Flavours of a Memory

In  by June 9, 2023

Mists lie over the craggy rocks just off the shore. Sea gulls cry, sea lions bark, kelp crunches underfoot.

Cypress and sage bend in the breeze coming off the ocean.

Purple wildflowers peek out from dry brown grass. A bent oak shelters crows.

A peek into the secluded life of a tidepool: sea anemones, sea weed, tiny crabs, and mussels all live within.

A jogger and her dog run by, frisbee thrown ahead and brought back eagerly, to be thrown again.

Carli sighs and stops the digital recording of her grandmother’s walk on the beach. She shouldn’t use precious generated electricity to run it, but it’s her lifeline to what was.

Her grandmother promised her that what once was could be again, and she has to believe it. She holds on to that promise to get her through the day.

She carefully puts the equipment away, and unseals the dome door to check on the tidal generators at her beach, many yards inland of her grandmother’s once-pristine Monterey Bay.

She slides her ancient brown boat from the cracked brown shore into the tepid brown waves, and rows out to pull garbage flotsam from the generators.

There are no bird cries, only the desultory slosh of soapy waves under a tan sky.

After rowing her haul back to the shore, carting it to the disposal ditch, and tossing it into the abyss, she checks the desalinization and filter mechanisms, holding her breath against the stench.

That smell won’t last forever. What once was will be again. Her grandmother promised. There are better days ahead.

Once she’s washed the filth from her hands, she unseals the large vegetable dome and takes a deep breath of rich, moist air. The dome’s filled with life: butterflies, bees, earthworms, and all the vegetables her grandmother grew from her hoarded heritage seeds.

When plant disease ripped across the world, her grandmother’s seeds became the only food for miles. The disease destroyed all the single-species wheat, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, safflower, rice, oats, and alfalfa in the world in one year—the same year that the Northern Hemisphere’s major water reservoirs dried up.

Her grandmother didn’t talk much about those days, and Carli never asked. Somehow she and Grandpa and a few other families built, maintained, and grew the farms, and turned hell into paradise.

Carli moves into that paradise now, feeling the reverence and joy she always does in the vegetable dome.

Today it’s time to train the new peas. Kneeling in the soil, she wraps a vine carefully around its trellis, hooking its fingers tenderly around diamond-shaped supports. It’s the child she never had, the future of her race, the hope of continuing life.

The door unseals with a puff of air, and Ty enters, the floppy felt hat she made for him last Christmas covering his curly brown hair. “Someone came back from New Mexico, and you’ll never guess what they brought in exchange for the sweet potato starts we sent them.”

Carli’s heart beats faster. She wants to run screaming with glee out to the gate, but she carefully stands and walks, with the respect for all living things in the dome that her grandmother taught her.

When she gets to the wagon  behind the solar jeepney that made the thousand-mile trek, her breath catches.

Maize!

Piles and piles of rainbow-coloured dried ears of maize fill the wagon. Enough to cultivate half a farming dome. She’s never seen maize in real life—only pictures—and here it is, enough for everyone in the Monterey farm and all their descendants to eat maize every day, after the first planting season.

“Thank you,” she says to the New Mexican. “You’re welcome to our home for as long as you’d like to stay. Florie in Dome Three over there will help you get settled.”

When the man is a little way away she turns to her husband. “Ty! Let’s do something wicked! Let’s waste a little of this gift!”

Ty raises his eyebrows, but then narrows his eyes and grins. “What do you have in mind, my love?”

She grabs three ears off the top of the wagon and runs toward home. “Come on and you’ll see!”

When they’re inside their dome, she plonks a lidded pan on the table. “Rub all the kernels off the maize and put them in this pan.”

She holds an ear and demonstrates for him, and they cover the pan bottom with a rainbow of maize beads. Then she turns on the griddle.

“I know it’s a sin to waste seeds and power like this, but I’ve been wanting to do this since I was three, when Grandma showed me a recording of it.”

“I don’t know what you’re doing, Carli, but you deserve to waste a little. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen you so excited.”

She covers the pan and sets it on the griddle. The first pop pushes her heart up into her throat. But she recognizes her cue and shakes the pan as hard and fast as she can. More shots ring out within the pan, until there’s a whole fusillade going on in there.

And then it slows.

She turns off the power and removes the pan to a trivet on the table.

“Behold!” She whips the lid off and a rich, full aroma hits their nostrils. “Popcorn!”

Ty gazes at the pile of pastel blooms. “What do we do with it?”

“This!” She grabs a handful and shoves it into her mouth.

Flavours of memories she never knew envelop her. Each satisfying crunch releases a new aroma into the back of her throat, filling her head with warmth and joy. It was her grandmother’s promise, taking over all her senses. What once was will be again.

“We’re doing it, Grandma,” Carli says. “We’re really doing it.”

Copyright © 2023 Catherine Weaver

Feature image credit:

Depositphotos

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Catherine Weaver

Catherine Weaver is a writer, editor, and educator from the San Francisco Bay Area, where her family has lived for four generations.

She loves gardening, taking walks under the trees, and cuddling up with a good book and her cat.

She is the author of two Middle Grade fantasy novels and one bilingual English/Japanese picture book.

You can learn more about her at https://catherineweaverauthor.com/

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