by Damon Nomad
Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #2286533
A strange bit of comic karma resolves a family problem
| Cucumber Karma|
By Damon Nomad
A story about family life in the 1970s in middle America. A strange bit of comic karma resolves a family problem.
I was never deprived of anything of real importance as a child. A large family in the Midwest in a ranch house in the suburbs. We weren't poor, but we weren't rich. We always had food, electricity, heat, and clothes. Sometimes the clothes were hand-me-downs from friends or neighbors, the same as other people we knew. My parents tried to do things to save money, like a backyard garden or other DIY projects. One of my mother's budget-saving endeavors is the foundation for this story.
One summer, when I was around twelve years old, she came home from a sort of farmers market. She called the kids to the driveway to unload baskets of cucumbers from the station wagon. A lot of cucumbers and she had canning jars as well. I had never seen her can anything, I wasn't sure what it was all about but I knew she was up to something. When we came in from playing later, she announced to us she was making homemade pickles. Said we would not need to buy pickles for the next two years.
I'm guessing there were twenty large bottles of homemade pickles that she cooked up over the next few days. They were set aside for a few weeks to cure on the floor in the basement near the washing machine and dryer. That's where the next part of this small drama played out. My parents had upgraded the kitchen cabinets a few years earlier and the old ones lay in the basement, my father had promised to mount them in the basement for storage.
My mother started complaining about the cabinets and her prized pickles, just laying on the floor. This went on until the first jar of her delicious creation made its way to the dinner table. She was anxious to prove to my father just how valuable these little gherkins were. Complaining about the cabinets as she came up from the basement. I still remember the taste, it was horrible. My youngest brother spit his out onto the plate. My father frowned and mumbled something. My mother left the table in tears.
Days later on a Saturday morning, my father was in the basement putting two of those old cabinets up on the wall. A handyman he was not, it was not an attractive installation. That side of the basement was not finished. He hammered some scrap two-by-fours to a few floor beams. The two-by-fours came down a few feet against the wall. Two of the old cabinets were nailed to the makeshift studs. Then he loaded the jars into one of the cabinets, it was packed full. That evening at dinner, he told my mother the pickles probably just needed more time to cure. Suggested we wait a while before trying them again. My mother was pleased, the pickles were safely housed and my father had given her a vote of confidence. The unanswered and scary question, how long should they cure?
The threat of the pickles returning to the dinner table hung in the air every day around supper time. A week or two later my mother dispatched me to the basement to retrieve a jar of pickles for dinner, the time had come. We each cautiously nibbled away, they had not gotten any better. Possibly even worse as the foul juice had completely saturated the cucumbers. Everyone was quiet. Moments later there was a short high pitched creak from the basement, then another creak lasting a little bit longer. Then a massive crash and the sounds of breaking glass.
My father led the charge with a trail of kids in pursuit. Broken glass from shattered pickle jars and the contents covered the concrete floor. The heavy load of the pickle jars had been pulling on the nails in the back of the cabinet. The cabinets should have been mounted to the studs with screws. The squeals we heard were made by the nails at the top pulling through the two-by-fours. The cabinet tilted forward, the doors flew open and pickles crashed to the ground.
My father cleaned up the mess, and nothing more was said about the pickles. My mother never made them again. Years later I wondered had my father really been such a poor carpenter or was it a brilliantly conceived plot to destroy the toxic foodstuff. It was either that or some sort of karma rewarding his good deed and sparing us all from two years of kerosene cucumbers. It became a family legend decades later. Even my mother would laugh when one of us would tell it at a family gathering.