Edoardo Appollino leaned against the galley sink and held a black Dutch oven under the faucet. He turned on the water and waited until he had enough to cook the penne for his ex-wife. The Dutch oven grew heavier as it filled. Edoardo shut the water off and tipped the Dutch oven. Excess water spilled into the sink.
“Don’t fill it up all the way,” Billie, his ex-wife, said from the forward cabin of Edoardo’s 32-foot boat.
“I like feeling it get heavier,” Edoardo said, and it was true–the weight of water was the only measure by which he knew he was still living.
“Feel it get heavier without filling it up all the way.”
Edoardo slid the Dutch oven onto the small stove. It scraped on the burner. Two pinches of salt. A spritz of gas puffed into flame.
“Wasteful,” Billie said again.
Edoardo looked at her from the galley. She was leaning backward on the worn, vinyl-covered lounge seat, and her legs were splayed out with her bare feet up on his sofa sleeper across from her. Her black leggings were too tight and her green cable-knit sweater was too big. The green polish on her toenails was flaking.
A guinea pig sat like a puffy ascot on her chest. Its head was buried in her hair, which came down past her neck in a sweeping pile of dark blond curls. The animal made suction-like slurping noises while it gnawed on the neckline of her sweater.
“Couple minutes until boiling,” Edoardo said.
The guinea pig grunted and squeaked. Billie reached into a bowl on the end table for a piece of carrot. The animal snatched it from her fingers and buried its head back in her curls to make crunching noises now.
“Carrots, parrots,” Billie said to the guinea pig. She puckered her lips at it. The guinea pig kept chewing.
It was a black guinea pig. Its hair stuck out in all directions in bowl-like loops and ringlets on its back. Edoardo was disgusted at the bald patches in the center of them.
Why did she bring the damn thing, he thought.
He ignited the second burner, turned the flame down low, and put on a small, covered pan of leftover red sauce.
“It’s going to snow pretty bad,” he said to Billie. “Maybe you should call a motel and see if you can get a room tonight.”
Billie lay down on the lounge seat. She cradled her arm around the guinea pig so it wouldn’t fall. From the round window above her, the dim, damp light from thick, gray clouds of late autumn low over the lakeshore shaded the hollows of her face, and she looked old in that light, tired. The wrinkles around her eyes were knife scratches on a weathered barn wall.
“Just raining,” she said.
“Supposed to freeze. Then snow.”
“Early in the year for that kind of weather,” she said.
Feathers of steam skated on top of the smooth water in the Dutch oven. Edoardo took two plates out of a cabinet and placed them opposite each other on the fold-down table. He set silverware and two wine glasses next to the plates, then a triangle of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a stainless-steel grater. He tore off two pieces from a roll of paper towels, folded them, and put them on the table too.