Category Archives: short stories

The Recipe Card.

CHAPTER 50.

His was a gourmet’s gift. The slurries, alone, always subtley balanced. The rubs, same. You never wanted for naming a dominant spice; rather, the synergy.

And, he loved the prospect of a new “dish.” Let the plan gel, and then heartily get to it.

Yet, the scenario this time was different. A certain clarity pervaded the usually hazy atmosphere. The house had been cleaned, recently, reorganized too. No longer the customary chaos usually accompanying his binges when she rang the doorbell, unannounced, on a night he’d learned to expect her to be otherwise occupied giving private music lessons.

She’d lost count how many times over the years there’d been, oh, two bowls instead of one, an odd wine glass, fried chicken all but gone in the skillet. Then there was the bright yellow stethoscope draped hastily over the livingroom chair, as if somebody other than she had entered via the rarely used front door.

No; this time, the pizza stone nearly empty of more slices than even a fat man could consume, the large, antique China salad bowl oddly cleaned of its contents but, what was this?

A recipe card. For “Linguini Salad”.

Sitting alone, on the opposite counter. Handwritten, in rather large, round, legible script and clean, as if just penned that very day. Not a speck of cooking grease, not a corner turned, fresh as morning. And she, with her annoying visual memory, immediately identifying the writing as unrecognizable.

It had come from his ex-wife, he slurred. Oh; really. All those thirty odd years ago, still untouched by so much as a drop of oil.

And, calling for artichokes and “Paul Newman’s Own” dressing, the latter underscored with proud emphasis.

Why a natural chef would choose a salad recipe from the ex-wife which called for pasta and bottled dressing, to accompany a mammoth flatbread homemade pizza. Why, indeed.

Moving through the livingroom to the bathroom ( in search of the stash of Ivermectin ) and, re-emerging sooner than he was ready, she caught him stuffing something under the sofa cushion and then, spying her, deftly acting to smooth its surface.

Ah. What had we here, then. Black Nike workout pants, far too narrow for his overdeveloped calves. They were his, were they. Would he put them on, to see if they fit? No; he would not. Nor would he tell her how he’d spent the afternoon. He owed her nothing. In nearly six years of endless forgiveness for countless infractions, she had earned no explanations of any kind.

Two degrees of separation, and swift resolution: No; the ex-wife had never used Paul Newman’s Own dressing. On anything.

(Sorry, Paul.)

They say the secret is always in the sauce.

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Thus endeth the lesson.

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Copyright 1/18/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole, part, or by translation, permitted; sharing by blog link, exclusively, and not via RSS. Thank you for being honorable in a sea of filth.

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The Snooze.

CHAPTER 49.

Her niece was getting married the very next week. A lovely young woman, about the same age as she was when the body clock sounded its first alarm.

Instead of retiring “at a decent hour” as her beloved departed father would have insisted she decided to succumb to the more customary, post midnight mania and try on her intended outfit in front of the full length mirror. Her gut was talking; should she look frumpy, maybe last minute flight cancellations wouldn’t be the only reason to stay home.

The sleeveless jersey A line with its graduated greens to blues seemed a fit; thank God, becoming scrawny again still bore up under generic M sizing. Her faded greying hair, freshly trimmed and styled, seemed the right length for the scoop neck and bangly geometric necklace. Bohemian fabric ankle boots held up well around thick, multi colored socks and the olive stretch leggings, their color chosen to complement the bridal party palette, would likely work nicely to hide untanned calves. By all appearances, she was cleared to take off for the much anticipated event celebrating the last single child of her eldest brother’s brood.

Then, facing the glass, she saw them. Bubbles, and ripples, cascading down her forearms and over the tops of her hands. What?

Blood vessels. Every vein, bulging, like a 3-D map of the Interstate highway system. What? She stared, recoiling. Is that why she looked so old in the candid front porch photos beside the beloved little 4 year old music student? She’d thought it the bright sun, meeting the digital phone lens designed to capture detail beyond that which the human eye could see. But, this. This? This was how her arms looked – in real life?

Having melted all the midlife fat the previous pandemic year, she’d devolved to wrists the width of twigs. But, this was a different animal. This was a topography heralding the unmistakeable, unavoidable hallmark of old ladies everywhere. This was age.

At least, that’s what Google said. Skin, thinning; vein valves, weakening; blood, wearily making its endless, return trip back to the heart like some army of tired ants.

She’d remembered touching her grandmother’s skin, the part of her neck draping the throat, marveling at its velvety texture; was this nature’s way of making that which could barely be seen anymore in the half light of the old fashioned boudoir something to be felt, instead, tactile pleasure displacing what could no longer entice the eyes?

She wondered if a man would bear such a preference.

The gathering was a destination event, pulling all family members from the four corners of the continent to meet their new in-laws for the first time. As such she, the most remotely connected of any among her own kin, might put a kink in it. She’d stayed “home” to build her life; the rest had moved miles away. Career choice, and time commitment, plus the absence of proximity had formulated an equation, the opposite side of its equal sign a brand to a relationship void of social attachment; she would be as much a stranger as the whole lot of those awaiting their guests’ arrival.

Add to all that, age. Who’d want to talk to the old, childless aunt? Only those trained in the art of polite exchange would muster up. Could she adopt character, be the jester, an angle proving workable in the past? Oh, wait; in this clan, that would be the patriarch’s domain. Rob him of his coveted role she would not, lest he be named naked Emperor in front of all.

These were anticipating their first opportunity to establish extended family connection. Energy was to be focused. Best not to distract, by provoking extraneous noblesse oblige. Detach; observe; record, like the ubiquitous camera filming the reality show. Would anyone notice?

She’d been 36, the year of her own wedding; her niece was now 38. Twenty four additional months spent deliberating, in quiet expectation. Like ten minutes of Snooze on the alarm clock, more time to resist the inevitable.

Maybe the airline would discover a staff shortage. Perhaps maintenance, or an empty terminal bay, would send the schedulers in a mad dash through their Rubik’s Cube of impossible variables.

She’d let reality play, sans voyeur’s lens. Wedding days came, and wedding days went. Marriages were supposed to endure. Time to take ten, and wait it all out.

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Copyright 9/4/22. Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, the old aunt, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole, part, or by translation. Sharing by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for sitting with your own family.

littlebarefeetblog.com

SHORT STORIES: A Category.

Most writers derive from personal experience. Those who do not admit to doing so are lying. This category of the blog became its own, after several pieces had already hit Publish and seemed to stand alone as fictitious “Chapters” or stories unto themselves. In this author’s case, some so called Chapters are essential fantasy; still others are based in thinly veiled, frequently embellished, reality. If referenced, no actual identities are disclosed. Should you think you recognize anyone as you read, keep your suspicions to yourself. These pieces, as written, are fiction. Fiction is designed not only to entertain, but to teach.

Thank you!

Ruth Ann Scanzillo, author.

*Click on Short Stories, in the category banner at the top of the Home page.

littlebarefeetblog.com