Gooseberry Pie

Joseph Cox

The day of the wedding was exceptionally pleasant. A clear sky promised a forbidding of rain and prompted a soothing backdrop for the soft rustling of the Magnolia. Its blooms dripped over Ms. Meade’s yard with lush delicacy. She stood beneath them and observed her garden,

“Mhmm, I can’t be having these rats ruinin’ my garden,” she thought to herself. “Something’s gonna have to be done about this mess they’ve made.”

“Good Morning Ms. Meade!” a cheery voice called from across the lane. Ms. Meade raised a hand from her hip to adjust her straw hat. Mrs. Walker waved from behind her white picket fence, a fresh newspaper delivered by Mr. White in hand. “Your Magnolia looks marvelous this mornin.”

The ladies admired the flowering tree, “Lovely breeze isn’t it?” Ms. Meade responded.

Mrs. Walker exhumed a sigh in agreement. “Perfect weather for a weddin’ don’t you think?” she added, “Not a cloud in the sky!”

Both women raised their heads to observe the clear blue atmosphere.“Yes, it sure is,” Ms. Meade concluded.

A reception was to be held after the service in a field beneath the church. Ms. Meade had taken note of a large tent being raised the afternoon prior. It was a bustle of activity. Walking home from the market, she stopped and spoke to John Baker, father of the groom.

“Now over here,” he pointed with both hands, “now that’s where the cake is gonna be set up. Sissy’s aunt Lucille has gone and made this big ole beautiful cake, you see, it’s plum three cakes tall.”

Ms. Meade stood clutching her bags, envisioning the party. “Now, I don’t know much about makin’ cakes,” John admitted. “But, I do know about eatin’ em, and if it’s a half as good as it looks, well we’re in for a good party, let me tell you that much.”

“That sounds lovely, Mr. Baker!” Ms. Meade added.

“And over here,” he continued, “We’re settin’ up a dancin’ area. You ever get into that, Ms. Meade?” he asked with a smile.

“Now you know better than that,” she retorted with a reddened face. “Let’s not forget this is still a Christian wedding. Somewhat.”

John Baker laughed and motioned towards a man unloading some chairs. “And Edgar here has offered to fry up his fish for the reception. Says he and his boys was out on the river all day last Friday. Says we’ll be eatin’ good.” Edgar Collins’ sons followed after him.

“Oh, I don’t doubt that,” Ms. Meade agreed, regaining hold on her bags, “Mr. Collins always does a very fine job with his catchings.”

“Oh, that’s for sure,” John added. “And I sure hope we’ll be lucky enough to be seein’ one of those special pies?” He asked with a grin and raised eyebrows.

“Now,” she prompted, “are one of my little old pies really necessary amongst all these others-”

Catching the bait, he interrupted, “Now Ms. Meade, you know fine well you’ve got the best pie recipe in the holler!” Now she was feigning embarrassment, “It wouldn’t be a party without one!”

For every church potluck Ms. Meade always provided a fresh Gooseberry Pie.

“Well if you insist.” With a slight blush she opened her bags to let John see inside. “Don’t you worry, I’ve got all the ingredients right here.” John admired the fresh gooseberries and wafted their aura with his hand.

“You got a rat problem Ms. Meade?” Packaged separately, was also a small box of rat poison.

“I’m afraid so, Mr. Baker,” she answered with a grimace. “They’ve been tearin’ up my garden. It’s too beautiful to let it sour like that.”

“Mhmm,” he agreed. “My wife sure does love that Magnolia.”

It shaded Ms. Meade as she and Mrs. Walker spoke from their respective yards. “How’s your pie coming along?” Mrs. Walker asked.

“Oh, I’m just now about to start!” Ms. Meade admitted. “I’ve got a rat problem I’m tryin’ to figure out how to deal with.”

Mrs. Walker was already wearing her apron. “Well I’ve been peelin’ potatoes all mornin’.” Her hand rested on her back and the newspaper shielded her eyes. “Ernie’s already asked about taste testin’ three times!”

The women laughed at Mr. Walker’s expense. “There’s a reason men oughta stay out of the kitchen!” Ms. Meade joked back.

Back in her kitchen, Ms. Meade gathered the ingredients she had brought home the evening before. She had never been to a wedding like the one she was about to attend. She was well acquainted with both the families, and remembered when both Jimmy and Sissy were born.

The problem, for Ms. Meade however, was that she also remembered when Jimmy and Sissy’s baby was born too, 11 months prior to the wedding date.

The little girl was the first thing Ms. Meade noticed that afternoon at the service.

“Hush now, Lucy,” said Cindy Baker as the child began to whine. The congregation chuckled and awed as the mother of the bride bounced her illegitimate grandchild. Sissy and Jimmy stood in front of the church and admired their spitting-image daughter.

“She takes after her mother.” Pastor Brown observed. The crowd hooped and hollered with laughter, remembering how unruly Sissy sometimes was as a child herself.

And she truly did take after her mother, Ms. Meade thought to herself. Lucy had Sissy’s long blond curls down to her shoulders, but jet blue eyes just like Jimmy. At the reception the two cut the cake with the child on Sissy’s hip.

“I never thought I’d see anything like it.” Ms. Meade confessed to Mr. White as they watched from their seat.

“Well you know,” he considered between bites of Edgar’s fried fish, “Momma had three of us by the time she was Sissy’s age.”

“And I know she also had a proper husband too.” Ms. Meade argued, scraping her plate.

“But look how happy they are,” Mr. White chuckled. The guests clapped as Lucy joined Sissy and Jimmy for their first dance. Approaching her parents, Lucy tugged on Sissy’s white gown until Jimmy lifted the child up on his shoulders.

“No one could tell me they aren’t a beautiful family!” Mr. White finished the last of his fish. “Now I’m gettin’ a piece of that Gooseberry Pie before it’s all gone.”

“You better hurry then,” Ms. Meade joked with him. “We don’t want a repeat of last time!” Remembering the church’s Easter brunch, Mr. White hastened for the dessert line. But Ms. Meade knew there was enough for everyone.

“Open wide, Lucy!” John Baker could be heard saying as he shared his slice. “This is your first taste of Ms. Meade’s famous Gooseberry Pie!” The rest disappeared quickly.

“I don’t know how you do it, Ms. Meade.” Edgar Collins told her in passing.

“You’re just gonna have to give me this recipe!” Mrs. Walker pleaded. “Ernie gets so impatient havin’ to wait till an event or holiday just for a slice of this pie.”

“Ms. Meade, this really is somethin’ special,” said Pastor Brown.

“Are you sure you don’t want any, Ms. Meade? You put the work in, I think you’ve earned yourself a slice.” said Mr. White, offering her his plate.

“No thank you Mr. White,” she declined. “I’m absolutely stuffed from Lucille’s

marvelous cake. Mr. Baker was right, it sure was beautiful.”

Soon afterwards, Ms. Meade wished the couple the best and headed home. They thanked her again for the wonderful pie and appreciated her support in their new life together.

“Why don’t you let me walk you home, Ms. Meade?” asked Mr. White.

“No, that isn’t necessary Mr. White,” she assured. “It sure is a fine evening tonight, I think I can manage. You enjoy the party.” With a smile she patted his shoulder in thanks and departed.

The sun was beginning to set by then, and its fleeting rays shined the ripe leaves of her proud Magnolia. Ms. Meade admired its beauty as she strolled along to her cottage on the outskirts of town. “Not to worry,” she soothed, “your beauty will be preserved.”

The following morning Ms. Meade stepped into her garden. The fruity aroma from the flourishing blooms overhead paired well with her coffee. She noticed Mr. White had yet to drop by with the daily paper. Across the lane, the Walker’s lacked a fresh bundle as well. Their house was dark and quiet, and Ms. Meade admired her tree alone that day.

Inside, the mess remained from the previous day’s baking. She’d been in such a hurry she hadn’t had time to tidy up before the service, and was so tired afterwards that she went straight to bed. Remaining gooseberries were sprawled along the counter and a faint layer of sugar coated its surface. As she cleaned, Ms. Meade relished her discoveries out in her garden. “Thank God those pesky rats are rid of,” she thought. “I just couldn’t stand and watch their ugliness corrupt what’s right.” With a sigh Ms. Meade wiped her hands and put the last of the ingredients away, tossing out an empty box of rat poison.