All the Tiny Pieces

Theirs was not the kind of romantic love people held up as aspirational. Married in a church basement—a nurse and a patient—she wore a pantsuit, layers of cloth concealing her swollen abdomen, and he borrowed a tie that he tugged at while wondering if this was it. Other people danced and had cake.

But for them, too-sweet things were dangerous.

Time passed, measured in pricked fingers and units of insulin drawn into syringes and special occasions when she served him fake butter and bland pumpkin pie, cold. Unsatisfied, with baby grown, gone, he started strutting around the house in his underwear. When she left him, she called it shock and awe—ill-conceived, an ignoramus’ war.

On her birthday he sent a card with a check tucked inside. He’d wanted her, but only the envelope came back, return-to-sender inked in deep, angry ruts on the front. With sore fingers, he opened it. Torn flakes of pale, water-marked blue spilled out onto the kitchen table. He swept the pieces into his palm and tossed them into his mouth; they turned to paste on his tongue and between his teeth.

He’d never tasted anything as sweet.

E. M. Hubscher is a writer and toxicologist from North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in several scientific journals and a textbook. You find her writing in the rainbow-colored playhouse she commandeered from her children or online at

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