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The Sausage on the Roof

This essay was written while my daughter was still in Nepal:


When my boyfriend Mickey first hurled the slice of cooked Italian sausage off our second-floor balcony, it landed on the garage, looking red and robust, but the circling vultures never even sniffed at it.


Over time, the meat turned into a blackened, shriveled relic. It reminded me of my daughter’s long-gone belly-button stub – the fragment of her umbilical cord that came home from the hospital with us, eventually dropped off, and got dumped in a trash can because what else could I do? Pressing the mummified stub between the pages of a scrapbook seemed too morbid.


Now that she’s grown and working on the other side of the planet, I wish I still had the stub, or better yet, the whole cord that once tethered her to me, but she’s gone for good. I know this. She’ll likely visit me in Florida from time to time, like the wind-blown seabirds that landed on my garage roof that winter, soon after the sausage had settled there. They high-stepped it around the rotting meat, disinterested.


When I ask, Caroline offers vague clues to her future plans. Nobody in their early twenties ever knows what’s coming next. I certainly didn’t know when I was that age, but for sure, my dreams never involved decomposing side-by-side with my mother; I lifted my arms and let a current carry me as far away from her as possible – from New York City to New Mexico, and from the Great Wall of China to the Chilean Andes. I had to drive nearly eight hours to reach my mother’s deathbed.


I was thinking about the fossilized sausage while I cleaned Caroline’s car, which she had left with me for safekeeping. From beneath the driver’s seat, I retrieved a tangled ball of her long, honey-colored hair. It flew out of my hand and over a wall so that I couldn’t retrieve it. Maybe a songbird used it for nest-building. I like to picture hungry fuzz balls in a ring of gold.


After a week, the quarter-sized disc of sausage turned brown and began to curl up at the edges. At the onset of spring, high winds pushed the marbleized meat around the roof, making it difficult for me to distinguish the sausage from shredded palm fronds. Every night after work, I squinted at the white rooftop, searching for the sausage by tracing its path.


In March, a mean-sounding storm toppled my balcony furniture in the early morning hours, before the sun had turned the ocean orange. Startled, I sat up in bed and spoke out loud. “Where is my daughter?” Sunrise revealed the empty roof, flat and blank as a sheet of fresh typing paper, shining after the rain.


Ginger Pinholster’s award-winning first novel, City in a Forest, focuses on a fictional Atlanta wilderness threatened by eminent-domain seizure in a racially unjust land deal. Her next novel, Seeing Gethin, awaits its fate. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the Eckerd Review, Northern Virginia Review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. She works as a writer at a university in Daytona Beach, Florida and she serves on the Volusia-Flagler Turtle Patrol.

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