Laura Boswell

Carpe diem. Tomorrow.

NPR Three Minute Fiction Entry: “Enchantee”

on November 5, 2012

What happens when the President of the United States judges the county fair bake-off of one lonely housewife’s life? NPR called for 600-word stories that simply revolved around a U.S. president, real or fictional. I didn’t win, but I enjoyed dabbling in fiction for a bit. Enjoy (and reading is calorie-free)!

ENCHANTEE

PRESIDENT MITCHELL TO VISIT HILLYVILLE declared the Gazette, puckering beneath the tea Winnie sloshed out in her astonishment.

He would serve as Head Judge of the Chester County Fair Bake-Off, that she, Winnie Wheeler, had won three years running with “Blue-Barb Pie,” her blueberry/rhubarb amalgamation born of butter, sweat, and tears.

Now her family might pay attention! Winnie went to college, traveled to Paris, was accepted to Pan-Am. But the children snorted at her tutoring en francais. Stuart only cared about cocktail recipes.

She wasn’t resentful though. Pan-Am stewardesses must be single, and she and Stu…wanted to marry. So she watched jets slip through the stars toward Barcelona and Istanbul from below, nursing Stu Junior on the porch swing.

That Saturday, she wriggled Baby Peter from his high chair and gently tucked the fresh pie into Tupperware. Tres bien. A perfect golden dome, tiny purple droplets dotting the silver-steamy crevices.

At City Hall, she placed it next to the usual brownies, lemon squares, and some croissants that looked to be pulled from the Piggly-Wiggly day-old bin and scribbled with Hershey’s syrup.

President Mitchell’s cavalcade arrived, sleek cars and hulky men in dark suits. The high school band played a wobbly “Hail to the Chief.” Yet Winnie heard only her heartbeat as he emerged, more dashing than on TV. The First Lady came too, smiles, capri pants, and pearls. She had served then-Congressman Mitchell a martini on a flight to London. As his Pan-Am stewardess.

But Winnie couldn’t hate Stephanie Mitchell. Yes, she was cultured, but she adored her children and cooked White House family meals herself. Something about Stephanie said “I am still you.”

It was time. The president was served the final three samples. There was her pie! Winnie tried to ease closer, but Peter’s stroller foundered in the wet sod.

First was a cherry cobbler Mitchell proclaimed “better than the one Mother used to make.” Nearby, a squeal from its author, Ann Stevenson.

The second dessert was crescents of some kind. No–those godawful croissants?

Winnie smiled. “Enchantee, Monsieur le President,” she began whispering, applying her lipstick.

Finally, she watched the leader of the free world taste the pie she had created with her own bare, country fingers.

He chewed, swallowed, and smiled. Took a sip of water. And another bite. Winnie Ann felt weightless and woeful at the same time.

“Simply stunning!” Mitchell declared. “Blue…Barb…Pie.’ How inventive we hard-working Americans are, am I right?”

Winnie strained her 5-foot frame to its zenith, waving futilely as the audience cheered home-grown, sugary initiative.

“But I just so love those gosh-darned French pastries–ask my wife!” Stephanie laughed as Mitchell patted his belly, still taut as when he’d stormed Normandy two decades before. “I can’t help it. So, I’m awarding the blue ribbon to…Mrs. Bonnie Davis’ amazing chocolate croissants!”

Again, silence. Winnie could see the commotion–Bonnie climbing the stage, cameras clicking, straw hat flopping as she accepted the ribbon and hug from the Commander-in-Chief.

But she only heard the void of another year of sullen children, a cold bed alone, and this hillbilly life not meant for a magna cum laude.

After some minutes—3? 10? she freed the stroller and pushed it toward the sidewalk.

“Your son is beautiful,” said a familiar voice, a creamy hand stroking Peter’s cheek. Stephanie Mitchell knelt before her, a phalanx of security alongside.

Confused, Winnie answered, “Merci.

“Ah, vous parlez francais?” Stephanie asked.

“Oui,” said Winnie, noticing a crowd, her own husband and children, mouths agape.

Fantastique! Je suis Stephanie, et vous?” Stephanie took Winnie’s hand in both of hers.

“Winnie Wheeler.”

Enchantee, Winnie.”

I am still you.

Enchantee.

 
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