A story about butter in less than 500 words.

But These Children Are Real Sweet

By Heather McDonald

I didn’t know it was made out of butter. The purple flower with a yellow middle looked like fancy candy or fine jelly. Darcy had shoved the thing in my face.

“Papaw, I need this,” she said.

She grunted peanut butter breath and pushed the three inch square box under my nose. Her fingernails pressed into a chunky petal through the clear wrapping. Condensation clung to the plastic between her fingers. The petals glittered.

“No,” I said. “I ain’t wasting no money on sugar shit.”

Darcy turned away and watched a gnat floating above the bananas. She crinkled the package against her cheek. Her glasses, thick and thumb smudged, slipped to the end of her nose. Her brown hair frizzed out her barrettes.

That girl don't need nothing.

I thumped another watermelon. These were our Saturdays – Laundro-mat and Frisbee’s grocery.

Right then I heard her lick. I heard that mouth open, that pant, that tongue smack the corner of her mouth.

“Tongue'n!” I snapped.

Darcy pressed her lips together.

Still, I knew she’d cry. Her bottom lip would melt. She’d stomp her scabbed left knee. She’d tug her hair. Then Deb the cashier and the old lady in the snuff aisle would get nervous. They’d get nervous because Darcy’s special. She’s special and she’s sweet. The doctor had explained. She’ll have special needs, but these children are real sweet. And I already figured I’d have to wipe her ass. I saw her fat and dumb at twenty-one, shrieking down the driveway because she got herself pretty candy from God damn Frisbee’s. She’d have no sense she’s too old for cartoons, no sense to walk her ass right out the trailer to college, to a real city, to her own place, to be a doctor or professor or one of them female engineers.

Darcy moaned.

“Now quit,” I said.

“I need this, Papaw,” said Darcy. “I need this.”

I snatched the box. Cursive writing swayed across the top. Fancy Buds. $5.99.

“Fine then. You want to ride?”

Darcy nodded and cuddled her flower. I hauled her into the shopping cart.

Too big to sit, she stood with the watermelon between her feet.

At the checkout, Deb talked loud like Darcy couldn’t hear.

“Darcy girl, you’re too big for them buggies,” said Deb.

Darcy thrust her prize in Deb’s face.

“Fancy Buds!” said Deb.

Deb eyed the spit stain on Darcy’s shirt as she weighed the boiled peanuts.

“Honey, you know that flower’s just cake decoration. It ain’t sweet,” said

Deb, “Just butter, flour, and some lard.”

Darcy stared at Deb’s turquoise earrings and tongued the air for a while. Then she crouched and squealed.

“Papaw let me have it!” she said.

Darcy then grabbed my finger and pulled my arm around her. She hugged my shoulders. Her tongue nipped my neck as she whispered, “I love you Papaw.”

The buttered bloom slid out her hand and onto the floor. And I hated myself all over again.