Excerpt from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender

Mom was also in the kitchen, rinsing a colander of broccoli under the faucet.

I looked at her when he was off and back.

Nice boy, she said

Not a desert, I said.

What do you mean? She put the broccoli aside, to drip into the sink.

You said Joseph was the desert?

She ran her hands under the tap. Nah, not the desert, she said, as if that conversation had never happened. Joseph, she said, is like a geode—plain on the outside, gorgeous on the inside.

I watched her dry her hands. My mother’s lithe, able fingers. I felt such a clash inside, even then, when she praised Joseph. Jealous, that he got to be a geode—a geode!—but also relieved, that he soaked up most of her super-attention, which on occasion made me feel like I was drowning in light. The same light he took and folded into rock walls to hide in the beveled sharp edges of topaz crystal and schorl.

He has facets and prisms, she said. He is an intricate geological surprise.

I stayed at the counter. I still held the Lego train in my hands.

And what’s Dad? I said.

Oh, your father, she said, leaning her hip against the counter. Your father is a big strong stubborn gray boulder. She laughed.

And me? I asked, grasping, for the last time.

You? Baby, you’re—

I stood still. Waiting.


She smiled at me, as she folded the blue-and-white-checked dish towel. You’re seaglass, she said. The pretty green kind. Everybody loves you, and wants to take you home.

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