The next excerpt from my novel A Woman’s Role

All of the excerpts I’m posting are from the “cutting room floor.”

The kitchen was comfortably cool until she plopped a few twigs, and egg sized lumps of coal on top the barely living embers in the firebox of the massive beige porcelain cookstove. She slid the damper open and small flames danced around the dusty lumps. The kitchen grew hotter by degrees. She wiped her brow with a sweaty forearm.

She slid a pot of peeled potatoes over the fire and darted to the refrigerator to retrieve a brown paper package and a glass bowl of chilled peas.

With the wire loop-handled lifter, she removed the stove lid, and a red-gold ember buried deep in the firebox popped, scattering red-hot sparks in all directions. They seared the tender inside of her left arm. “God damn it to hell,” she yelped while sprinting to the sink and running cold water onto the pock-like blisters rising on her tanned skin. “Damn it, damn it, damn it to hell, anyway.”

Tears welled up, and she brushed them aside with a swipe of her hand. What’s wrong with me? Crying over a stupid little burn. Returning to the stove, she unwrapped the pork chops and tossed a chunk of lard into the cast-iron skillet heating over the fire.

Celina heard her mother at the back door. A well-worn apron covered the faded housedress that hung loosely on Marian Pasniewski’s thin body. The red cotton babushka covering her hair revealed gray streaked waves that had once been brown.

She used a skinny elbow to keep the screen door from slamming when she entered the kitchen. “Frankie doesn’t want to come out from under the porch. Poor dog. He won’t even come out for a few laps of water.”

Marian pulled a small saucepan from the cupboard. “Fill this and put it on to boil. I found enough snap beans for supper. As if speaking to herself, she said, “If we get some rain, there’ll be tons of them in a few days.”

“I’m surprised we’re getting any at all. It’s been so dry.”

“They’re growing, and, thank God, it looks like a storm’s coming. I hope it pours all night.”

Marian wiped her brow. “This heat is bad enough, but going through the change at the same time, I feel like I’m burning up all day long.”

She got herself a glass of ice water, found a bowl in the Hoosier cupboard, and went back outside to snap beans.  Frankie poked his head over the edge of the porch and disappeared beneath it again. She said, “I know how you feel old boy,” A moment later, she yelled, “Are the pork chops on?”

Celina called back. “Yeah, they’re sizzling.”

“Good, supper will be ready when Dad gets home.”

“Yeah,” Celina answered. She rearranged the utensils on the stove. The percolator gurgled, and the heady aroma of fresh coffee joined the smell of frying meat in the sweltering kitchen. She didn’t know how her dad and brother could eat all that food in the heat.

Tomas’s 1932 jalopy rumbled up to the house. “Dad’s home,” Marian pointed out.

A moment later the outside cellar door slammed. Tomas would clean up in the basement. He Andy, the oldest living son, had installed a shower in a back corner. Over time, the shower had become such a convenience that the whole family descended the steep wooden stairs to the whitewashed room.

“He must be starved.” Marian added.

Celina mumbled, “Hungry as a bear. One with a sore ass.”

“What’d you say?”

“Nothing, Mom.”

A few minutes later, Celina threw the chops on a platter, and Tomas, a graying, barrel-chested man in his fifties, entered the kitchen through the cellar-way door. He had taken his shower, but the wrinkles around his eyes held traces of coal dust, and his lashes were lined in black as though someone had painted them with a mascara brush.

What kind of relationship does Celina have with her autocratic father?

 

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