Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: 24 Hours (01/27/11)
TITLE: Soup for the Soul
By sandra hoolihan
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Virginia pulled up to her house and looped all the shopping bags over her hands. It was a lazy habit, exchanging the tedium of repeated trips to the car with one ridiculously overloaded trip, but she always chose a single trip. The shopping bag handles dug into her skin as she heaved herself up to the doorway then attempted to fit the key into the door. The bags swayed back and forth between the lock and key making it even more difficult. She almost didn’t notice Jack, her neighbor to the left, standing on her stoop watching her with a vacant look. Upon closer inspection, Virginia realized his eyes were red and puffy and he looked crumpled and worn.
“Hi Ginny. I need a favor.,” he said with a dry raspy voice. “Would you mind checking in on the cats this weekend? My father-in-law passed away this morning and we will be heading upstate in a couple days to help with the arrangements.”
“Sure John,” Virginia said, finally succumbing to the pain and dropping the bags in her right hand onto the ground. “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Is there anything else I can do? ”
“No,” he said picking up the bags and once again roping them over her sore red hand. “It’s been a rough night, but I think we have it under control. I have to get back to Cindy. She’s a wreck.”
Virginia watched him drag himself back across his yard then let herself in. The door creaked to a close as she let the bags from both hands drop to the floor. She sank into her favorite red velvet reading chair and contemplated the circle of life that surrounded her home as she watched her onions roll across the floor. The faces of John and Sarah filled her mind like a kaleidoscope moving in and out in random patterns while the bags sat obediently at the front door waiting for her to gather herself up and head to the kitchen to start the soup.
The base of the soup consisted of diced tomatoes, onions and green peppers. Although each of these vegetables were fabulous on their own, when mixed together they seemed to form a fusion of flavor so irreplaceable that Virginia referred to them as her trinity mix. She had made this soup so many times that she could mindlessly rely on pinches and dashes of instead of specific amounts. In the quiet of the kitchen, her mind moved to prayer as she cooked.
First she allowed the vegetables to soften and sweat before they could produce their full flavor. Dear Father in heaven hear my prayer. Next she filled the empty pot with flavorful the chicken stock. Lord you have blessed us with joy. Send us comfort in our grief. She added a variety of beans. Bless the new life you gave. Then she added pasta and more spices. Bless, Father, the family that lost their father. The hambone was lowered into the pot. It looked ghastly, but she knew the value it would add to the soup. Bless our neighborhood as we celebrate and mourn. Finally a single salty tear slipped into the mixture and she allowed it to disappear into the soup. Stirring, she said, “Amen” and allowed the flavors to simmer for the rest of the day as she headed back to her chair to rest.
Later, she would ladle the cooled soup into containers to deliver it to the neighbors who would surely be exhausted with the events of the past 24 hours. As she slipped into bed, she ended her day with the prayer of Job 1:21, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
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