A Murdered Meal – A Short Story

 

chickens 2014It was a perfect meal.

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh-from-the-garden green beans with melted butter, right-off-the-stalk corn on the cob, homemade wheat bread, and apple pie for dessert. Hmmm.

Martha and I have been cooking together for well nigh over forty years now. Married young by today’s standards, we’ve stuck together through thick and thin. Good, home cooked meals have helped us along when precious little else did.

This particular meal made me more grateful than ever for her presence and comfort. I’ve become a stranger in this world. If it weren’t for Martha, I’d have given up.

They were a young couple, thirty-something, wearing tailored clothes and toting along the designated two kids, girls, seven and ten. The whole family exuded bubbly charm while freely sprinkling their opinions over pretty much everything.  Martha and I don’t entertain often, but Jeffery labored as a freelance writer for some kind of online food forum. He’d heard about our humble, country-style life and was looking for a story. I figured, why not? What harm could be done? Martha tells me I’m clueless. Guess she’s right.

We’re not Amish; we just live close to the land. A fair sized garden, chickens, bees, and a milk cow keep us plenty busy.  Since the kids grew up and away, we don’t need much.

Jeffery’s wife, Celeste, steered her husband into the kitchen with little effort. The kids trailed along behind. Celeste “oohed and aahed” over the hanging herbs, while Jeffery, with wide eyes, took in our native scene, mouth hanging open, like a man encountering the backwoods for the first time. He glanced at Celeste nearly every time he spoke. Asking permission, I suppose. Celeste seemed inclined to allow him a modicum of freedom, even in the wilds of rural Illinois.

Martha spread the table in grand style. Everyone dug in with relish. Well, almost everyone. The seven-year-old touched and fingered and squished her way across the landscape of her plate. The ten-year-old, a plumper version of Celeste, had such no inhibitions about the provender. Soon, a stack of clean bones lay on one side while a second slice of apple pie lay on the other.

Before long, Jeffery pushed back his demolished plate, wiped his lips, and leaned in with a gleaming smile.

“So, how do you do it?” His happy, glazed expression begged more than his words.

I smiled. Martha, gathering a few of the dishes, suppressed a proud smile. I leaned back, glad to have an interested audience. Few people care to listen to an old man’s success stories.

“Well, Martha, she raises ’em. We feed ’em well and put them on fresh grass at the first opportunity. When they’re fattened out, we call in our grandkids, and the whole family gets involved. The eldest boy, he gets the ax, while the—”

A strangled gasp alerted me to trouble. Celeste’s hand darted up protectively near the ten-year-old. A spiked glare informed Jeffery of some tender concern. The ten year old had nearly consumed her pie. Unaware and completely unconcerned.

Celeste’s voice quivered with the dramatic moment. “I haven’t told them…that you killed your chickens.”

My mind froze. My gaze rolled over to Martha who stood with the potato dish in one arm, waiting, I suppose, for something that made sense.

Jeffery stiffened, his eyes staring straight ahead, like a man about to be shot.

It was up to me. “Yes, we generally kill our chickens before we eat them.”

Celeste’s hand rose higher, anguish marring her features. Her voice lowered in desperation. “But she doesn’t know you kill them.”

I swallowed. Yes, I’d swung the ax on numerous occasions, and I taught my grandsons how to do the job quickly and efficiently. I had never felt accused by that knowledge before.

“It has to be done. Food has to be killed—”

“But they’re living beings…like us.”

I sighed and folded my hands in prayer. There was no delicate way to put this. “Don’t think so. You’re talking with us and digesting them.”

I guess I’m not surprised that the dinner came to a quick end at that point. Can’t say I was sorry, either.

Am I committing an atrocity when I swing my ax? Is Martha a butcher when she plucks, peels, and chops apples for pie?  Strange world we live in now. What will those girls feel when they discover that their bellies are full of murdered food? Hard to live with yourself when you think like that.

After the dishes were washed and put away, Martha and I sat in the living room by the wood stove. I reached for her hand. She is such a comfort. An honest comfort. Even after a murdered meal.

~~~

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Ringshttp://amzn.to/2lWBd00

The Adventures of Tally-Ho

Tally Ho spread 1_smWhile my husband was alive, we came up with a great idea to write a story based on the wonder of raising our kids in the country.  It seemed so right, like an apostolate. We knew we had been blessed in a mighty way, and that God had guided us to our little home and helped us to learn the amazing skills needed to garden and manage a mini-farm.  John took to homesteading like a fish to water.  Other homeschool dads used to call him “Our Amish Paul Bunyan.” So, it felt natural to share our joy and success with others. I wrote stories based on what we did every day: meals, working our little garden, nurturing nature, loving kids…loving God. John was going to create the illustrations since he had a wonderful knack for drawing.  Except he couldn’t.  Leukemia intervened, and that success was put off…forever it seemed.

After he passed away, I felt tugged to see our project through to completion.  But how? God has ways. I’m not sure if John was whispering in anyone’s ear, but somehow or another I met up with a wonderful illustrator who knew exactly what we had imagined. She put her talents to work, and the story unfolded better than I had imagined. It’s been published under the title: The Adventures of Tally-Ho. Tally-Ho was what John called our fourth daughter because she loved to gallop around the house on her imaginary horse. How we used to laugh about that.  What a wonder imagination brings to life!

As I state in the dedication to the story, John’s love made the stories true.  His vision is what made our real-life family possible.  As I contemplate the finished product, I wonder what God will do with this little book.  Surely, He has a plan. I very much doubt that it has anything to do with making money.  I pray it has something to do with loving families.

So Tally-Ho, like a new kid on the block, is finding its way in the world. I pray that it will be a light and joy to souls.  Perhaps it will be a vision of what might be…a hope, a dream, a longing that yearns to be fulfilled. Real dreams don’t die…they grow.

I think John would agree.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Ringshttp://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Simple Summer

flowers in AugustI’m sitting outside on the back porch, while Merry, the cat—a poor injured stray we saved—is sitting at my feet doing what cats do…resting and checking out the world whenever the mood hits. The pine trees sway in a gentle breeze while white, fluffy clouds sail serenely overhead.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so everything is green and gorgeous. A red rose in a nearby pot practically glows against the backdrop of pine trees. Various summer flowers bloom in their summertime brilliance. Flies and bees and a little jumping spider have also made an appearance. The chicks, still in the brooder house waiting for their outdoor pen are running about, trying their wings as they learn that the ground cannot hold them bound.

The awesome beauty of this summer day, the chirping multitude: sparrows, red-wing blackbirds, robins, cardinals, and cooing doves, the laughter of young children at play, the haunting melody played by one of the girls at the piano, rustling waves of breezes cascading over the fields of corn and beans all work together, creating a pallet of beauty that any artist would envy.

When I considered what to write on my blog today, no words would come.  Yet as I sit here surrounded by simple summer, I find I do not need words—just eyes and ears and a heart willing to believe that this is real.

When the winter winds blow, the sky laden with grey clouds and the birds silenced in their nests, I will remember this day. The yellow buttercups, the red rose, the buzzing bees will live in my heart and imagination. Even in my dreams, I will remember this day, and no matter the clouds or the cold and the barren waste of winter, summer will yet live.

A World Worth Saving

rainbow 3Recently, I read that there have been several cases where surrogate mothers discovered that they were carrying babies with downs syndrome and they were told to abort their babies by the biological parents, but they refused and decided to keep the babies.  I have also read, that Richard Dawkins believes that it is immoral to allow a “Downs Syndrome baby” to come to term. Notice, for him, the syndrome comes first, not the humanity of the baby.  For him, abortion is the only moral option.  I have to wonder at this current attitude in face of the barbaric cruelty of ISIS. After all, they believe that killing infidels is the only moral option.  Sometimes, those infidels are little children.

The other day, as I was walking with my son in the late evening, mourning over the recent gruesome tragedies inflicted by ISIS,  my son asked me how come it was gruesome for ISIS to behead men women and children, but there was little moral outrage when babies in the womb were dismembered and beheaded.  Abortion is every bit as violent as ISIS, but it is funded by US tax dollars.  Millions of babies have been brutally murdered through abortion in the last thirty years. It is so horrifically common it seems to slip by people’s conscious thought.  Every day in the US we basically behead innocent babies.

This leads me back to the eugenics movement to rid the world of people with Downs Syndrome.  I find it interesting that Christians and Downs Syndrome children are especially targeted for extermination.  Why is that? The people I have known with Downs Syndrome, and the parents who care for them, tend to be very happy people.  In fact, one mother  I know who recently lost her adult daughter with downs syndrome to cancer told me that her daughter was the best gift she ever had.  Her daughter taught her to love in a way she had never experienced before. Clearly, people with Downs Syndrome are still people.  Just like Christians are still people, even though they may not believe what ISIS believes.  Yet in both cases, there are those who would convince the world that we all would be better off without them.  Their kind.  Their influence. What is the danger exactly? Are they hurting anyone?  Are they aggressively trying to take over the world?  No, they just ask something of us that perhaps we do not want to give. People with Downs Syndrome ask for an unconditional love, which they more often than not, fully return. Christians ask for a sacrificial love, which, when lived as Christ lived, is also fully returned.

So I have to ask myself – what are we saving the world from? Love?  Perhaps we need to wonder less if we are saving the world, but rather, are we making a world worth saving.

Home Management

Warning—If someday you happen to be walking along and you cross in front of one your otherwise innocent-looking appliances and just happen to notice a bit of something, (could be dirt, could be a crayon, could be one of last year’s pasta dinner experiments) sticking out from underneath and you hear a little voice saying: “Maybe I should just check….”  Stop!  Think!  This could lead you places you do not want to go.  Trust me.

I just spent the morning facing things that I really didn’t want to know existed. There are more dirt & goo under appliances than are dreamt of in Man’s philosophy, Horatio!

The worst part is that even if you do happen to come out of the whole experience victorious, and you stand up again, (dirtier but still a semblance of your former self) sure, but there you are—facing a house full of other appliances looking at you…and now you know what they are hiding.

Listen while there is still time—Home Management isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.  Ignore that dust ball, kick the crayon further back, go outside, play ball with your kids, refresh your spirit with something wholesome.  Dirt exists, it is a part of life…and frankly…appliances LIKE to collect things.  Let them have their little fun.

May the best housekeeper learn her limits.