chicken soup

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Mom called me tonight to tell me that if I could make it home in a half-hour, the chicken soup that Pop’s making would be ready. It’s such a brisk night�no, make that a COLD night�that Pop’s chicken soup is probably the only thing that could get me out of my tiny city apartment. Never mind that it’s a 3 1/2 hour drive and I don’t have a car… no, she continued to taunt me by describing the smell of the apple pie he had baking in the oven, the one he’s making for that bake sale at church tomorrow. I could see the steam on the kitchen window, I could taste the cinnamon and nutmeg on the sour apples he buys at the farmer’s market in Appalachian to bake his pies with. I know that taste so very well, I always stole chunks from the mixing bowl before they ever had a chance of making it into the pie. I step outside for a cigarette on the side porch while the soup is still simmering; a rush of bitter upstate wind bites at my nose and I smell the leaves decomposing in the yard, and wonder if my brother and I should rake them up tomorrow. I look up, I see stars, clearly and profoundly lazing about in the sky, not struggling to shine like they do in the city. My dog thumps her butt up against my leg and I reach for her collar, before her thick black coat allows her to melt into the darkness of our backyard, only allowing two lit-up eyeballs to peep out every once in a while, as I stand there trying unsuccessfully to coax her back into the house. When I come inside, Mom has the table set and a candle lit, and Pop is shutting off the end of the college football game on the TV. My brother lumbers in from the living room, having just woke up from a cold Saturday evening’s nap, and he puts the salt and pepper on the table while Mom remembers the butter from the fridge. We sit down and say grace, Mom says an extra two or three sentences about how thankful she is to have her two children here sharing this meal. We toast with Pop’s homemade wine to that sentiment, but the soup is hot, too hot to even slurp, so we dip our crusty bread in it instead, let it cool, that we may catch up on time passing and futures rising. Pop cracks a slapstick one-liner out of the corner of his mouth, and my brother and I lose it, fall over in hysterics, and Mom fakes exasperation with a grinning “Guuuuus!” directed at him, but he just grins and giggles back at her. I fill up too quickly on bread but have a second bowl of soup anyway, I can’t resist the very sincere, the very honest, tangible, substantial taste of it. No one makes chicken soup like my Pop, let me tell you. Just thinking of it simmering on the stove can bring us all home.

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