He twisted his head, never fully committing to the nod or the shake; never looking away from the bubbling sauce.
Allison slipped the wooden stirring spoon from his grasp and led him by the hand to the plastic bag with the jar. He felt like a child, and she felt like a mother.
His eyes hadn’t lifted from the sauce, even though it was five feet behind him now. All he saw was the bag being weighted down by the jar and Allison standing to his left.
“It’s not garbage,” she said, annoyance hardly suppressed. “Grab it.”
“But,” he reasoned. “It’s garbage.”
“It’s a plastic bag,” she said. “It’s garbage just as much as the things we brought home from the supermarket with that bag were garbage. You’ve eaten the cereal and the ice cream we brought home in that bag, right?”
He thought. “Yeah,” he said, finally.
“Grab it,” she said.
Richard slipped his hand into the bag. His lips curled and his eyes squinted. He turned his head away, slightly. When he opened his eyes fully again, the jar was in his hand, like it had always been there; like it belonged there.
“There,” said Allison, satisfied. “God, you’re freaked out by the weirdest shit.”
Richard smirked wryly at Allison’s comment. He glanced down to the jar. He vomited.