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Fiction Fundamentals - Short Story #3

I revisited with the imagined life of my grandparents with this story.  Chronologically it takes place before my first short story for this class. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday Gravy
            It was a simple meal, one Maria had been making since she was a child. She had started the gravy by browning any and all meat she found in the refrigerator. She would add it all to the gravy a little later including some leftover chicken from last night’s dinner.  She started her gravy with a few jars of tomatoes she had canned with Katie not that long ago. The grief she felt when she open the jars was overwhelming, she should be cooking this meal with her mother-in-law. 
After five years of making the Sunday gravy they had it down to an art form.  While one woman cleaned up from breakfast the other would brown the meat.  After finishing the dishes it was a trip down to the basement to get two jars of canned tomatoes and then out to the garden for fresh herbs. After browning there was another trip to the garden for the vegetables. Then the kitchen with the sounds of chopping. The first one done heated the oil in the pot and started saut√©ing the vegetables. Then in went the jars of canned tomatoes and herbs and on went the lid.  Then it simmered.
Maria’s gravy had been simmering all day.  Her meat had been added back into the pot and it was almost finished. Carlo was down in the basement getting the pasta they had made yesterday.  She would put the water up to boil once the rest of the family got to the house. Carlo walked into the kitchen carrying the pasta draped over his hand and arm. He carefully laid it out on the counter.
“I’m going to check on Santina.” He walked out of the kitchen.
Maria sighed, he had been checking on her every few minutes since she came home from the hospital.  She had a few injuries from the accident, nothing serious, but still he worried and continued to check on his daughter. She would start the salad while she waited for Carlo to come back in with a report on their napping child.  She had already picked the vegetables and they were still sitting in the basket by the back door. She had just finished washing them when Carlo came back into the room.
“She’s napping.”
“She’s been napping all afternoon.  The doctor said she needed the rest.” Maria turned and looked at her husband. He looked tired and worn out. He stood just inside the doorway, the look of a lost little boy in the eyes of a man who carried the weight of his world on his shoulders.
“Can you set the table?”
Without saying a word, Carlo went to the cabinets and removed the dishes, silverware, and cups. The only sounds in the kitchen were the faint click of the dishes, the chop of her knife and the hiss of the stove. Then the tapping started.
Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap
“If you don’t stop tapping that knife–” Maria could take the sound no longer. She turned and saw Carlo standing at the head of the table, knife in hand mindlessly tapping while he was lost in thought. As if he could feel her eyes on him he turned towards her.
“Stop taping the knife.”
“What knife?”
“The one in your hand.  The one you keep tapping.”
“Huh. I didn’t realize I was holding a knife. Why was I holding the knife?”
“You are supposed to be setting the table.”
Maria turned back to finish chopping the lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes for the salad.
Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap
“Carlo!” Maria spun around, her skirt and apron twirling at the force of her turn.
“What?” He looked startled at her outburst.
“The knife.” She pointed her own at him, using it to indicate the one he held.
“Huh?” He looked confused between the one she held and the one in his hand.
“The knife, drop it.”
He realized he must have been tapping it again and placed it next to the plate at the head of the table before sitting in the seat. “Sorry mi amore, I just–”
“Just, what?” Maria turned to finish her salad. When Carlo didn’t answer she turned back and took a step towards him.  The movement had him looking at her, again in confusion.
“You should try to rest.” Maria walked to the table, the bowl of salad in her hands.  She placed it in the center of the table before sitting down and placing her hands on top of her husband’s.
“Can’t rest. Do we know when everyone will get here?”
“Irma went to pick up the kids from your uncles, they should be here soon.”  
Carlo nodded and turned to stare out the window.  Maria got up and went to check her gravy.  She lifted the lid and dipped her wooden spoon in, she was just bringing it toward her lips when she heard.
Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap
“Carlo!” She kept her back turned and tasted the gravy. She added a bit of salt and stirred the pot.
“What do we do Mary?”
“What do you mean what do we do?” She put the lid back on the pot. She picked up the second pot and walked to the sink to fill it with water.
“What do we do with Roman, Torina, and Cecila?”
“We take care of them. This is their home, they belong here.”
“Are you sure?”
While the pot filled she turned to face her husband. He looked up at her. “Carlo they are your family, which makes them my family. Why would there be any question about what we would do?”
He nodded, and turned back to looking out the window. Once the pot was filled she turned off the faucet and before she could pick it up, Carlo was at her elbow. “I got it.” He carried the pot to the stove. “How do we afford it? Maybe Irma and Bart could take the girls?”
“No.” Maria moved to the long strands of pasta on the counter and started to cut it to length for spaghetti.
“Carlo this is our home now. Your parents left it to you, their eldest son. They left you the family home, why wouldn’t we keep your family here with us?”
“It is a lot to ask you to take on Mary. My siblings and our own children –“

“Are all my family. We’ll make it work Carlo.” They both turned at the sound of the front door. “Turn the water on. We’ll tell them once we sit down that they’ll be moving back home.”


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