No Raisins (or, The Day The Raisins Dried Up)

Milk

Eggs

Flour

Oatmeal

Raisins

Edith scanned her shopping list and pushed her buggy down aisle five, under the sign that said “Canned Fruit/Dried Fruit/Jelly/Peanut Butter.” She was going to treat herself and mix up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies tonight. She couldn’t manage to eat a whole batch by herself, but the grandkids would like them when they came over tomorrow. Now. Raisins. Where were the raisins?

There were jars of cherries, dried apricots, dried bananas (awful things, Edith thought, like fruit-flavored Styrofoam) dried cranberries, dried cranberries flavored to taste like cherries, dried cranberries flavored to taste like blueberries, and dried cranberries flavored to taste even more like cranberries. But no raisins.

“Please,” Edith said to the grocery stocking boy, “Could you tell me where the raisins are? I’m sure I’m looking straight at them.”

His Adams’ apple bobbed as he swallowed and she thought he looked unduly confused for such a simple question. “Er…I don’t remember seeing anything called that.”

She blinked at him. (Really, what kind of rock do you have to live under to not know what a raisin is?)

There was a pause and the stock boy said, “Uh, let me ask my manager. She’s probably in the back.”

Edith agreed to talk to the manager and went to pick up her other items. But when the manager found her and Edith repeated her request for raisins, the manager just smiled and shook her head, “I’m afraid we don’t carry that, ma’am. You say it’s a dried fruit? Would it be in the international section?”

For a moment Edith just gaped at her, this intelligent looking, well-dressed woman, the head of a store for goodness’ sake, who had not even heard of a raisin, much less thought to stock it.

“A dried grape!” Edith said, waving towards produce. “A little wrinkled, purple-browny thing—like a prune, but smaller. Really, it’s very common. People use it in oatmeal cookies, sometimes in carrot salad, in those granola mixes…it comes in little red boxes with a pretty lady on the front?”

The manager suggested a health food store down the street and Edith was ushered out, feeling somehow that they thought she was the crazy one.

At the health food store she was pounced upon by a pink and green haired clerk who immediately beckoned her over to the computer with a wave of a well-bangled arm. “We have so much stuff, and some of it has strange names, so this is just the easiest way,” the clerk told her.

Edith’s eyes bugged at “strange names,” but she held onto her purse and waited politely.

“Can you spell it?”

Edith did.

The clerk sighed. “Well that stinks. I’m sorry. Not a thing. Sure you weren’t meaning Rise-En, our natural male supplement?”

Edith blushed from her toes to the crown of her head, apologized for troubling the cashier, and hurried out. She intended to give it up as a strange coincidence, but she couldn’t leave it alone. She stopped in two different grocery stores on the way home with the same results in both. Nobody had even heard of raisins.

She let herself into her house, put away the milk and eggs, and sank down into her armchair, suddenly tired. After all, she was getting old, maybe—but no! She sat up and thumped the arm of her chair with a fist. “I am not imagining raisins, for heaven’s sake! My oatmeal raisin cookies are the best cookies this side of the Mason-Dixon line!” She picked up the telephone and dialed a number.

“Selma?”

“Oh, Edie, is that you? You sound all tensed up. Is everything okay?”

“You are my oldest friend, Selma.”

“Since we were six!”

“Yes, and I trust you’ll be honest with me if I ask you a question?”

“Well of course—”

“Do you know what a raisin is?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “A what? Like, raising? Barn raising? Roof raising?”

Edith sighed. “I’m sorry, Selma, I’ve got to go.”

She sat on her couch and frowned at the ground for several minutes. Then she got up and went to her back closet to rummage around. That evening Edith made several trips to and from the grocery store. Her house started to emit the most unusual sweet aroma, warm and comforting, but her neighbor couldn’t identify the smell when it drifted over into his yard.

The next afternoon, a little girl with banged up knees and her hair in pigtails sat on Edith’s couch. Beside her was a boy whose eyes drifted lovingly over to the closed 3DS that had been taken from him and temporarily stored on the highest bookshelf.

“What’dya think Grandma’s got? She said it was a special surprise.” The girl said, swinging her legs.

“I dunno. Probably cookies. It’s usually cookies.”

She sat up, her eyes twinkling. “Oh you sound like you don’t want them! I’ll be happy to eat them for you!”

“I did not!” He was affronted. “I was just saying that’s probably what they were. I’m gonna eat my own cookies and don’t you try to cheat me out of them Sara-Beth!”

Edith emerged from the kitchen. The door shut behind her, so her grandkids did not see the sticky food dehydrator sitting on the counter or the empty grape bags scattered around her usually pristine kitchen. She presented them with a plate of cookies that smelled of butter, cinnamon, and a darker, fruity scent.

Sara Beth snagged a cookie and munched it, pointing to the purplish wrinkled lumps scattered through it. “What’re those, Grandma?”

Don’t talk with your mouth full!” Edith said even as she panicked inwardly. She remembered all too well the moments she’d eaten a cookie she thought was chocolate chip only to find it was a raisin. Oh dear, thought Edith, I’ll turn them against raisins before I’ve even re-invented them!

“It’s not a chocolate chip—” she hurried to say, “it’s a raisin, a kind of dried fruit I…made up.”

“It’s good!” Sara Beth announced.

Her brother frowned and reached for another one. “What’s a chocolate chip?”

 

Babies and Rocks

After breakfast, my daughter frequently goes to the door, points at it, and says, “Gocks!”

By this she means she thinks we should go sit in our gravel driveway and play with the rocks.

Since she will eat the rocks if not closely watched I have spent a lot of time looking at rocks lately. I even looked up the type we have in our driveway: Goose Egg Stone. It’s billed as a “white and tan rock” but I can assure you, that’s a gross over-simplification. Today I found:

Pink—a Grandma’s bathroom kind of pink, the color of pink that goes with shells and scented soaps. There will also be an obligatory fuzzy toilet cover in this color.

Orange—not a rough sandstone orange, but a smooth orange, like somebody solidified and shrunk an orange push up ice cream into an ungeometric lump.

Crystal: Frosty white ice chips, lying out in my driveway in 80 degree weather.

And one that I decided was most definitely a chipped dinosaur’s tooth.

I feel like if I were a fantastic writer with clever insights I would segue from this into some thoughtful application about uniqueness or solidity. But here’s all I got from it: Rocks are cool. Sometimes it may be good to pretend to be interested in things a baby is interested in, partly to keep them from eating rocks, and partly because they may be onto something.

 

 

When The Rain Came

At 2:08 today, water fell out of the sky.

My grandma said it was the end of the world; probably aliens dropping poison on us. She said you could tell there was somebody up in the sky hiding because of the thick, puffy grey stuff that covered the sky before the water came down. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it before. She told me to get out the aluminum and to seal up the windows before poisonous gasses could get inside. She told me to hurry; she called me a lazy slob.

I went outside and shut the door on her screeching. I stood with the water pelting down from the sky onto my head, and turned to stare at our apartment window where I knew my grandma was standing. She was probably cussing me out up there, but I couldn’t even see her because of the water coursing over the window, rippling and shifting like liquid glass. If it was poison, it was beautiful poison.

Maybe Grandma would be less quick to see disaster in this strange water fall if she had to produce double the water production for our household. The government required my grandmother and me to produce .131 liters of tears every day—the normal amount for a two-person family. But Grandma didn’t like crying. When I came to live with her two years ago, she said I could stay with her rent free (who charges rent to a fourteen year old orphan?) if I cried her allotment as well as mine. What could I do? I had nowhere else to go, and crying extra doesn’t seem so difficult two weeks after your parents die.

So I cried all our tears every day and took them down to the tear-collection station by 8PM in the evening. There our whole town’s tears would be de-salted, sanitized, and sent to the national reservoir where they would be used to water the nation’s crops.

I looked up, letting the water splash onto my face. Thousands of tiny, sparkling dots fell evenly all around me, appearing out of the grey nothingness above and hitting my face and the cars and the ground seconds later, too fast for me to see each drop. I could never cry so fast—there had to be several pounds of water already on the ground, already evenly distributed, and more of it was falling.

The rivers and lakes left over after the war provide just enough water for animals and humans, but the tear-water goes to our crops. We would never waste any of it on un-planted ground. I stared, amazed, as the red, cracked earth turned a mottled dark brown, and then there was muddy water filling up the cracks. Part of me didn’t like that, to be honest. It just seemed so wasteful. After the first few months, with Grandma it got a lot harder to cry double. I had to drink water all the time. Sometimes she’d not let me eat till I completed the day’s crying, and since there’s only so fast you can cry, I frequently don’t get to eat till after 8PM.

The water fell slower now, just a tiny sprinkle pattering on my wet face. I was soaked through and when I inhaled I smelled an earthy, rich smell. The water hung from the eaves and dripped single, diamond drops onto the bare soil. Glorious, reckless extravagance.  My phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and read, “Public Service Notice: Tear collection for the city of Coaling canceled for today.”

I looked out to the east where the strange fluffy masses had broken up and the sun shone through. A knot of fear formed in my stomach—was this a freak event? Would it never happen again? Already I missed the pattering shower on my face.  Far in the distance I saw another puffy thing, hanging over a mountain. The water wasn’t gone. It would be back. I wanted it to come back.

Next time I would come out and try to count the drops before they hit the ground, and I would jump in the tiny lakes that filled the holes and dips of our parking lot, and I would stare up into the sky until every inch of me was wet. I smiled extra big up at my grandma in the window, put the phone in my pocket and went inside.