Breathing Underground

by janeeatonhamilton

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.23.21 PM

Breathing Underground

Jane Eaton Hamilton, from “Body Rain”

You are making spaghetti sauce. There are no mushrooms in the crisper. You require mushrooms There are canned mushrooms in the pantry cupboard but you have just ·read that there are maggots in cans of mushrooms: twenty per can, per one hundred grams. This statistic startles you. You waffle, rationalizing that statistics can be made to say anything. You move to the pantry and open the cupboard. You climb and put your hands among the cans: you move peaches and green beans and tuna fish. You find three small cans of mushrooms, a total of sixty maggots, which for the four of you is fifteen apiece. You imagine watching the pasta covered in your spaghetti sauce curling around forks, larvae entering your son and daughter’s mouths, your husband’s mouth. The taste of canned mushrooms has always reminded you of rubber, nothing like the original, but perhaps this was not the taste of mushrooms after all, perhaps this was the taste of maggots. Maggots are things you’ve seldom seen. Twice in the garbage and once long ago your mother bought a piece of beef from the supermarket and turned it over to find it blue and crawling. She stood at the kitchen counter poking a knife at it saying Oh, oh. A few years back a sofa you’d left outside all winter had them bobbing like daffodil petals when you lifted the cushions. Your stomach heaved. Maggots are more disgusting even than slugs which are more real and slide across your walkways in the rain, black or mustard colored, sometimes with spots. you do not ever dream of slugs but occasionally you dream of maggots and coffins and the impossibility of breathing underground.

You open the three cans of mushrooms. You drain them. You throw the lids into the trash under the sink, carry the cans to the stove and place them beside the pot simmering on the burner, the glub and bubble of your spaghetti sauce. The smell of basil and oregano coddles your nose. You lift a can. Although you expect movement nothing moves. When you upend it, the mushrooms land on the sauce quivering normally. You watch them sink slowly out of sight and add the rest. Then you stir with a long-handled spoon.