Cornbread (ShoStoBloMo #10)
The slap slap of baby knees echoes through the kitchen while the lady in the cut off jeans mixes cornbread batter by hand. It’s a hot hot steamy hot kind of day and the oven just adds to the misery, heating up the small kitchen by exponential degrees. There are children outside, brave enough to suffer the heat, and they are playing a game that requires a lot of shouting and a busted up red rubber ball. Sometimes the ball flies up and bounces off the kitchen window screen and the lady in the cutoff jeans yells menacing things to the children, but there is no wind to carry her ferocity so the kids just ignore her.The baby has traveled to a comfortable location under the kitchen table and she is gnawing on something she picked up off the floor. Her knees and palms are black from the state of the floor, her dingy diaper clings to her with sweat and luck, the pins barely holding the threadbare fabric together. The lady in the cutoff jeans opens the oven to retrieve the hot iron skillet, and the blast of heat makes the baby look up, blinking and grimacing. The batter goes into the skillet and a sizzle rises into the air like a devil’s cackle. The lady in the cut off jeans carefully slides the skillet back into the oven and tosses the oven mitts onto the table. She makes note of the time and then pulls a chair out and sits, holding a glass of iced tea to her face. The baby crawls to her legs and pulls up, resting her little chin on the fringe of the cut offs. The lady grabs her and lifts the little one to her breast. The heat they both feel increases tenfold as the baby’s sticky hot skin is pressed against bare belly flesh. As the baby nurses, the lady in the cut off jeans finishes her iced tea and closes her eyes for a moment. She imagines a breeze as she tucks her sweaty hair behind her ear and sighs.She opens her eyes with a start. How long have they been closed? The baby is asleep, sweating against her breast, and the smell of cornbread is heavy in the air. A glance at the clock tells her it’s past time to retrieve the bread. She carefully peels the baby from her chest and lays her on a blanket on the floor. The baby’s hair is stuck to her face in messy ringlets, framing her pink cheeks and wicking the sweat from her temples.The cornbread has survived the onslaught of time and heat and now rests atop the counter. The lady in the cut off jeans has expertly flipped the skillet and transferred the bread to a plate. It is a perfect golden circle, the crust crispy from bacon grease. It will make an excellent supper companion to the greens slow cooing on the stove.A shadow falls across the room causing the lady to peer out the window. An afternoon storm is expanding into the heavens, dark and roiling and welcome as a million dollars. The children outside scream at the thunder and scatter, as if they are mimicking bowling pins. The rain begins to fall as the sky darkens even more. The lady in the cutoff jeans closes the kitchen window and scoops up the baby, who has woken from the sounds of the crashing thunder. She takes the little one out onto the covered porch, holding her close, feeling the cold splatter of the raindrops blowing at them from the wind.The baby laughs and so does the lady. The rain comes down harder and harder, blowing in under the roof of the porch, soaking the two of them as they laugh. The lady in the cutoff jeans feels a chill as the breeze picks up, and the baby buries her head in the lady’s neck. Cold, wet, smiling, they enter the house. The baby’s chin quivers from the sudden chill and the lady covers her with the blanket from the floor. They snuggle together at the table, warming up, marveling at the sound of the rain on the tin roof.Then, standing with the baby on her hip, the lady goes to the counter and cuts a piece of warm cornbread.It is perfect.