Tiggy opens a can of tom8to soup and heats it on the stove. She slices the remains of yesterday’s loaf of bread into one inch cubes and fries them in olive oil and garlic. Tom8to soup with croutons. Then she puts two slices of bread in the toaster. Her father will only eat toast soaked in butter and layered with Marmite when he eats tomahto soup.
“Lunch is ready,” she calls out.
The black American Cocker Spaniel, bought by Tiggy’s late mother, in a moment of madness, by telephone, unseen, camps in the kitchen. It nests at the far end of the table, by the stove, and defends its territory with warning growls and a snapping of yellowed teeth. Tiggy will not go near the dog.
“Lunch is ready,” Tiggy calls out, a little bit louder. Dog, as they call him, growls and clatters its teeth. It has hidden a treasure in the folds of its old, gray comfort blanket, and guards it with the fierce, loving worry of a dragon protecting its golden hoard.
Tiggy’s father enters the kitchen as she places the soup on the table.
“I’m not ready to eat. Put it back in the pot.”
“What’s wrong, dad? I thought you were hungry.”
“My teeth,” he mumbles through a mouthful of pink gums. “I can’t find my teeth.”
“Where on earth did you put them?”
“I don’t know. If I knew where I’d put them, I wouldn’t have lost them.”
Tiggy’s father circulates round the kitchen opening drawers, lifting saucepan lids, and shaking empty yogurt pots to see if they’ll rattle.
“I can’t find them anywhere. I can’t eat lunch without my teeth.”
“But it’s only soup, dad, tom8to soup.”
“I don’t like tom8to soup. Your mother always made tomahto soup. Why can’t you be more like your mother?”
“Sorry, dad. I’ll call it tomahto soup, if that will make you feel better. But it’s still made out of tom8toes.”
“Don’t be so sarcastic. Help me find my teeth,” Tiggy’s father stomps towards the stove and Dog growls fiercely from its blanket as it guards its treasure.
“Take that, you dirty dog,” Tiggy’s father lashes out at Dog with his stick and cracks it across the head.
“Dad, stop that. It’s not Dog’s fault.”
Dog howls and spits out what it is chewing.
“There they are,” Tiggy’s father bends down, picks up his teeth, still hairy from the blanket and bubbly from Dog’s saliva. He pops his teeth into his mouth.
“That’s better,” he says, “now I can enjoy my lunch.”
I included this short story, first published here on my blog on April 13, in Devil’s Kitchen, my new story collection that received third prize in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick David Adams Richards Award for prose this year. I will probably read this tonight, at the awards ceremony that follows the banquet here in Quispamsis. It’s a beautiful morning, with sunshine streaming through my bedroom window. Hopefully a full day of sun and warmth will help decrease the already diminishing flood waters that have struck this area of the Lower Saint John River Valley.