The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
The Summer of the Pies, the Prequel
By Julie Terry Cartner
“My first pie? Not my finest moment, I’m afraid.” Mom looked at me with half a laugh and half a groan. “We got married in September, so apples were the fruit in season. Bill loved anything sweet, so I decided to make him an apple pie. So far, my cooking had been hit or miss, but he’d gamely eaten what I fixed and kept his thoughts to himself. His mother was an exceptional cook, so I had no illusions that he was actually enjoying my cooking. ‘This time,’ I’d vowed, ‘I’m going to wow him with a perfect apple pie.’
“I knew the ingredients, so all I had to do was mix them together, roll out the crust, put it in a pan, add the apples, cover the top, and I’d have apple pie, right? Simple.
“Right! I’ll never forget the mess. I gathered my ingredients: flour, salt, shortening, and water, and my measuring cups and spoons. They were a wedding present from Aunt Julia, did you know?” Mom said, pointing to the slightly dented tin cups and spoons sitting on the counter. “Anyway,” she continued, “I knew the ingredients, and I thought I knew the amounts but had no idea of the process. I mixed all the ingredients together, but instead of getting a ball of pie crust dough, I had a gloppy, goopy mess.” Laughing a bit, she added, “It was disgusting, part of it sticking to the bowl and my hands, and the rest dripping, or rather oozing, across the counter and down the cupboards.
“I remember thinking, what kind of farmer’s wife couldn’t make a stupid apple pie? Me, that’s who! Frustrated but resolute, I scraped the mess into the trash can and did what I should have done in the first place. Bill’s mother, your Grandma Jessie, had been nothing but kind to me even though Bill had chosen a city girl for his wife instead of one of the many local girls who had set their caps for him. Unwilling to let her down, I headed for the farm and help.
“Taking one look at my tear-stained but determined face, Jessie put aside what she was doing and simply asked how she could help. Pouring out my frustration at my failed pie crust and my overall lack of knowing how to cook, I looked her in the face and asked, ‘Will you teach me?’ It seemed like a simple thing, but after having a mother who neither cooked nor supported me, it was a big step. But in the way of Grandma Jessie, that’s all it took. ‘Of course,’ her simple answer.”
Looking at me seriously, Mom continued. “Don’t ever mistake kindness for weakness. Jessie was kind, but she wasn’t a pushover. She taught me, but she didn’t do anything for me. She made one pie while I watched, measured and wrote down the steps, then, sweeping the counter clean, she watched as I made another.” Laughing, she added, “She also watched while I cleaned the kitchen!” Getting serious again, Mom concluded, “But when I slid that apple pie into the oven, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that I wouldn’t have gotten if she’d done the work for me, and we both knew it. I learned how to make an apple pie that day, but I also learned a much more important lesson. Pride and determination will only get you so far, but you’ll go a lot further if you swallow that pride and ask for help. And through her actions, Grandma Jessie showed me the meaning of true kindness.”
“So, to answer your question, Julie, my first attempt at making a pie was a total disaster, but the one that I put in front of your father that night after dinner was a resounding success.”
By Marie Craig
Once upon a time in the kingdom of birds, there were sometimes forums of debate amongst the different kinds of birds. Almost all the members of the kingdom were friends and helpful to the other members, except for the cowbirds. This variety had an obnoxious habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other species of birds, but one at a time in different nests to not be discovered in their slovenly habit. Some of the less observant birds would not even notice and would tend the nest and feed all the young, even the ugly, huge one that was bigger than them. These were the adult birds that had great respect and humility for all but were lacking in wisdom for caring for their own.
However, some of the birds realized what was happening and would actually push the foreign egg out of the nest. The hummingbirds were especially aware of this since they were the smallest bird and had the smallest nest. While they had respect for all birds, they were not willing to let the cowbird’s evil habits threaten their own young.
Mrs. Hummingbird found the female cowbird near her own nest one day, eyeing the possibility of dumping her duty to another. Even though she was small, she was lively and assertive. “Look here, Mrs. Cowbird, you need to take responsibility for your own children. Our young birds are a gift and a joy. We are endowed on high to be the proud and ever-serving parents of our own offspring. A kingdom that does not treasure its own children is a kingdom that is full of selfishness and wickedness. You need to change your ways and rear your own children or not have any children at all.”
Off the Couch
By Gaye Hoots
After a lazy morning enjoying breakfast, checking my emails, scrolling Facebook, and watching sailboats, I decided it was time to get off my couch. Sometimes I make up errands because I am getting attached to a sedentary lifestyle. I had just finished reading a book I borrowed from The Bean, a local coffee shop. The Bean is almost as laid back as my current lifestyle.
I drove into Oriental and saw The Bean was busy as usual. The regular baristas could juggle orders, converse with the regulars, and give directions to newcomers without breaking a sweat. The owner was training a young man who looked much more youthful than he probably was. His bowl-cut bangs hung over his eyebrows, and he was sweating as he took orders. The owner was giving him directions as he attempted to fill them.
Counting a half dozen people ahead of me, I eased over to the lending library section in a corner niche to return my book. A girl was sitting against the bookcase and speaking loudly to her computer, apparently doing a live podcast. It was a squeeze, but I managed to replace the book.
There was more noise than I ever noticed before as customers called out their orders, the owner gave step-by-step directions to his trainee, and the girl continued her podcast. As the young man filled each order, the person quickly exited instead of lingering as they usually did. While I stood in line, I focused on the view of large ships docked in the water across the street.
I sympathized with the young man’s struggles and kept my order simple, “A large, unsweet iced tea, please.”
“What size do you want?” he asked. “Large,” I replied. “Was that sweet tea?” he asked, and I repeated, “Unsweet, please.”
He drew the cup of tea, filling the cup to the brim with ice. Usually, I remembered to ask for light ice, but I was not about to remark on this now. The owner checked the cup just then and instructed him that he should have filled the cup only one-third full. He did not dump out some of the ice and add tea. He set the cup aside and started over. When he rang up my tea, he stated $2.03. I gave him a $5 bill and laid a dime on the counter so I would get back 3 $1 bills. He picked up the dime, dropped it into his tip jar, and gave me $1.97 in change. I muttered a “Thank you” and made my escape. Before me, the others in line had taken their orders to the porch and were eating there. One woman caught my eye and smirked.
I admired the young man for his effort but was looking forward to getting back to my couch. When I pulled into the parking lot at my condo, I could see my upstairs neighbor washing her deck. Water was cascading onto my deck below, so I had to try to dodge it to get into my door. Dang, that couch looked good.
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