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Mother’s Orange Sorbet by Amelia Nierenberg

Mother’s Orange Sorbet by Amelia Nierenberg

Drama, Vol. 6.4, Dec. 2012

Lights up on a small kitchen, 2:55 a.m. Rain sounds outside.

A woman slumps against the counter island, her white nightgown well worn and sagging around her varicose veins. She is a young middle age, late thirties or early forties. Make up residue stains her skin, mascara circles from crying. A black armband is wrapped around her left bicep. She is in mourning.

She crosses to the fridge, opens it, reflects. She stares at its contents before shutting the door.

She shuffles to the sink, and washes her hands, deliberately, carefully. Minutes pass. The only sound is the washing of hands and the drip of the water. Periodically, she will inspect her hands before continuing to wash them.

A clock from somewhere deep in the right wing chimes three. She looks up, surprised, and abruptly shuts off the water, her hands still soapy.

As if she does not notice the soap, she picks up an orange and begins to peel it methodically, the long curls of skin cascading down her knife.

Suddenly, the steady stream of leathery orange coat breaks, and the coil of skin falls dramatically to the floor. She looks at it for long seconds, the soap from her hands dripping in a puddle around her feet.

Without warning, she spins, throwing the orange as hard as she can against the wall. It splatters.

She crosses to the fridge, opens it, reflects. She stares at its contents before shutting the door.

She shuffles to the sink, and washes her hands, deliberately, carefully. Minutes pass. The only sound is the washing of hands and the drip of the water. Periodically, she will inspect her hands before continuing to wash them.

Satisfied her hands are clean, she begins to thumb through an old cookbook, dust visibly rising from the pages as she flips through them. It is hand-bound, and she coughs periodically as she reads the handwritten family recipes. Finding the desired recipe, she sets the book down on the counter.

Crossing to the wall where the orange has splattered and begun to drip down, she lovingly cleans the mess, putting the salvageable chunks of orange flesh in a bowl, and tenderly wipes the rest of the sacrificed fruit off of her wallpaper. She places the bowl on the counter next to the prostrate cookbook, and turns to peer out the window over her sink.

Reaching for an umbrella, a milk carton, and galoshes, she opens the door of her little kitchen and ventures off stage left. The umbrella is frilly and pink, and she looks at it with disgust before opening the door. As she exits, rain and wind crescendo, a tempest.

The empty kitchen waits, water dripping down the wallpaper, the smell of citrus rising from the bowl.

She whirls back in, the wind sweeping water around her body. Her umbrella is broken and tucked under her arm, the frilly pink inverted, the spokes bare. She leaves it against the door, looking at it with disgust. Her nightgown is now wet, revealing her cold body.

In her arms, she holds a milk carton full of wet, ripe oranges, picked from the backyard.

She struts to the sink, and washes her hands. This time, however, she is brusquely cleaning them, wiping the mud and rain off before she handles her oranges. She washes for the sake of the oranges, not for the sake of her own methodical, tortured cleanliness.

She crosses to the island facing the audience. She picks up an orange and begins to peel it methodically; the long curls of skin cascading down her knife. Each curl is perfect, unbroken, whole. She drops these curls onto the floor, kissing each one before letting it fall out of sight. She is crying as one would when cutting onions, skinning these oranges, pulling chunks of their flesh out and dropping it into the bowl, useable.

She peels three or four oranges in this manner before stopping to look at her black armband, a symbol of mourning. She carefully unwinds it, kisses it, and drops it too on the floor.

Lights down gradually as she begins to whistle a slow funeral march, peeling oranges in her old white nightgown.

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