Jessica was working in her sparkling clean kitchen. A kitchen that was equipped like a lab in it’s efficiency. She was watching the canner out of the corner of her eye while she was cutting up the fresh meat her husband had managed to hunt down on his weekend hunting trip. Food was getting harder and harder to acquire in these hard economic times. And what there was of it in the stores was being priced out of their income range. Jessica believed that the over chemicalized sinthameat wasn’t good enough for her children anyway.
Aaron and Jessica weren’t going to just let their children starve. So Jessica had put in a vegetable garden in the back yard and Aaron went on weekend hunting and fishing trips to augment their money situation. The garden wasn’t just for food for the family it also attracted smaller animals that they trapped and used as bait.
The kids were in one of the bedrooms playing while Jessica cut the meat off the bones. This would be many pints of stew before she was done with it. They would be put away for leaner times when the hunting wasn’t as good. The radio was keeping her company.
Aaron came into the kitchen and kissed her on the cheek. His beard tickled her a little on the neck and she laughed. “Good to hear you laugh, Love.” he said to her.
“It’s good to feel like laughing again. And having food on the shelves helps a whole lot in that direction.”
He raised the lid on the stew pot and asked, “This for tonight?”
“No, supper is in the oven. That is ‘Trouble Stew’ for times when food is harder to get.”
“No, just practical. The stew has everything in it already.”
He laughed and she threw a dish cloth at him. He ducked and came at her grabbing her around the waist and kissing her full on the lips.
After a moment she pushed him away saying, “I have work to do and you won’t get supper if I don’t finish it first.”
He grabbed his jacket and paper and headed for the door. “I’ll be a little late from work tonight. I have to catch the later bus. Tony needs a hand with some project he’s working on, wants me to help him weld something. He can weld better then me but he doesn’t have any confidence in himself. These two part time jobs are killing me but I have to take what I can get.”
“I’m just happy that the college has enough students this year to hire you for maintenance at all.” she said as she turned down the oven.
“Yah, well I gotta’ go or I’ll miss my bus. I’ll have those bowls I made and fired yesterday so the kids won’t have to share anymore. Love Ya.”
“Great. Love ya back.”
After Aaron left for the rest of the day Jessica took the hot jars of stew out of the canner and ladled the next batch into jars and lidding them placed them into the large canning pot. After the canner lid was locked on tight she waited for it to come to a boil before she set the timer.
On her way back down the stairs from collecting laundry from the bathroom hamper she heard a news story about two missing 14 year old children and she stopped and shivered on the steps. Jessica listened to her younger children giggle over a game they were playing and sighed. She tossed the laundry down to the bottom of the steps and went back upstairs to see her babies. There were winners and losers, strong and weak, and Jessica was going to have strong winners for children if she could do anything about it.
Jessica approached the opened door and before going in listened for a few more minutes. She knew once they saw her she would have to play with them for at least a half an hour. Andy was teaching Cheyenne how to pretend to be a better dog. Jessica stepped back and went back down stairs to check on the canner. In ten minutes it would be done. She grabbed the laundry and put a load into the washer. The timer bell rang as she was closing the lid of the washer. Good timing. She shut off the canner and left it to cool.
Back upstairs she colored with the children for almost an hour telling them tales about children becoming strong leaders when they grew up before she left them to play without her again. More stew needed to be canned. The older two came in the door after school and dropped their books on the kitchen chairs.
“Put those in the living room and wash your hands before your snack. Daddy will be a little late tonight so I want you to start your homework at four and I’ll help you with the rest after supper. Here have an apple and some peanut butter and get out of here because I have to get this last batch of stew done.”
Dallas took his books into the living room and turned on the TV. Crystal got the jar of peanut butter out of the refrigerator, a knife and spoon, and three of the apples out the fruit bowl and followed him. The little ones were scrambling down the steps to get their snack too. At the coffee table Dallas cut the apples and Crystal added the peanut butter to the snacks. Jessica brought in some paper towel squares and handed one to each of them and went back to stirring the stew pot as the gravy thickened.