It was half past seven in the morning and Eddie T. was already up and stirring an enormous black pot full of the bright yellow squash she planned to can that day. She hummed absentmindedly as she wiped the perspiration from her ancient face with the edge of her rose-embroidered apron. Though the hour was early, the kitchen already had the feel of mid-afternoon due to the hickory fire that blazed inside the antique wood stove where Eddie T. continued to do all of her cooking. In the storage shed behind the garden, a modern “radar range” languished new and never lifted from its crate. It had been a gift from her daughter-in-law, Jessie, but Eddie T. mistrusted the new stove’s shiny chrome and doubted its ability to brown the crust just right on a fresh loaf of bread. She felt this way, at least in part, because Jessie had chosen the appliance. Everyone within smelling distance of Jessie’s farm knew that she burned most everything she turned her hand to. Eddie T. never ceased to be amazed at how far the charred smell of burned beef and biscuits could travel on an evening breeze. It only made sense that such a person could not be relied upon to make an intelligent decision about something that was meant for cooking.
Justine crept up to the back door, pressed her face softly against the screen, and quietly watched her grandmother’s preparations. Eddie T. moved back and forth along the kitchen counters with thoughtful precision. Carefully, she poured boiling water from a copper kettle into the tall round jars that sat like sentinels in dishpans of battered enamel. Justine knew she had to wait until Eddie T. was completely engrossed in her work or she wouldn’t have a chance of making it past her undetected. If luck was truly with her, which it never had been before, she would be able to sneak inside quietly, make her way to the table unobserved, and be there, sitting smugly, when her grandmother turned around from the sink. It was a kind of cat-and-mouse game the two of them played whenever Justine came to visit, which was almost every day, except for Sunday. These days, Jessie kept her daughter to herself and away from Eddie T. on the Lord’s day.
Justine blamed the enforced Sunday boycott on the TV preachers her mother had listened to during a two-week bout with the flu. Before that, her mother had been