Irina pauses from rolling pastry to look out the kitchen window where she sees the sea blinking between the sails and the clouds. Sheets hang one next to the other and billow in and out providing a curtain for the play that is happening in the background. Irina hears gulls, or is it screams, laughing and shouting and she opens the door and steps out onto the balcony. Still she cannot see the alley that is the stage, but she feels the cool air and breathes in deeply remembering a deck from some other part of her life. The curtain, or is it the sheets, or is it the sails, are broken with a streak of jet blue, and in the next moment Irina sees her baby tomatoes disappear under an escaped ball. She clasps the handrail, and slowly walks down the black metal stairs, one at a time, picks up the ball, and checks to see that the tomatoes have not been hurt. They have not. Irina turns, clasps the handrail, and walks back up the stairs one at a time, pushing the ball into her apron pocket. She opens the door to find her four sisters sprawled all over the kitchen and each one begins nagging her making it impossible to hear the car brakes and screams that have happened behind her. How could she have known that the second act was Aris running out for his ball and the grey Chevrolet backing into him?
Irina continues to roll out the dough sighing as each sister makes her demands. Sonia wants money, Masha wants money, and Xenia who is now standing on the stove, is still angry that Irina married the man meant for her. Irina tries to push away the pointing fingers, but with every push they seem to come closer and closer until she has no choice but to step into the pantry and close the door in hopes that they will go away. And there, sitting on the second shelf beside the mason jars filled with last fall’s pickles, is Larissa. She gently jumps down, takes Irina’s head with her two hands and rests it on her chest. “Moya kotinka”, “my kitten” she whispers, and hums into what is left of her hair, saying it will all be over soon. Irina sighs, and walks back into the kitchen to her seat at the table. So many voices, so many pies to make, so many more apples to peel; she continues, diligent. In the background she hears the ambulance and wonders: who is sick? who is going to the hospital? whose turn it is to die? She picks up the small knife with the wooden handle and begins to peel, sighing as she puts one apple down and picks the next one up. The sisters are standing over her again, pointing and nagging and it takes all of her strength not to get up and yell, so she continues to peel and sigh. There is more screaming outside and Irina cannot help it but she covers her ears with her hands that are sticky with apple and puts her head down between her knees. She stays in this position until the last sister leaves. The ambulance might have been a memory at one time, now it is simply gone.
Irina sits up and rubs her eyes and looks at what is in front of her. The table is covered in apples, flour, pastry dough, cinnamon, sugar and she looks in wonder as they slowly begin turning into sewing machines and she sits back thinking of all the zippers that must be sewn on by 5:00. What is she supposed to do with the knife and why is it sitting there on the table? The rolling pin makes more sense, so she goes back to rolling out pastry. She looks over at the knife again, and this time picks it up and begins cutting out the shell. Just as she is fitting the third shell, Irina cuts her finger and blood begins dripping into a perfect little pool onto the pie shell. She stares at the blood and with her thumb tries to rub it into the pastry but her finger keeps dripping, and suddenly a baby starts crying, and Irina starts crying, and the pastry is covered in tears and blood that Irina tries to rub in. She finally takes her finger and sticks it in her mouth and sits and rocks herself calm.
There is loud crying coming from somewhere and Irina thinks it must be her mother who has not been able to leave Volodya’s body. She begins to cry herself and stands up and looks out at the sails and sky and wonders how it is that she is on this boat, and where she is going, and why she is going, and whether she will ever get back. Her mama needs her, her sisters need her, and her papa has told her that this new place will be better than the potato fields, but really, has this been the case? A woman walks out from beneath the sails and looks at Irina, shakes her head, and disappears. A baby begins to cry again and Irina holds her stomach and cries right along with that baby. She looks down and sees that her dress is now smeared with the blood that doesn’t seem to want to stop reminding her of knives and babies and ships and poor Volodya.
When Helen arrives to pick up the pies, nobody answers the door. She told her mother she would be there at 3:00 to pick up the pies for the church sale, and wonders now if something is wrong. Helen goes around the side of the building where she encounters Mrs. Diamondopolis who tells her between sobs some story about her son’s ball flying into Irina ’s tomatoes, and that when he ran out after it a car hit him, and he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but now he is fine. Mrs. Diamondopolis shakes her bony finger at Helen and begins going on about Irina and that something must be done, but Helen has now blocked her out. She feels terrible for Mrs. Diamondopolis but her worry really lies in the direction of the second story apartment where her mother lives. Yes, she tells the sobbing woman, I will try and get the ball. Blue, yes, ok. Jesus, she thinks, is all of bloody Park Extension doing their laundry today? She isn’t entirely sure why, but Helen is in a small panic as she mounts the stairs two at a time. She looks through the window and sees the linoleum table covered in pie shells, apple peels, apples, cinnamon, flour – it is as if there was a whirlwind of activity that froze for no apparent reason.
Ma! Helen opens the door and calls out but there is no answer. She lets herself in and notices a pie shell smeared in, yes, blood. What the hell is going on? Ma! Helen walks out of the kitchen and looks into the sun room and stops when she hears humming. Ma! Helen moves down the hall toward her mother’s room. She passes the bathroom and remarks that her mother again forgot to put in her dentures. The humming is a little louder but only because Helen is closer. She ignores the empty hooks on the walls knowing she will find the pictures her mother most likely hid later on. Helen stops and looks into her mother’s room. Irina is sitting on the edge of the bed rocking back and forth and humming. Ma? Irina does not look up. Instead she raises a blue ball onto which she has drawn two eyes, a nose and a mouth. She kisses it gently.