Good For the Soul
Winter Challenge at Lancer Writers
Scott walked briskly toward the house and noticed the smoke billowing out of the four chimneys. The smoke seemed to be beckoning him to come inside and get warm. He shivered as a strong north wind blew his fair hair, and his jacket billowed open.
He hurried his steps and remembered just this morning, his good natured teasing of his younger brother. Johnny had done nothing but complain since the first cold winter rains began, and Scott had taken delight in needling him for being so soft.
Another sharp wind blew through the yard, swirling leaves past his boots. He had to admit, he was looking forward to a roaring fire and Maria’s Sunday supper.
Scott’s pleasant thoughts came to an abrupt halt as he entered the kitchen. He pushed his hat back on his forehead and began removing his gloves, one finger at a time.
“Just what do you think you’re doing brother?” Scott asked as he set his hat and gloves on the kitchen table.
Johnny looked up from behind the grill where he was stirring a large bubbling pot with a long handled wooden spoon.
“I’m cookin’. Whadya think I’m doin’?” Johnny wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve which pushed his damp hair back for a moment before it fell back into disarray on his forehead.
“I can see that, but what I want to know is why?” Scott responded.
“Missy Taylor’s baby’s comin’ and Murdoch took Maria and Teresa over there to help out. Maria told me to keep stirrin’ this pot and left.”
“Oh.” Scott was nonplussed for words as he watched his brother stirring the pot. He walked a few steps closer to the fire spitting grill. “So how long did she say to keep stirring it?”
“Didn’t say-Till it’s done I guess.”
“How will you know when it’s done?”
“When it looks right, then it’ll be done.” Johnny spoke with conviction.
Scott’s stomach grumbled and he figured it would be a long time; if ever, before their supper was ready. He broke off a piece of bread from the loaf on the bread board and popped it in his mouth while he sat on the kitchen table.
Johnny glanced over at him with a frown, “Make yourself useful why don’t you, and cut up them carrots and onions.”
With a sigh, Scott sat in a chair and began peeling the carrots and cutting them in precise slices. “So what are we making?” Scott ventured.
“We’re makin’ soup.”
“Have you ever made soup before” Scott asked, barely able to contain his growing glee at having something new to tease his brother about during the next bunk house poker game.
Scott raised a brow, “How exactly do you know how to make it?”
“Watched it done. Plenty of times. It don’t look that hard.”
Scott shrugged and neatly finished cutting the onions in wedges when he heard Johnny announce that “it” was ready.
Scott walked over to the stove and glanced in the simmering pot. “It looks a bit thin.”
Johnny gave him a look of disgust. “It ain’t done yet.” He glanced around the kitchen quickly and turned back to his brother. “We need somthin’ to strain all this skin and stuff out. Look around and see what you can find.”
Scott began walking around the kitchen, “What exactly am I looking for brother?” Scott asked as he completed one circuit of the kitchen.
“My mama used muslin.”
“Some kinda cloth that’ll let the broth through.” Johnny explained.
“Oh.” Scott tried without success to fully hide a smile at his brother’s prowess in the kitchen.
“Look in the pantry.” Johnny advised.
A few minutes later Scott came out holding a half filled burlap sack. “Will this do?” he held up the bag.
Johnny glanced up from where he was stirring the pot, “Ya, that should work. Dump out that corn meal and hold it over the sink.”
As Scott headed for the scrap bucket, Johnny’s sharp, “No!” stopped him.
“Dump it in a bowl. Maria will kill us if we toss that out.”
Scott brought the empty sack over to the sink as Johnny carefully picked up the steaming pot. He’d wrapped cloths over the large wooden handles and was walking carefully to avoid sloshing the mixture.
“Hold it steady, Scott.” Johnny began pouring as Scott yelled.
“Wait! Shouldn’t we have something under here to catch the broth?”
Johnny looked chagrined as his cheeks colored a bit, when he realized what he almost did. “Yeah. Better get another pot.
Scott got a cook pot in place and held the sack steady as Johnny slowly poured the broth into their makeshift strainer.
With the rich broth safely in the pot, Johnny dumped the mixture left in the bag on the cutting board.
Both brothers looked in silence at the disgusting mess on the board.
“Now what?” Scott asked.
“We gotta clean the meat off the bones.” Johnny replied.
Scott reached out to pick up a chicken leg, “Ouch. That’s hot!”
“Here.” Johnny handed him a knife and fork. “Just slide the knife down along the bone. The meat’ll come right off.”
Working in silence, intent on their work, neither brother noticed Murdoch standing in the doorway. With a smile at the sight before him, he backed out the door and allowed it to shut behind him with a whisper.
“Now we gotta put all the meat back in here along with the vegetables. Soon as they get soft, it’ll be ready.” Johnny informed his brother.
Once the pot was back on the fire, bubbling away, Scott poured his brother and himself a cup of coffee and they sat together at the kitchen table.
Johnny held his cup with both hands and blew on the hot liquid. “Let me tell ya Scott, makin’ that soup is as hard on the back as buildin’ fence.” He stretched his knotted back and shoulder muscles. “All that standin’ and stirring, really builds an appetite. Know what I mean.”
Scott took a sip of his coffee and nodded. “Yes Johnny. I know exactly what you mean.”
Both brothers sat in contentment sipping their coffee as the pot bubbled away, their mouth’s watering in anticipation as the delicious smell of their chicken soup filled the kitchen. All in all-They’d done a good days work and in just a little while they would be sitting down to Sunday supper to reap their rewards.