Mary’s Sandwiches

I sat cross-legged on the blanket with my two babies – our treasures set before us – the delicacies I’d climbed up onto the kitchen chair to pluck from the furthest reaches of the high wood-planked cupboards. Pastel colored tiny marshmallows, breadsticks, rusks, cheese, salami, mandarin oranges, baking chocolate, crackers, roasted peppers, marzipan, big soft pretzels, bean dip! Nothing ‘matched’, none of these foods were anything that ‘mattered’, really. They were just the usual things that somehow live along the edges of the kitchen. Like the Tree That Grows in Brooklyn. Weeds of food. But set out on that blanket on the floor cocooned in the tiny house under five feet of snow and all the world a solid frozen white, the forest with its trees fat and heavy falling towards and almost over the rooftop of this encapsulated scene where we sat talking nonsense and singing nursery rhymes – these ‘nothing’ foods became the most magnificent feast one could imagine.

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Mary, the blonde wisped woman, didn’t have a car. I’d stopped to ask if she wanted to go to the grocery store with me, since town was a good five miles from this steep mountain with the perilous rutted roads we’d somehow both ended up living on. She never wanted to go.

“Tim gets the groceries,” she’d say. Tim was the man at the head of the table. Tim was her second husband. Tim, she’d married to have a ‘good father’ for her children. Tim’s job was as a guard at the State Prison. Tim, left Mary day after day in their home with no money, no car, and not enough food.

The women of the town started talking about Mary. Her girls had been dropped off by their stepfather at more than one of the fun summer things planned for the town kids, and  everyone agreed – they were ‘nice kids’. But there was that one big problem: children were supposed to bring their own lunches and snacks for these day-long summer activities. And Mary’s girls always turned up empty-handed. They’d said they ‘weren’t hungry’, that they would eat at home later – and that’s what Mary said too when asked about it. That they would eat later, they didn’t need a snack they didn’t need a lunch they didn’t need anything all day long.

The other children shared with the girls. Some did. Some were instructed by their mothers to not share. “I don’t care how poor she is,” was the trumpeted final opinion voiced by first one then all who would say anything at all about it. “She can still send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Anyone can afford to send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

The thing was, I thought it likely that she didn’t have peanut butter and jelly in the house. And I also knew that she would not accept help.

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This is part two of the story, part one can be found here.

To be continued.

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Blaming it All on Castaneda and Dreaming of a Burger or Two

(continued from previous post)

The rabbit was expanding and contracting like the throat of a mating frog, in and out, larger and smaller. The ants hidden in the tree were making little screeches hik hik hik. And Hiram saw the toes of his cowboy boots stretch up towards his chin, sharp and pointy and now each one with a flirtatiously blinking eye centered halfway down, near his knees.

“Peyote,” was the last word Hiram actually heard sounded as a word in his reeling brain. He’d taken the wrong kind of cactus out of his pocket, stunned by the fall from the tree, thirsty. Why hadn’t he wrapped the thing up differently??!

He reached out towards the rabbit, hanging onto it, weeping, ineptly banging the knife against it. He was hungry. And it was his peyote crop failure that had brought him to this. There had been plenty to eat while the crop grew strong and green, ready for market. He was the source. Man! He wanted some pasta arrabiata! Shit! He wanted some mochi ice cream! God damn it all why had that crop failed??? But no, it had not failed, it came to his mind. He had eaten it all. It was Castaneda’s fault, really. Ruining the marketplace with his failed authenticity!!! But who cared. What mattered was that this little local rabbit stew was seriously not where it was at!

His arms seemed to be filling with the jack rabbit. It was growing again. The fur was becoming coarser, strange smelling, and it began to snort. Round it twisted, snorting, knocking Hiram sideways to fall back against the ant-singing tree. He lay back on the knotted roots and squinted at the mystery which had once been a rabbit.

It had become something different, something magnificent, something . . . . meaty. Meaty meaty meaty lipsmacking meaty noises were streaming from the stinky beasts nose. Hiram smiled, panted slightly, and waited his chance.

Dear Folks

Well we are on the boat it is about 9 o clock Had a nice time at Lucy. she certainly used us fine just us up a fine lunch and seen Wills folks will write and tell you all about it when we get home. xxx Mae

(to be continued)

In Texas the Hassenpfeffer is Huge

It hadn’t been easy for Hiram to tie that jack rabbit to the tree. It was sweltering, close to a hundred ten degrees even in the tiny bits of shade and the damn rabbit was bigger than he was from head to toe. But he was hungry, so he’d tied the hare to his back and climbed the tree, gasping and swearing as his boots slid and the heavy leather chaps slapped against the coarse umber bark of the tree. It seemed to him that the tree was reaching out to him, pulling him down, refusing to allow him ascent.

But he’d made it, tied the animals hind feet, secured the rope to the bough and let the burden fall with a swinging whoosh as the smell of hot fur and musk rose in the air.

“Damn it,” he swore with the little breath he could gather after falling down the tree trunk, landing on his back rattled and dripping with sweat, narrowly avoiding a boot spur to his upper leg as his right leg twisted underneath him. “I’m so sick and tired of hassenpfeffer.”

The image arose of endless stews filled with the enormous cuts of the jack rabbit so common in these parts, swimming juices filled with wild carrot, spring onion, coarse chicory, handfuls of wild oregano . . . and his throat closed in disgust. He’d had enough rabbit stew. But there really was no choice. It was rabbit stew or nothing.

It hadn’t always been this way. There had been a time, a better time, for Hiram. His hand lazily pulled out a piece of cactus from his pocket and as he peeled it of the coarse outer green skin, memories rose like a white haze, a bitter scent, a rose petal of pink softness aching at the edges. His past had been anything but simple, but there’d been so much more in it than these damn rabbits.

Tears of shame rose and close to spilled out, tears of shame at his lost past. And he’d come close to deciding to take a stand, a real stand, when everything went awry with a sharp resonance before his very eyes.

(to be continued)