Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Week(s) (02/10/11)
- TITLE: Pickling
By Rachel Phelps
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
• 4 lbs of cucumbers
• 3 heads fresh dill
• 1/2 cup salt
• 1/4 cup vinegar
• 8 cups water
• 2 cups sugar
Etta gathered the ingredients and lined them up on the counter. Her mother made these every year, and Dale had been hinting for weeks that their first year of marriage should be commemorated with a batch. Now she just had to follow the steps.
Mother had told her since she was a child that pickle-making was an art. Preparing the brine wasn’t so difficult. It was waiting for the pickles to take the brine that took some doing. The house reeked of vinegar for three weeks, and many a good pickle had been ruined by impatience.
Impatience. Her downfall. The few times she’d helped her mother, Etta had been the cause of ruining many a good pickle.
Still, Dale loved those pickles. She would make an effort, for his sake.
Week 1, 1957
The door slammed. Etta jumped out of the easy chair and hurried into the kitchen. The vinegar all but singed her nostrils as she opened the mudroom door to greet her husband.
“Have good day, dear?” she asked, leaning over for a quick kiss.
He ignored it.
He was caked in dirt. For a farmer, that sign was ambiguous. Etta searched his face. Not such a good day. Then again, good days had been rare since…
Dale grunted. “What’s for dinner?”
“Chicken salad. I had to use the last of Mother’s pickles, so there aren’t as many - ”
“What about ours?” Dale snapped. “Aren’t those confounded things done yet? They’ve been stinking the place up for five days, now.”
“It takes 21 days,” Etta snapped back. “I told you that when I started. You’re the one who said we had to have them.”
“Well, if I’da known it would take this long…”
“You’da changed your mind,” Etta finished. “Well, it’s too late now.”
She pressed the inside of her wrist against her stomach, longing for the sense of life within. Nothing. Even the flutter that had precipitated their wedding had gone. Dead.
Impatience ruins everything.
Week 2, 1988
“Mother, you can’t be serious.”
Donna sat at the kitchen table, nose wrinkled against the smell even as a tear traced down her cheek. Etta took the lid off the pot and started skimming off the scum that floated to the top.
Donna slammed her fist against the table, more tears spilling over. “You mean I’m just supposed to forget it happened?”
“No.” Etta kept her eyes on the pot, carefully wielding her spoon. “Never forget. Just give it time to heal.”
“Easy for you to say. Dad never cheated on you.”
“That doesn’t mean we never had to forgive each other for anything.”
“Will you stop fiddling with those pickles and look at me?” Donna shrieked.
Etta put down the spoon and opened the pantry, ignoring her daughter’s angry huff. She returned with a jar of last year’s pickles and set them in front of Donna.
“Take those and go home.” Donna looked up, aghast. “You’re not staying here. You’re going to go home to your husband and pray about this and stay with it until you’ve forgiven Bob.”
“That’s not going to just happen, Mom – “
“I know. Particularly not when you run away from it.”
“I don’t have as much patience as you do – “
“Impatience spoils many a good thing, dear.” Etta pushed the jar toward her. “Now get home.”
Week 3, 2010
The door slammed. Etta leaned away from the pot just as Sarah came bursting through the door.
“Grandma!” she squealed, enveloping Etta in a bone-crushing hug.
“How’s my college girl?”
“Ready to be done.” Sarah deposited her bag in the corner. “Are they ready?”
Etta fished one out. “Taste it and see.”
Sarah all but melted against the counter as she chewed. “Perfect. I don’t know how you get them to taste like this.”
“Following the recipe seems to do the trick.”
They laughed together, but Sarah’s smile suddenly faded. She leaned back, examining her pickle.
Etta didn’t respond immediately. There was no ring on her finger.
“I don’t know. I love him,” Sarah took another bite. “I’m just not sure I’m ready.”
“You’re young. Do you have to rush?”
“He says it’s time.”
“Doesn’t mean it is.”
Sarah rested her head on Etta’s shoulder. “I’ll think on it.”
“Pray on it.”
Sarah nodded. “Can I have another pickle?”
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