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A Good Cook

Ann Fisher

My mother watered down the ketchup, shook the bottle back and forth while instructing me on cutting corners, until those last vestiges of red released themselves from their containers. I grew up hating that: liquified shots of what should have been, turned to what needed to be, according to my mother— splattering across my casserole dinner. Later, lost and going nowhere, in my own quarter-bottled couple hell, I worked restaurants where after hours, it was my job to empty one container into another, not to be the good cook who knows how to cut corners, but to make the customers believe what they held in their hands oozed with a certain freshness. No one likes old coagulated ketchup, half empty and hard to believe. In the dim light of closing time, I had a flash of her, wondered if a little of my mother’s tap water would ease the release. At home, I let half-empty bottles gather, no one to tell me different, soldiers lining refrigerator shelves protecting me from something thin and unpleasant. I empty the rich deep red of one into the other and wonder if my mother knew, wonder if she thought it even possible to leave her watery existence.

Ann Fisher lives in the foothills of the Green Mountains. She is co-fiction editor for the Mud Season Review based in Burlington, Vermont. Her work has appeared in ZigZagLitMag, MacQueen’s Quinterly, the South Shore Review, and About Place Journal, among others.