Just write something as sad as possible, relate it to soy sauce, and don't make it too long. [WP]

I can’t remember what the blankets smelled like. It’s been sixteen years and I’ve forgotten what the blankets smelled like. I held his tiny, limp body in a small, empty room as I choked on thick mucus-filled sobs and rubbed his cold translucent skin with the lightest of touches, his body wrapped in greyish-pinkish-blue hospital blankets and a small homemade knitted cap. Senior citizens at the local center make them for the newborns to keep their little heads warm. This one will not be performing his duty. His arm was the size of my forefinger and his face was a permanent frown and I’ve forgotten what the blankets smelled like.

It’s time to make dinner. It’s been sixteen years and I rarely think about him anymore. There are random things that I’ll see or hear or smell that make me thing of him. Teenage boys learning to drive. Certain shades of blue. What the blankets smelled like. There are three lively, loud boys in the living room fighting over video games, remote controls, homework, chores and who has done them and who hasn’t. In between their cries of fairness and turns, they clamor for something to eat. They have my attention now. The boys need something hearty but quick. A crowd pleaser that’s at least a little healthy. Why the hell can’t I remember what the blankets smelled like? I’ll make orange chicken.

The hat was robin’s egg blue. It was the least one they had. There were blisters and lesions where the cord had wrapped around his neck and the blankets and the hat covered them so his mother couldn’t see them. But I had seen them. The nurses said he looked like a perfect little sleeping angel. That’s what the others would say at church, too. He’s an angel. He’s in heaven. He’s with God. “No he isn’t,” I want to say. “He’s dead. They locked him in a furnace, burnt his body to nothing and now his ashes are in the smallest brass box I’ve ever seen and they’re sitting on my dresser and every night his mother looks right at it and even though she never says anything there’s a look on her face like she wants to kill herself. If he’s with God, then fuck God because he’s going to meet my wife soon and she’s pissed off. So am I.” But I hide the hurt. I swallow the brokenness. I hold back the ‘fuck you’s. “Yes, he’ll always be our little angel. Thank you,” I reply. The lie gets easier every time. Maybe one day I’ll believe it.

The key to good orange chicken is in the sauce. And I make damn good orange chicken sauce. There’s two components to the sauce: team dry and team liquid. For the team dry it’s a cup of brown sugar, a couple of teaspoons of fresh ginger, some fresh garlic, red peppers and some orange zest. On team liquid there’s a half cup of orange juice, a quarter cup of lemon juice, one third cup rice vinegar, two tablespoons of soy sauce…

Soy sauce.

I inhale the deep meaty aroma of the soy sauce, plunging my nose deep into the nearly empty plastic container. Another deep hit of the sauce fills my nostrils and invades my lungs. I can almost taste the salty brown liquid as I exhale through my mouth and over my tongue. I smell this all the time. How could I have not known the blankets smelled like soy sauce. The harsh anti-bacterial detergent they used on the blankets they swaddled my stillborn son in smelled like soy sauce, with perhaps the slightest hint of soap and clean cotton. I stop. I breathe. I bring the orange juice mix to a simmer and stir in the dry ingredients.

“Dinner will be done soon, boys. Come out and set the table,” I yell to nobody who is listening. Dinner is done. Bowls are filled. I grab placemats and napkins and forks. And as I set the I stop to think about the brass container which now sits in a padded purple box somewhere in a closet in my ex-wife’s bedroom in her house across town. I haven’t seen it in thirteen years. I don’t need to. I have soy sauce.

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