I could hear the heavy thuds from the far corner of the house, but it was the slow shuffle of feet against the kitchen floor that peaked my interest. I stretched out my arms, wiped the sleep sitting in the corner of my right eye and yawned. I didn’t smell anything yet, but I knew there was something magical about to happen. I rolled out of my bed and fell against the floor board. I inhaled the sweet scent of an old stale raisin hiding behind my bed post, but still fresh enough that it would make a fine treat. I waddled over towards the entrance to the kitchen, and a waft of woody smoke and hickory greeted my nose. I loved the warmth of the kitchen stove, and that my bedroom was nearby. I made my way to a familiar post near a shiny copper pot so that I could take in the whole affair.
My large fat bottom reflected from the copper pot, and I was reminded of how fortuitous it was that I had happened to have been dropped off here. Even more so, when I considered that the old lady didn’t seem to mind that I stayed. I sometimes wonder if I had died, and this was heaven. If only that were the truth. I heard the large dollop of butter sizzle as it hit the hot cast iron pan. Next was a finely chopped onion, and the smell was divine. I closed my eyes, so that I could breathe in all that goodness. Next was some garlic and a hint of lemongrass. I knew I could live out my days as the bottom of that pot. All that love, just sitting in there and messing with my right mind. There went the old lady’s feet shuffling over to the fridge, and she pulled out freshly cleaned greens. I had sat and watched her gently clean each leaf the night before, and then cut them into layers. She grabbed something else as well, some type of fat and a piece of smoked wild turkey meat. I recognized that smell. Indeed, smell was my personal superpower, and truth be told that is why I’ve been able to live this long.
As fortune would have it, I didn’t wake out of my slumber peaceably as I thought. I faintly remembered the muffled dream of distressed voices, but it was the sirens that righted my mind as though someone had thrown cold water directly in my face. Startled, I ran back to the kitchen door and looked on. There were all these people, none of whom I knew and they were talking to each other and into devices next to their ear. I didn’t see the old lady. I recognized some of the old lady’s family enter the kitchen. They quickly and quietly removed the corn cakes from the oven and took the rice and the greens off the hot heat. I should have been relieved that the food was alright, but my heart was heavy with worry.
I decided to make my way to the old lady’s bedroom to investigate, but also secretly wishing I would find her there. I peeked inside. It was quiet. I didn’t hear anything, and more importantly I didn’t smell her, that familiar scent of sarsaparilla, juniper and mint. I made my way to the outside of the home. There I found even more people gathered and animated. I felt faint, as I saw a stretcher lifted into an ambulance. There she was. I didn’t move. I stayed there, until all had left, except a few of her grandchildren. I slowly made my way back to the kitchen, and my insides hurt in some new and unknown way.
–Mama said the doctors said it was her heart.
-Well we all knew that, but I kept telling her that people don’t use fatback no more.
-Well you ate it didn’t you?
-We all did… Gram-maw new she could cook though.
-I’m worried too.
-She is a tough one… she’ll be alright.
I caught the end of that conversation. I had hoped they would say more, but that was it. The old lady’s grandchildren were silent for the rest of the night. I went back to my bed, but couldn’t sleep. The smells of the house were delectable, but tainted by the days events. I felt useless and extra, but I finally did get to sleep just before dawn.
The next few days were quiet. Family would come by and move stuff around, but no one really said anything to let me know how the old lady was doing. Finally, one mid-morning, the door opened and no one came in. I moved to the corridor to see what was going on. There I saw the old lady standing in front of a walker.
She looked tired, but ‘I’ll be damned… the old lady was alive!” My tiny heart skipped a beat. I was so happy I started a full on run towards the old lady. I didn’t even think about what I was doing, until I heard her open her mouth and let out a little scream… ‘There it goes… go get that joker!” “I’ve been trying to catch that mouse for over a year now… “…been runn’in round here like he owns the place!” The last thing I saw was the head of a broom coming down over the top of my head.