Friday, January 18, 2008

Poetry Friday: The Word is JUICE

For some reason, since childhood, the word “juice” means specifically “apple juice” to me. My extended family drank gallons of the stuff, and baby bottles were filled with the sticky amber liquid as soon as the tots were brought home from the hospital. My own kids drink it, but the smell and tack of it turn my stomach. Apple cider I can drink by the gallon…apple juice tastes like poison.

The Poetry Friday WORD for today, as the lovely Maggie says, is JUICE. Feel free to use that word in your blog post today, in whatever Technicolor-rainbow form of it you wish…poem, story, song, recipe, plan for landscaping your backyard, knitted sock pattern….

I have one offering here, short-story-ish, more a memory of things past. I started a song, but like I said, I’m not a songwriter, and all I have is the chorus, so we’ll see if I can shake the rest of the song out of the tree later.

Have a good weekend, y’all!

Apple Cheeks

Lori was the oldest girl in a house full of blends…her mother had 3 kids, her stepfather had 3, and the seams burst with a relenting stream of cousins, foster kids, and exchange students. Going to her house was like being pulled from the audience at the circus and forced to spin plates and walk the tightrope with the clown’s small dog on your shoulder…exciting, fear-inducing, dizzying. They never sat still, never took a break to watch television or read a book. They ran in circles up and down the stairs, they’d venture out to the barn and decide to take walks through the cornfields, walk that would last hours and not be noticed by their stressed out parents. Arlen, the middle boy, discovered a gas-sniffing habit, sticking his face in the can, offering to siphon it into containers and containers and containers, his eyes turning red and a stupid grin spreading on his face until the buzz found his feet, wherein he took off…bam!...and we wouldn’t see him the rest of the day.

Their house was a mess. It stunk like an old house does, years of sweat and garbage building up, hair oil and spilled ham juice, stale pee and Love’s Baby Soft. Sometimes Lori’s mom would make lasagna and garlic bread for the crowd, and the house would fill with the delicious smell. We’d forget about the piles of laundry in the living room, the dog mess in front of the bathroom door, the stench coming from the younger kids who came in from playing in the garbage dump. We’d sit on stools and chairs and broken ottomans, shoving bubbling sauce and meat in our hungry maws, quiet for once, sighing our approval.

When it got dark, Lori’s mom would make Apple Cheeks. A combination of apple juice, witch hazel, and some secret ingredients, it would sit in a bowl and we’d throw handfuls of cotton balls into it. The girls in the house would cram in the bathroom and rub the cotton balls over our faces. The astringent qualities would cut through the grime of the day, and the smell would be like acid Autumn. The soft balls would be plied on cheeks, chins, foreheads, temples, down the lazy slopes of necks, cliffs of noses, carefully avoiding the eyes. We didn’t talk during this ritual. As the concoction dried, we’d stare at our reflections in various mirrors and bathroom chrome fixtures, watching as the homemade snake oil turned our cheeks ruddy and warm, and pulled our skin tight. Lori would leave the bathroom first, make her way, stumbling, up to her bedroom, where she’d disrobe and crawl into bed. The rest of us would find ourselves draping over furniture and stacks of magazines, our bellies full, our heads empty of chatter, petting the dogs as our eyes fluttered in the folly of sleep.


At 2:14 PM, Blogger Maggie said...

Wow, I could practically smell the mix of noxious odors and lasagna trying to overpower them. And then I imagined all those cotton balls drenched in brown filth after cleaning those faces. Great stuff Mona. Great stuff.

You know I counted at least 6 people so far that did the Poetry Friday? That's awesome!

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Did you really make this stuff and put it on cheeks? Never heard of that!Good for tightening as long as your faces didn't wizen up like those apple doll ladies'!

Still think we should set up a cwntral place like hee where you leave your name and URL if you're participating so people know where to go. I only know you and Maggie.
Who else did this?

At 6:57 PM, Blogger patches said...

Your vivid descriptions mad me feel as though it were my memory too. I feel the same way about cider vs apple juice. No contest.

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Irrelephant said...

Heh! What a great story. Drawn from experience, eh? Sounds a treat. And you know Mother is right...why not a short quickie list of us regulars?

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Clowncar said...

What a nice memory. The description of the house is priceless: "hair oil and spilled ham juice, stale pee and Love’s Baby Soft." Wow. The boy smelling gasoline is pretty cool too.

Spent many a summer day getting lost in cornfields myself, growing up.

Nice writing, mona.


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