Good Bread by Karen Ann Snider

The mother who wears makeup over her purple eye takes two bowls out of the cupboard. She says if you want to make bread you must do what I do. I watch her measure shortening. Heat milk. I measure shortening. Heat milk. Together we sugar our yeast and watch it rise. The yeast is eating the sugar she says. The mother who has to sing How Great Thou Art in church tonight is quiet today. I do what she does. We say no big things. We measure an hour in cups of flour and stir the glue until our arms break. Now, she says, at last. Here is the fun. She pours flour all over the table and dumps her dough on top of it. She begins to push it and twist it and fold it. Try it she says and I do. We push and twist and fold and push and twist and fold. It is better than play dough she says, and wipes some flour and makeup off her purple eye. Don’t you think? She says you can hit it with your fist, see? Then she makes a dough belly and punches it good. Then we are both beating up our dough. We hit it hard and throw it around. We pick it up and throw it onto the table. We hit it harder and harder and harder again and again. We fold it and twist it. The mother says we must push air into its folds. She takes her fist and smashes the dough belly again and again. When I look up I see the mother’s tears are washing the makeup off of her purple eye. All her tears look purple to me then and I do exactly what she did. I fold my dough and make big fists and hit it again and again and again until my eyes are full of tears. Purple tears for the mother. Then stop, stop she says. That’s enough. This will be really good bread now.

The Day I Died A Lutheran Child’s Primer

I died on a Saturday in late fall. At least that’s how I remember it. I’d like to tell you exactly when I died but since I died I’ve had a lot of trouble with time. Was it November? Maybe. I know it was in 1964 because I was nine years old and I can still do the math. Besides dying, the most important thing I remember about 1964 was the Beatles singing, “I want to Hold Your Hand.” I liked that, you know, that someone I didn’t know wanted to hold my hand.

We lived in the Red River Valley of North Dakota in a small town called Mountain. Although it was still in the United States it was close to the Canadian border and we felt like we were living in a foreign country because everyone – except us – spoke Icelandic as their first language and you would get it wrong on your test at school if you said Christopher Columbus discovered America. Everyone in Mountain knew it was Eric the Red.

And everyone in Mountain was going to the boys basketball game that Saturday. I was no exception. It was on my way there that I died. As I filled the big claw foot tub with a mix of hot and cold water, I could hear my mother yelling for the handyman, something about turning the electricity back on so that she could make supper. I tested the water again and again with my hand and then with one toe until it was just right. I stepped into the tub and grabbed the towel bar so I wouldn’t slip.

Somehow the metal towel bar had been electrified. I sizzled in the bathtub, unable to move or call for help. I was dead when my family found me, my left hand melted into the towel bar, my skin blistered, my body burned, my neck arched back, my breathing stopped, my heart no longer keeping time. All the water in the bathtub had boiled out. I was completely dead. But that didn’t stop my father. After all, he was a minister and he had been to war. He refused to hear the others telling him it was too late, I was gone. He gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He massaged my heart. He pounded my chest and yelled at God which may or may not have had more power seeing how he was Lutheran. Finally, he brought me back to life, but it was a different life. I had changed. Everyone kept telling me it was a miracle, I was lucky, God had saved me. But I knew the truth. God had spit me back out.