She places the empty mixing bowl on the kitchen table. With a wheezing grunt, she pulls two cans of fruit cocktail from the cupboard and a can opener from the rickety drawer which droops to the right when it’s pushed shut. Her pale, crinkly hand lines up the opener’s jagged blade along the metal rim of a can and twists the silver bows to cut through the lid. Golden syrup seeps from a slit and dribbles over the side. A drop of sweetness lands on the table. My little sister traps it with her finger and plops it on her tongue.
She can have the syrup. I want the two or three pinkish-red cherry halves hidden between the mealy apples, peaches, and pears. I know my sister wants them, too. It’s always a race to scoop them in our spoons.
That’s why my grandmother waits until both cans are opened before she tips them over the bowl and dumps their fruit into the hollow cave with a single shake. She hands out the spoons last. I know better than to put my finger in the soupy lake, but my precocious sister ignores the rules because she is three. I am four.
“Get your fingers away from that bowl,” my grandmother snaps. She says she has eyes in the back of her head, but how they can see us through all her thick gray waves of hair, I will never know.
My sister retreats her hand and pouts. She doesn’t like being told what to do. My grandmother doesn’t care. She shuffles to the table with a spoon gripped firmly in each hand.
“I don’t want to hear a word of fightin’, you understand?” she says in her raspy voice. “You two behave yourself ‘n eat quietly. I’m goin’ to the other room to have a smoke.”
She drops the spoons in front of us, and my sister and I are off to the races, kneeling on our chairs to stretch farther across the table. We dig frantically through the mounds of undesirable fruit to find the cherry prize.
My grandmother is already gone; she’s in the living room lighting up her own lunch – a Virginia Slim.
– Written by Miss A