June was stubborn, even she wouldn’t argue that. But more than a bad case of bull headedness, June was just plain mad. She walked around town spoiling for a fight, and made sure everyone knew it. She pushed her way through crowds and groused her way around a shop, laying down complaints as heavy and loud as her thunderous footsteps.
“Why ain’t there any Miracle Whip on the shelves?”, she roared the week before Thanksgiving. “I CAN NOT have a turkey and dressin’ sandwich without Miracle Whip. Do you people not know it is THANKSGIVING AND THE LORD WILL NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING BUT MIRACLE WHIP ON A TURKEY AND DRESSIN’ SANDWICH?”
Poor Amos Whitney, 18 years old and ginger headed, his face so full of pimples you could hardly see his freckles, was June’s victim that day. Amos tried to assure her that Jesus would be equally accepting of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, but she’d have none of it.
“That is why it is called MIRACLE Whip, Amos!”, she bellowed. “Do you presume to think that the Son of God would settle for mayonnaise on this holy holiday?”
It was a hard point to argue.
June was, to her credit, a most extraordinary cook. Her turkey was perfection - all moist and salty on the inside, and brown and crisp on the outside. Her biscuits would make you weep. More than one unfortunate relative had suffered through June’s tirades for a ladleful of her gravy. This year, June was playing host to nearly two dozen relatives and townspeople, and the preparations were making her even more ornery than usual.
And it was hot.
November can be a bitch like that. Mornings saw children at the bus stop bundled up in parkas and too short jeans, huddled together like a waddle of penguins. By afternoon, they’d be running around town barefooted in shorts. The trees tried their best to show color and drop leaves, and the daylilies beneath them couldn’t quite decide whether to bloom or give up the ghost. June had moved through her childbearing years unhampered by both children and men, and had just recently experienced the relentless heat from within of menopause.
November was pissing her off. “Lord,” she’d prayed every morning since the middle of October, “Give a poor woman a break and send me a high of fifty degrees. Amen.”
The thought of cooking all day (and the day before) for folks who didn’t give a rip about her the other 364 days of the year made June madder than hell. She wouldn’t do it at all, shouldn’t do it at all, except for one, darling, charming, precious, five year old nephew.
June didn’t like children, hadn’t anyway until Owen was born. The first time she’d met him, he was nearly six months old, with a head full of curls and big, milk chocolate eyes. He buried his sweet smelling face into her neck, held her ear with a chubby fist, and fallen fast asleep - and June had fallen in love. He was the only person she could clearly remember loving since her mama died when she was ten.
Once a month ever since, June had made the pilgrimage to Carthage, 30 miles away, just to visit Owen and his dull, dough faced parents. She brought him books and sweets and, once, a rocking horse made with real horse hair. She pushed him in the stroller and later, the tire swing. She taught him to play checkers and blow bubblegum and snap his fingers. She let him steer her old truck down the driveway and rolled her eyes behind his mother’s back when she chastised him. He thought she was perfect, and the feeling was mutual.
June would spend countless hours preparing an elaborate meal for thankless relatives, just so she and Owen could sneak away to the back porch and eat nonpareils and talk about how fat Aunt Eliza had gotten. “I’m not that fat, am I?” she would ask and Owen’s eye’s would get big before he said, in all seriousness, “Noooooooooo?” Then June would laugh and pull him close and smell his sweet head.
But right now, all she could see was Amos Whitney’s dumb, pimply face sputtering on about Jesus loving mayonnaise, too. “MY GOD, AMOS. Just order me some Miracle Whip and have it here by Tuesday.” She stomped out of the shop and onto the sidewalk outside, and right into the minister’s wife.