Jade by Mike DiChristina
July 12, 2012 Comments Off on Jade by Mike DiChristina
George was the dessert man at the prepared food counter. He was short and round, and sported a black caterpillar mustache. His buddy the butcher called him ‘Vanilla Pudding.’
At the end of his Saturday shift, George picked out a German chocolate cake from the expired desserts. He placed the cake in a fold-up cardboard box and tied it with string. Ming loved German chocolate cake. George figured just seeing it might get her to remember the good times.
The butcher gave him a pound of deli ham wrapped up in white paper.
“Take it,” said the butcher, “You don’t eat it tonight, it’ll be prosciutto by Monday morning.”
Carrying his packages, George walked home to his apartment. He shaved and showered and trimmed his moustache. He put on the Hawaiian shirt Ming loved. After eating a thick ham and mustard sandwich and washing it down with a beer, George left for Ming’s.
On the way, he stopped by an ATM to extract five crisp twenty-dollar bills.
George had continued to visit Ming even after there was no chance of any carnal pleasure. Ming’s daughter Helen — a thirty-something-year-old waitress — opened the apartment door, her lank black hair falling over her eyes. George handed her the cake box. Helen bowed and wordlessly returned to the kitchen to read books filled with columns of chicken scratches. George removed his coat and shoes and left them in the front hall.
George and Ming watched America’s Funniest Home Videos on the TV in the bedroom. He sat in a chair next to the bed, while Ming lay with her eyes closed, fingering the synthetic jade necklace George had given her years before. The room smelled of unwashed Ming, so George
opened the window a crack, allowing the wet black night air to slip into the room. When the show ended, Ming was asleep. George left his twenties on Ming’s night table before kissing her hot white forehead.
In Ming’s final weeks, George came every evening, though he only brought the twenties once per week. He and Helen gave Ming sponge baths, laving Ming with warm soapy water. The jade necklace lay glistening on her scarred chest. Ming’s body had become that of a child: goose-pimpled white skin, hollow stomach, and her toes little rows of pearl onions. George held his breath to avoid breathing in Ming’s stench. After drying Ming off, they changed her sheets and pulled a nightdress over her body.
Ming died in March. For several weeks, George stayed home on Saturday nights, until one Saturday night in April. George walked over to Ming’s, stopping at the ATM along the way.
He knocked on Ming’s door, and Helen opened it. She wore a blue dress the color of a robin’s egg. Her glossy hair was swept up, revealing her long white neck, upon which, hung Ming’s jade necklace.
© 2012 Mike DiChristina
Mike DiChristina’s stories have recently been published in Concisely and Gone Lawn. Mike currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and three teenaged daughters.