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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Green (10/22/09)

TITLE: Ninety Years of Frying, Picking & Cracking
By Lisa Harris


Dragging out from underneath her cabinet Clara brought out her electric skillet, stained and crusty from years of use. On top of her counter was a gallon jug of vegetable oil that she would carefully pour into the skillet. Turning the temperature up to 375 degrees she turned her attention to her prized green apples. Beautiful, shiny, Granny Smith green apples, so polished they mirrored a tad bit of her reflection.

Pushing back a stray hair she did wonder who that woman was reflected in the shiny green apple. Worn wrinkles weathered by life were etched deeply in her skin, hair as white as a fresh blanket of snow reflecting the morning sun. Beauty gone at ninety, but not the sparkle….”Lord,” she said, “let me keep my sparkle.”

Out of her silverware drawer came her sharp knife, the one she used when peeling apples. Around and round she went, peeling dropping off in one long piece; this came from years of practice. She sugared, buttered, and threw in a bit of cinnamon cooking to just the right lumpy creaminess. After getting her dough ready, she put a heaping spoonful of the sweet-smelling pie filling on top, then covering it up she pinched the edges together. Ready for the grease, she eased them in one at a time, listening to the happy sizzle.

But the happy sizzle didn’t seem to penetrate her lonely heart. You would think she’d be used to being alone after thirty-eight years, but she wasn’t. She still missed her husband, Floyd. At sixty-two he’d moaned in pain, rolled over in bed, kissed her one last time and died of a massive heart attack. Good man, hard worker, loved the Lord and his family but life had to go on. Now, truth be told, Clara had plenty of suitors come to call, but she was never the least bit interested. Why would she want another man to clean-up after...landsakes, she had enough pies to fry without a man to fuss over.

Sighing, Clara, ambles on her knee-replaced legs back to her recliner thinking just a few more pies to fry so she’d just close her eyes to ‘rest ‘em for a minute.’

“Mom—Mom,” her daughter Judy shouted shaking her. “Wake-up Mom.”

Clara tried rousing herself by sitting straight up.

“What’s the matter, honey?” Clara coughed out overcome by smoke.

“Mom, you left the frying pan on with the grease in it, had I not come by, the smoke alone would have killed you.”

“Why I didn’t do that…I was frying pies and I remember turning everything off so I could just rest a minute.”

“No Mom—you didn’t turn it off…this is the fourth time this has happened. We’ve got to do something or you’re gonna meet Jesus looking like a fried pie.”

Clara tearing up over what she’d done, let the knowing drops fall onto her stained apron.

Later that evening, after all the windows had been opened allowing the smoke to clear, Judy called all her siblings together.

All five gathered in the living room, even Clara sat in the corner in her quilt-covered recliner cracking pecans and picking the meat out.

“We need to discuss M-O-T-H-E-R…” whispered Judy even though their Mom was hard-of-hearing.

The oldest son, Cecil said…” there’s always the assisted living place.”

“Well, I’d offer my home but my health isn’t good,” said Sue.

Barbara, the easy one, suggested, “We could each take a week and trade off.”

Tony the baby at fifty thought maybe hiring a live-in would be a good thing.

Clara just sat and cracked, taking it all in--at least what she could hear.

“Mom, what do YOU want to do?” Judy spoke loudly in her mother’s ear.

Clara stirred about without missing a beat in her cracking, well….all I want is to fry my apple pies, she said.

Cecil sighed… “Mom, you need to stop frying pies, you have money to live on, so why don’t you just enjoy life?”

“You don’t understand son, frying pies brings me joy so if I can’t be useful and give to people, well then you might as well dig me that grave beside your daddy.”

The “kids” looked at each other…knowing Mama won when she talked about digging graves; so it was decided she would stay home, fry pies and a live-in would be hired.

Clara kept on cracking and picking, but a little smile began as she looked up and met her children’s eyes….yes, she indeed still sparkled.

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This article has been read 385 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Carol Penhorwood 10/29/09
Good characterization! It is so difficult when our parents are growing older to know what is best, but not as difficult as when they are gone!
Brenda Shipman 10/30/09
This story hit close to home for me, as my sister and I had to wrestle with the same issues with our own mother. Great job of helping us feel what your MC felt and thought. My mom, also, gleaned a lot of her purpose & significance in life from being a great cook, except she made fried apricot pies. Precious story!
Dan Blankenship 10/31/09
Excellent...and the first part of the story made me very hungry!

May God bless!

Dan Blankenship

Rachel Phelps11/03/09
I love the content here, but I felt like the execution got a little choppy. Sometimes that word limit is killer. Great characters created here, I just wish we might have connected a little more with them. As a granddaughter of two people with Alzheimer's who recently moved out of my parents' house and into assisted living, the conflict felt real.