As soon as Eloise and her Dad reached the front door, they could smell cabbage cooking. When Aunt Sis opened the door, it hit the two of them like a steam locomotive. The abrupt exposure to the full force of the smell made Eloise gag and her father sneeze. There’s nothing quite like the sickening sweet, sulfurous stench of cooking cabbage. All this suffering for a nominative day to celebrate a patron saint of a country she never once thought about any other time of the year.
Eloise’s Great Aunt Sis had the family monopoly on St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Probably because no one else wanted the stink of cooked cabbage to permeate their homes. And corned beef? Eloise’s father, Franklin, called corned beef the meat that prevented Napoleon’s army from ever invading Ireland. It bothered the sensibilities of the French gourmand. Aunt Sis called the whole affair a New England Boiled Dinner. Franklin thought there was something intrinsically wrong with curing beef with rock salt, then boiling the hell out of it. Eloise reminded her father that it made Aunt Sis happy and that’s all that mattered.
It was at these times, with the family gathered, that Franklin most missed Eloise’s mother. He never hid the truth from his little girl, hoping she wouldn’t miss her as much as he missed her. You see, Eloise’s mother left them for a NASA engineer, Franklin’s roommate in college. Bob came for a visit four years earlier and Franklin’s wife, Sara, followed him back to Huntsville. But then, soon after, she was diagnosed with cancer and Bob, the coward that he was, broke it off with her. Sara died a few short months later: ashamed and alone. Franklin ran into Bob at a conference in Phoenix and beat the crap out of him until the police came and arrested him for assault. Eloise lived with Great Aunt Sis for the six months Franklin was incarcerated in Arizona. Aunt Sis said he could have beaten the charges but Franklin was so heartbroken over Sara’s death, that he didn’t even try to defend himself. Had he known she was dying, he would have been by her side.
Eloise’s time staying with Aunt Sis was, for her, a special time in her life. The housekeeper, Magdalena, who had been with Aunt Sis for over 20 years, cooked all of Eloise’s favorite foods, and her Aunt often took her out for elegant dining or a meal at Eloise’s favorite burger joint. Eloise went with her and Magdalena to the Philippines to visit Magdalena’s family and they spent time visiting friends of Aunt Sis in Australia, stopping in Hawaii on the return trip. It was the best summer vacation ever.
It was years later, when Great Aunt Sis was gone, weird things would remind Eloise of her like the smell of cabbage cooking in the Craftsman’s house Aunt Sis left Magdalena, who took up the tradition of the New England Boiled Dinner for Eloise and her family.
Flash Fiction Challenge #18 at Thain in Vain Prompt: “Weird things remind me of her. Like cabbage for instance.”
word count: 500