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Garvey 51 Ellen Gruber Garvey Soup Story Nan stirred the soup, waiting for Michelle to be late. She had already planned not to be irritated. Certainly a trip between two such different parts of Michelle's life couldn't be an easy one; naturally Michelle would have trouble getting away from her family's lengthy farewells in time to leave for her lover's house. On the subway, where Nan's imagination didn't follow her, Michelle had hesitated, indecisive: Should she continue on toward Nan's or go alone through the rain to her own apartment? Nan wiped the window fog with the edge of her flowered apron and watched Michelle's ponchoed figure grow larger coming up the street. Finally full sized, Michelle dropped onto Nan's kitchen couch, a drowning victim rescued from icy rain and family undertow. A small river ran down the middle of the kitchen from her wet shoes. Across it, Nan was stirring soup. Michelle watched her distant figure and shivered, chilled and hungry in the warm kitchen. "Hungry? Really? After visiting your mother? That seems bizarre somehow, against nature." Nan's voice seemed loud, too close. "If she'd been too busy with her own life to bother cooking it would have been fine. I'd have been glad to bring my own peanut butter sandwich ." "Ha." Nan wiped her hands on her apron, dipped a spoon into the pot. "It's just as well you're hungry. There seems to be all this food for some reason." The pot seemed to have gotten fuller than before Michelle came in: more to feed her. The drowning victim watched Nan put the cover on the soup pot. Was there some safe way across the distance to her? She shook herself free of the couch, moved her shoes to the radiator and crossed the stream that remained. "What is it you're making?" Michelle hugged Nan from behind, resting her chin on Nan's shoulder to see what the world looked like from there. It was full of cooking pots. Michelle pointed to an idle one. "This pot here, that appears to contain nothing. What's in it?" "It's for the matzo balls. Here, put water in it." The rebellion of the pipes filled the kitchen. "Ah yes," said Michelle. "Matzo balls. I've seen the vast fields where they ripen slowly. Amber waves of matzo balls." "The great steppes of California," said Nan. "I bet I know how you make it. You cook the matzo balls until the water becomes a rich broth, discard those matzo balls that have lost their 52 the minnesota review flavor, add a dash of this seltzer, and eat the wonderful tasty soup. An old family recipe? Here." Nan took the pot from her. "That explains why my Aunt Deena's tasted so awful. But if you look closely you'll see there's a chicken involved here. The seltzer actually is for the matzo balls—you put it in, my mother says it makes them lighter. Matzo balls of the light matzo ball school of thought." "My mother makes them heavy, with a surprise inside." "Something substantial? A check?" "Nuts and raisins, I think. She hasn't made it for a long time. I don't remember." Michelle sank back on the couch across the kitchen and pulled an old blanket from behind the cushions. "When I think of it there's a lot she hasn't cooked in a long time. It's part of what's so upsetting. Like today, for lunch, she crams me into the kitchen and there's this plate of burnt pot roast and little bits of leftovers getting moldy. She always does it with food." Michelle wrapped herself into a tight bundle inside the blanket. "Could you move over? I have to get in there." Bits of dried herbs floated down onto Michelle from the cabinet above her as Nan rummaged . Nan stepped down from the couch, apron billowing, bearing pepper. "Does what with food?" "Uses it like that. When I dropped out of college the first time and they were so unhappy about it, they told me okay...


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