Cutting an Onion

Rob Parrish

 

“Some of them cries about that
Some of them dies about that
Everybody fightin' about that spoonful
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonful”

—Howlin’ Wolf, “Spoonful”


From the kitchen window the garden seemed unscathed by any intrusion, the soil free of any noticeable prints, plants still bountiful with produce. Callie placed her picking basket next to the kitchen sink and started the hot water. She placed the freshly picked carrots, celery and onion into the right basin of the sink, and then kept her hands busy with soap under the faucet in the other, paying closer attention to her ring finger than her nails. She grabbed some vinegar rinse from under the counter and sprayed the produce. She then picked up vegetables one by one to give them a thorough rinse in the sink.
Callie’s eyes drifted to the garden again. The heads of sunflowers, which lined the northern side, stood over the chicken wire that surrounded the 10’ x 10’ plot. It was a staring contest she never won, for the garden was always there and always beautiful.


It was still early in the morning and lunch preparations were already under way as Callie hovered over a stockpot. Her right arm poured the broth while her left generously applied the necessary spices. She placed the pot on the burner and set it to low. Callie then broke off two stalks of celery and sliced them into hearty half-inch pieces. Next the carrots, which she never peeled, knowing most of the nutrients were in the skins of the vegetable; these too were cut into half-inch slices. Callie cut the onions’ ends off, sliced them down the middle, and began to peel. After the onions were diced, all vegetables were put in the broth.
She preheated the oven, and from the refrigerator pulled three chicken breasts, which were already cleaned of fat from the night before. Before placing the breasts into the baking dish, she dressed them with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and made sure to grease the dish.


It was almost 11 o’clock, and soon her husband, Horace, would come home, and the sound of the screen door swinging open would fill the house; his entrances were abrupt. While the chicken baked in the oven, Callie put frozen egg noodles into the broth, roughly half a bag. She had an hour to let the chicken bake, cut it up, put it in the soup, and prepare the table.


Like clockwork, Horace came walking up the front steps at noon. He shuffled through the living room and settled himself at the head of the table in the dining room. On the place setting was a deep, round bowl filled to the brim with piping hot chicken noodle soup. The bowl was on a dinner plate, buttered bread hung off the sides. There was a tall glass of milk too.


Callie was cleaning up the baking dish and again her attention drifted towards the garden. Her eyes were on the sunflowers, their heads angled towards the sun. She contemplated what stage her sunflowers were, and how long they had left. She finished washing the dish and joined Horace at the table.

 

His bowl was already empty, the bread devoured, the milk drunk. His shoulder blades were flush with the chair’s back, and his hands gripped at the edge of the table as he exhaled fully, pushing his stomach towards the spoon’s handle. He wiped his mouth with a crumpled napkin and turned to a staring Callie. Their eyes never stayed locked for long in these moments.


“Well, there is still sunlight and still money to be made. I must be getting back.” Her eyes acted like sunflowers, following his as he pushed himself back from the table. He shuffled back through the living room and made his way onto the porch. While Horace was struggling to put on his boots, Callie got up to clear his place setting. She heard that familiar stomping of a boot being forced on. She retired to the kitchen. As she filled the basin with warm water to wash his dishes, she looked out to her garden again, and her eyes began to water as though she was cutting an onion for the first time.

 

 


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