Canned Pressure

Warm bodies press against one another, sweat mixing, dripping, as they work.  Red slicks across fingers, dark as blood, as paring knives slice through to well seasoned thumbs.  Too many bodies in the kitchen, too close, too much in the heat of summer.  August habits never lost.  Little fingers pick and pull, splashing in the cool water in the corner.  Never shushed, for this is the time for raucous.

These women, of this family, gathered to do the annual deed. Slaughter of the seasons fruit.  Carefully mix, measure poor.  Boil.  Don’t forget to boil that pure, lest poison come for our children, like in Grandmothers’ lore.

Keep going, fingers numb, tastes dull, senses overwhelmed by the heat and the bodies pressed in.  Keep going before they turn.  Harvest and wash and carve and pour.

Stir, spin and boil.  Stay away from the pot, it might explode they tell you, little fingers in the cold water.  But now, young woman, elbows up, man that machine.  Stir before the burn, little splatters etched forever in your forearms.  No time to stop, no time to wash.  Stir, spin and boil.

Fill them, before all is lost.  Ignore the fact your fingers burn, hold tight, spin tight, ease in, before it’s time.  Then lock the great machine.  Once too young to oversee, a little gage.  But now you read.

It’s jelly season.

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This flash fiction was inspired by Daily Promt’s The Heat Is On.


Ritual of Return

It was the same each time, when they returned, each from a different destination, hers for work, his for pleasure- though he had done much better with his time.

They would talk, annoying the server, without remembering to check the menu to order. She would peel away the layers, like an onion he would think. A hat, a scarf, a sweater, a shirt- down to the tee shirt and St.Christopher which adorned her neck, tarnished with too many wears, too few moments of attention.

He knew the jingle of those talisman, a simple cross she had worn when they were young, dents from the nervous teething of a teen aged traveler. She would run her fingers over them, smoothing flat the icon of a failed Saint, rounding edges of the Christ knot, and they would discuss the day, the night, the trip.

It was everything they needed. In the dark corners of a pizza chain, picking at pepperoni with their fingers, ignoring the grumbling staff. This night was theirs from mission and a field visit. No husband, no wife, no work or church or requirements.

Just them. In the ritual of return.

Flash Fiction, prompted by Daily Post’s Time after Time