The Tomato Sandwich

She wanted a tomato sandwich with the right amount of mayonnaise which I understood just fine because I don’t like mayonnaise and knew it would have to be applied just so to be edible. She did not want salad dressing but real mayonnaise smeared even on both sides, slightly thick, not dripping off edges, soggy. She wanted just the right kind of bread. Not brown or none of that speckled stuff, but plain old white bread that feels mushy like the Sunbeam Man unloads from his truck on a hot summer day while you watch with melting ice cream dribbling down a Mickey Mouse Club tee shirt, icing toes tucked into pink rubber flip flops, painted nails catching cherry flavor. She desired the right tomato. Juicy, like it had been picked from an August garden right at dusk, as gnats begin to fly near your eyes, charcoal smoke mingling with hamburger. She wanted those tomatoes sliced straight through, about a half an inch thick with four laid out like a checkerboard square, sides overlapping, skin not peeled. She would’ve liked to fix it herself but was not allowed in the kitchen so would beat hard on the door with cane in hand waiting for someone to stop washing dishes long enough to make her sandwich which she would then place in her top dresser drawer alongside assorted cards, cut lockets of baby hair, and pictures of freckled grandchildren standing in front of fruit laden vines. Until the day the nurse tosses the tomato sandwiches into trash along with puddings, Coca-Colas, and toasted cheese sandwiches covered in butter like the milk man brings on a snowy winter day while you’re wrapped up in a warm wool blanket, lying on the hardwood floor, watching Captain Kangaroo …

[Connie, an elementary-school teacher, went back to school for literature in 1999 and is presently working on a Masters in Appalachian Studies at ASU. Her thesis is on Appalachian poetry.]

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