Cauliflower Is Just What Happens to Broccoli When It Dies by Exodus Oktavia Brownlow

Cauliflower Is Just What Happens to Broccoli When It Dies

Husband finds Wife sitting on the kitchen floor, knife in hand.

Let me help you.

Wife wipes away at all the whatevers — tears, snot, crumbs — wipes her face hard enough to make herself look right, again. No, I got it.

When Wife chops through the squeaky spine, lets the bleached thing crumble to bits, and bounce against the brown board, Wife says, It’s just dead broccoli.

Husband keeps forgetting to not buy things that remind Wife too much about death, about dying. But dying is all Wife ever thinks about.

It’s cold and dense like bones, Wife explains. See? And when she bends away at the branches, they pop. Break.

Husband keeps forgetting that once, Wife told Husband how badly it was that they fed their bodies with dead things, when their bodies were already decaying things themselves. What will live on, then, in the end? When there’s nothing left to feed off of the other?

Wife is holding cauliflower skull in her palms, cutting into it, and trying not to think about how it has lobes. Hemispheres. A stem.

Cutting into it, because Husband has done all the cooking, lately.

Cutting into it, because though it is killing her to do this, she is desperate to honor their vows. In sickness and health… till death do us part.

I can do this, Wife reassures Husband. Be amongst the dead triggers like the doctor said. Let them float in my head without trying to reach for them.

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Before they learned what it was, the thing that had gone differently in her mind, Husband had yelled – Grab me! Grab me, grab me, grab me! I am aliveI am living flesh!

Wife scrambled to a closetwhispered through its spaced-slits — No… you are dying. Every day you die a little. You leave slivers of shed skin on the pillow, and when I roll over onto it I breathe it in. I inhale your death, and somehow make life from it.

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Husband ends up finishing the cauliflower. Plans to pair it with things that cauliflower goes best with like chicken thighs topped with sautéed bell peppers, julienned. And roasted red potatoes, quartered and rosemarried.

It’s just a ghost broccoli, Wife wails from their bedroom, from her closet. It’s just a ghost.

Husband chops through the squeaky spine, lets the stank of it spill and spool out.

He thinks about how caulif’ and coffin sound a bit alike.

Sound just about the same. 

Exodus Oktavia Brownlow is a Blackhawk, Ms native. She is a graduate of Mississippi Valley State University with a BA in English, and Mississippi University for Women with an MFA in Creative Writing. Exodus has been published or has forthcoming work with Electric Lit, Booth, Chicken Soup for The Soul, Tri-Quarterly, F(r)iction and more. She has been nominated for Best of The Net, Best MicroFiction, Best Small Fictions and a Pushcart Prize. Her piece “It’s 5am-ish, And My Father Tells Me A Story From His Time in Singapore” is included in the anthology Best MicroFiction 2021, and her piece “Chicken-Girls and Chicken-Ladies and All the Possibility of Pillowcases” will be included in the anthology Best MicroFiction 2022. Exodus adores the color green.

Read more by Exodus Oktavia Brownlow When It Gets Cold in the South, Only the Pumpernickel Survives

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Art: Henry Ossawa Tanner Public Domain ALT A woman sits on a bed, and to our left a bright light shines.

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