There are pieces of paper stuffed in the holes. 12 of them, four to a row. At first it’s the paper that fascinates. The very idea of it. No one had seen paper since the last of the trees was uprooted for timber, 30 or so years ago. She’d been a little girl then, and her Tanty had still been alive. That’s how she knew what the thing with the holes was, a coal pot, for cooking, though only rarely used for cooking by then. At picnics and on Fridays when her Tanty turned cornmeal for the fungee. It nearly knocked her down, this vision, memory, of Tanty bent over the coal pot, bathed in sweat, rump doing a circular dance, like a wine, to a soca beat, as she ground the grains of corn meal into something at once soft and solid. She hadn’t had fungee since Tanty’s death but she could taste it now, the savouriness of it, the sliminess of the okroe mixed in, because fungee wasn’t fungee without okroe and though she detested okroe, she loved her Tanty’s fungee. She always told herself she had time to learn it; it was a fancy more than anything as she wasn’t much for cooking, even then, before cooking became obsolete and everything became pre-packaged and tasteless, and functional, like food wasn’t meant to be. The coal pot was at the old house, tucked under it with the electric typewriter, the blue water tank, and other useless things. The land was being reclaimed now that Future Tech had perfected the art of personal breathers allowing what was left of humanity to leave the domed living spaces sour with recycled air and make a go of recolonizing the earth. Nothing was as it had been, but her feet still took her home to the peach house, where improbably aloe and bougainvillea, and the Century plant her Tanty’s grandmother had planted when they’d first moved into the house on the hill, bloomed. There were no more trees, and, as such no more oxygen, but there were these plants defying everything and insisting on life. And there was the coal pot, under the house, with bits of paper stuffed into the holes where the pot would sit soaking up the heat from the coals below. The clay of the coal pot was cool to her touch, and at the touch of it, feelings surged up inside of her; tears, a lump, memories. Tanty, gone. When she pulled out the first of the papers, it was instinctive, a way of distracting herself from feelings she didn’t know what to do with, and then at the sight of what was written, the feelings pushed against her shaky resolve anyway. Tanty’s handwriting.
“Bring the slimy, okra water to a boil before adding the corn meal”
If the others in her scouting team thought it odd, the sight of her crying over a cracked coal pot and a badly scribbled note on scrap paper, they had the good sense to look away as they continued foraging among the remains.
For today’s writing exercise, I decided for the first time to try one of these blog prompts; this one specifically:From the Collection of the Artist This is what became of that experiment.