Saturday 18 June 2022

'Coleslaw' by Frances Hay

It was a summer of endless potluck suppers. We lived in a deconsecrated church. Bats congregated in the belfry, darting out in the dark to hunt mosquitoes.

We couldn’t afford restaurants, but we made it a matter of principle to visit the farmers’ market on the green. I’d buy a dozen ears of Butter and Sugar corn, shuck the husks in someone else’s kitchen, peek into cupboards to find a pot big enough to boil them.

Reuben made coleslaw. When his parents sold up the family farm in Ohio, he’d hung onto a cast iron Dutch oven and a sharp-edged slicer to cut up cabbages. He made coleslaw with red cabbage, shreds of purple leaves bleeding into the cooked dressing, turning paper plates magenta.  

That pink coleslaw was the best I’d ever tasted.

Reuben was the best boyfriend I ever had. The bats didn’t bother him at all. He’d watch them find their way from the poplar tree to their home space in the belfry. Echolocation, that’s what he called it.  He’d majored in zoology, but now he worked at the bank, trying to save up enough money to hitchhike to Costa Rica. He knew I’d never go there with him, and we didn’t talk about the reasons why that was. We dodged all the obstacles in our conversations. Like bats.

Some evenings, we’d drive back from whoever’s potluck we’d attended and head up to our room in the old organ loft. He’d turn on the fan and put a record on… old-timey fiddling or something by the Carter Family.

 In September, I drove north. Up there, I forgot all about fiddle tunes. I listened to the punk groups who played at CBGBs.

I still remember Reuben’s coleslaw. I can still see the flight paths of the bats.

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