Twenty-three good things about pickles and dirt
Sun Oct 15 2000 at 18:47:10
Pickles swim in the most wonderful brine,
a quick solitary pleasure
, swigging it crouched behind the fridge door hoping no one catches you at it.
Dirt is an excellent toy.
Watch a four-year-old
sitting in it, seat of his pants filthy, talking to himself, making roads, hills, canyons, mudslides.
Dust, a close cousin of dirt, is made of stars and us. The first two components of dust are sloughed-off skin cells and bits of burnt-up asteroids blasted into powder by the atmosphere. As such, dust makes excellent fertilizer.
Burger chips, or whatever they're called - those massive slabs of pickle engineered to be burger-sized, so not one bite of burger may go
. They evoke creepy thoughts of cucumbers engineered to be inappopriately gigantic, but still it seems thoughtful of someone; I appreciate it.
In truck stops they give you
pickles with everything
. Once I ordered just fries (Hon you are gonna waste away. Let me bring you some soup. No? Ok well I best see you clean your plate a them fries then.) and they came with pickles. (her way of sneaking a few extra calories down my gullet?) A little damp heap of pickle chips,
huddled miserably on the edge
of the stoneware plate. Wobbly and nonappealing. But they spread their pale juice out under the pickup-sticks mountain of home fries, giving their slight zest to every other bite.
Sometimes I don't clean under my nails on purpose, just
to remind myself I've been working
Frances used to mash up pickles and cream cheese to put on... what? Doesn't matter; repulsive. Now, either one reminds me of her, but I do not miss her enough to mix the two, not yet.
Dig around the base of any tree and you will find little bones, loose forgotten fossils in the soil.
I went to a funeral once where at the wake there was all this classy finger food along a buffet table, fine china serving plates and whatnot and then this
unexplained gravy boat
jammed full of pickles. Someone's joke, maybe, or a testament to a man I never really knew. I stood by the buffet table filling my toothpicks with skewered pickles and eating them one at a time.
People had to walk around me.
I was busy eating pickles, they were a comfort.
In the greenhouse
one of my jobs
is to repot things. Some want bigger pots, some want smaller, and I pick what flavor dirt to fill each with. The potting soil comes in bags as big as a man, and the labels fall off, but I know which I want by the color. The proportion of its components turns different dirt different browns. I like knowing the specifics, it's my palette.
When I was seven I saw the commercial where they bend the pickle to show
it is a bad pickle
and snap the other pickle to show it is a good one. I went to the fridge and found all our pickles bendy and threw them away and got yelled at. My fingers smelled excellent for hours.
You can feed the stinkiest, least pleasant table scraps and kitchen gack to Bill's worm farm and they will methodically convert it to rich, odorless soil.
My mom and I raked leaves
and burned them in the backyard.
We hauled logs
and chopped them up and loaded up the woodbin. Hours later, after a shower, I found stubborn dirt still hiding out all over me, in all my tiny wrinkles, beginning to show me I am old.
On a picnic, we shoved the stuff aside after eating and lay on our bellies on the blanket. Coolish breeze but warmish sun, fall, probably
the last good picnic day
. Blanket too short, our feet were in the grass. Eyes shut I dug down with my toes, ripping clover to get to the damp dirt beneath. The earth was warmer than the air, it had saved some of the sun.
Pickles are so unlike cucumbers, it's easy enough to pretend they were never the same thing. That's good.
When Anna was pregnant, every time I asked what she needed from the grocery, she hesitated. WHAT, Anna? Nothing.
Finally she admitted it was pickles
, she didn't want to be a stereotype but she couldn't help it, pickles are just so damn good.
A newly dug-up garden is one of the best smells.
When I lived in New Mexico I missed dirt. I missed trees and grass too but it wasn't their fault for not existing - they couldn't, there was nothing in the ground to hold onto, to keep them alive. I was glad to come back to the messier east, not so austere, we leave our dirt lying around all over the place, only waiting for things to grow.
You could balance a pickle on Toby's nose and his nostrils would be
going crazy from the smell
of it but he would not flip his head back until you said
Eat it, Toby!
Once I made a sandwich and left the kitchen. Few minutes later a terrible yowling fistfight, I ran back in to see. Trouble and Matt had found my dropped pickle chip and were very serious about deciding who was going to eat it. It was too much of a fight to break up - bits of fur floating all over - so I got out the jar and dropped another one. They gulped them down warily, hackles still up.
Rain on a newly dug-up garden is the best smell.
When I was four I was
in the hospital for something mysterious
they never did figure out entirely. I was there for a week. When I came home my mom put me straight in the tub to get the
off me. She took me out and started rubbing me down with a towel and noticed my skin was
. Not only was it gray but bits of it were coming off. My mother flashed through all the possible nasty things I might have caught from other patients in the ward. Something septic, something threatening. She called the hospital and yelled. And yelled and went quiet and listened and hung up. And put me back in the bath with more soap and a washrag, to scrub off the completely ordinary filth of a healthy child.
I like it!
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