Kind Gestures by S. Webster
Margaret – 1:30 pm
Margaret sees El out in the garden when she drives up. “Hi, how are you doing today?”
“Okay, I am just checking to see if there is anything that needs picking,” El says.
“I brought some banana bread for you,” Margaret tells her. “When I see that half peck bag of over ripe bananas for only $1.49 for the lot, I can’t help myself.”
“Come on in out of this heat while I wash up,” El says. “I can smell that bread from here,
Margaret. Is it still warm? If not, lets heat it up, then we can watch the butter disappear.”
“Good idea. If we don’t see it, we didn’t have it,” Margaret laughs.
They head straight to the kitchen and El turns on the tap while Margaret turns on the oven. A large pot sits over a warm burner. The lid is covering what Margaret doesn’t even need to look at. It’s the same as last week, a light brown sludge of a soup with hunks of carrots visible. Just that bit of orange makes it not look like a heavy gravy. It’s ugly but it is good. Especially good when Margaret didn’t have to make it. El has probably been eating from this pot for two days now. After Gerald died El cleared off the top shelf of the refrigerator and adjusted its height to fit this pan. All the meat there was in the house was chunked up and cooked into a soup with vegetables from her garden. Now she didn’t even bother with the meat. It was only there for Gerald because men need meat and lots of it. Women can do without. El planned on eating just vegetables and cheese from now on. Maybe some crusty bread and crackers, maybe an egg now and then – but no meat, not anymore.
El says, “Sorry the soup is hot, Margaret. On a day like today it doesn’t seem like such a good idea. But I tried eating some of it cold yesterday; right out of the refrigerator and it wasn’t so good. It tasted as bad as it looks. But heated up it has more flavor and I swear I feel cooler after I eat it hot.”
“It’s fine,” Margaret tells her. “There is no way I can make homemade soup for one, so I am happy to have yours.”
They pull up chairs to the small table and face each other over steaming bowls, warm banana bread and butter.
“Have you been to town yet?” El asks.
“Just to the library to get some new books,” Margaret says. “The place is so quiet. Seems no one uses libraries anymore. You never see anyone sitting down enjoying a good read in there. Not like you used to. People only go in now to use the computers and get a quick lesson on how to search for something that was easier to find in a book.”
“I don’t even bother to go to the library, Margaret. I have more books sitting on the shelves here than I would ever care to pick up,” El says.
Margaret takes a glance around toward the bookshelves in the front room and thinks she would be hard put to count more than twenty-five books; magazines all over, but very few books.
“Seems there is plenty for you to read right here, El. But if you ever want something different, Anna can find it for you at the library. She has built quite a collection since she’s been there,” Margaret says.
“If the urge ever strikes me, Margaret, I will keep that in mind. More butter?”
Margaret knew El was unlikely to read any more than she did now which was darn little. It wasn’t that long ago when she tried to get her to join the book club that had started up in town. El wanted nothing to do with it and even Margaret didn’t last long. All they wanted to read was “self-help”, spiritual, and what Margaret liked to call “permission” books. She remembers when she told El about the last meeting she attended.
They were having a discussion about what to read next, “We should read Eat, Pray, Love. My cousin read it and said it really gave her the confidence to just be herself, follow her own dreams.” To which Margaret of course had to ask how her cousin was doing with that, what in her life changed, did she get a divorce and wander off to eat good food, do a little praying, find the love of her life or was she still at home over in Nelson with her husband of thirty some years?
“I don’t think I am cut out for belonging to a book club, El. With their taste in books and the realization that I don’t really want to listen to their opinions, I’m surprised I lasted three meetings and three “aren’t I wonderful and you can be too” books,” Margaret tells her.
“You were probably just at a low point after John passed and thought you needed the company,” El says.
“It was a bad choice for me. Now I can read what I want when I want and don’t have to talk about it to anyone. Except Anna, she always asks what I thought of something she recommended and doesn’t volunteer what she thought of it unless I ask,” Margaret says.
The library has several of what Margaret prefers to reads, historical novels, mysteries and simple good fiction. She considers biographies and autobiographies to be just more enhanced histories pretending to be interesting.
“You want to take some of this soup home with you, Margaret? El asks.
“No thanks. It may be El, that that was as good as it was going to get. And we got to it just in time,” Margaret laughs. “But don’t forget to call me for the next one. Maybe you could share your recipe sometime.”
“The recipe is simple. Whatever vegetables you have, water, salt, pepper and if you want it to taste special, just add some garlic powder, not garlic salt.” El informs her as she walks Margaret out.