“The Sweet and The Salt” - Excerpt
A short story by Tatjana Soli
The Sun January 2010
My maman told me the story of the olden days, when the sun was a sweet orange in the sky. All the days, she said, were buttery, the rivers ran rich like melted coin, and the people were as often happy as not. My maman, she told me that when the Troubles came, even God in his house could not help us, and he squeezed down on that orange sun, but the juice that should have been sweet, when it met this world, it turned to salt; it filled the oceans, and it came out of the people’s eyes. “Marie,” my maman said, “all your life you must look for the sweet. It is there for the finding.” Maman was such a fine chef because she knew that the best dishes use both the sweet and the salt, because that is our life. She told me when she was a young girl, the light in the deepest forest was gold, like the necklace around a rich woman’s neck, but after the Troubles, it turned the dark of iron. Since I was born, I knew only the time of iron, and everything else was like a fairy tale. Maybe that is why the men, they could do it to her in that black purple forest, in that hate-filled jungle, while I waited up for her all night on my cot in the kitchen. They carved away her face, and I thought maybe this was better—God took her away quickly from this hell.
After my maman gone, Aunt Josie took over cooking the dishes in the pink house on the hill, but my auntie was not a chef like Maman. She used too much salt, and she knew her days were numbered, so she looked around and offered up the sweet—not her own daughters, no, but me —to the house. She had me mop the floors, rub lemon oil deep down into the grain of the wood, but mostly she left me in the greenhouse on long afternoons alone with the old woman’s son.
But I don’t believe in the past. It’s just a story that happened to someone else.