2016 Barthelme Prize Honorable Mention: A Peck of Beets

Marya Hornbacher

My second husband once walked into the house by the lake, carrying a very large basket of beets. They were freshly picked, dusty with dirt. I said, What is that. He said, These are beets. I said, Why have you bought a peck of beets. He said, It’s only a half-peck. We paused so he could think of a reason for having bought the beets. Finally he said, The girl at the farmer’s market was very persuasive, I felt sorry for her. I replied, No. The girl at the farmer’s market was very pretty. She felt sorry for you. No, he said, flushing the way he did, all the way from his chin to the top of his balding head over which he had taken to combing the remaining strands of his hair, and I said, without thinking, You look like a beet. He said, You’re so cold. Why are you so cold. How can a woman be so cold as you. Why are you never happy. You ruin everything. I was surprised by his reaction, but did not disagree. We kept the beets in the cellar, which is where beets should go, I suppose.