He works long hours in the fields. Back-breaking work, he says each night, but still he returns to the fields every sunrise. I’d help if I could. That’s out of the question now, however. An unfortunate tractor injury has kept me inside, confined to canning and prepping our harvest for market. But those fields aren’t going to tend to themselves…so we’ve hired help.
I watch the group of them work, laboring under the hot sun. Sweating enough to fill the horse troughs. Something about the glistening, sun-soaked bodies makes me miss it. Their muscles tense and taut, as if they will nearly burst apart their skin. That’s where I belong, to be honest–after all, canning has never been for me. I’d sooner trade my life than willingly put myself through another season of this. I’m not sure what’s worse, the waiting while each batch is bubbling, or feeling like I’m losing my mind by misplacing jars and tops, never to find them again.
Come to think of it, more than just the jars have gone missing. My great-grandfather’s boiling pot isn’t on the top shelf where I last put it. And the other day I couldn’t find any packets of jello left. They’re my husband’s favorite. I assume the hands we hired have sticky fingers and empty stomachs. Either way, I’ve made due. Although, boiling jars in a substandard pot means boil overs burns are far more likely.
No surprise when one such boil-over nearly peeled a patch of the skin on my hand right off. I’ve been sentenced to bed rest as per my husband’s orders. I told him this burn didn’t require that kind of rest, but I obliged to sooth his worries. Yet each day, as he tends to the fields, I swear I hear someone inside the house. I’ll call out, but there’s no response. From the nearby window I can see the field hands outside, but still the clanging and chiming of noise downstairs carries on throughout the day.
After so many instances, I can’t take it anymore and check from the top of the stairs. I call out to whoever may be down there, but like always there’s no reply. I tell my husband at night someone has been in the kitchen. Chopping. Boiling. Canning. He tells me the stress of not meeting our quote has gone and spoiled my thoughts. He tells me after tomorrow’s day of work, he’ll prepare a meal for me himself, to calm my worries this time.
I wait the entire day, shuddering at each jingle of noise from downstairs. I can’t count everyone in the field like days before. Someone is missing this time. Perhaps that explains to noise. Perhaps my dearest is getting a jump on tonight’s meal. Finally, he appears in the doorway. He has an apron on and a smile like nothing I’ve ever seen. Dinner is served he says. I make my way down, one stair at a time, to witness a holidays worth of food spread across our dining room table. Fruits of our labor, he says.
Seated under the flickering light of the dining room, we tuck in. He scoops spoonfuls of deliciousness onto my plate, filling it up until no piece of the china remains visible. He is careful to watch me as I consume the meal. Each mouthful I take gives him a sense of glee, something that shimmers–but not a twinkle in his eye, rather…in his teeth, almost.
As my plate is cleaned, I peer across the table to the shelf above the fridge where new cans lay filled. Their contents a deep earthen red, tightly packed inside the glass. I cannot place what vegetable could create such a meaty hue, but my husband is more than please with them. His smile breaks so wide his face appears to split.
It is then I’m asked, How does he taste?