What I Read at Blog Out Loud

What a great evening! Diary of a Turtlehead Lynn didn’t miss a trick in organizing this event, down to the little tiny notebooks we got to share blogsites. Everyone has thanked the hell out of Lynn already, but she deserves at least one more really big THANK YOU for organizing this. If we do this again next year (and I hope we will) I nominate Lynn to put it together!! Yay!!

I have to admit that beforehand I was a little leary of having to sit through 3 hours of people reading, but it wasn’t like that at all. Every one of the readers was captivating in their own unique way and everyone had such dynamic and engaging reading styles –there wasn’t a dry monotone among them. Colour me delighted.

So….

TOMATO SOUP

This is what I finally decided to read last night at Blog Out Loud.  I posted a version of this story a long, long time ago in another incarnation of this blog.

************

When I was an innocent, fresh-faced adolescent, growing up in the heart of Canada’s fruit belt, I once spent a summer babysitting the three kids that lived on the neighbouring farm while their parents saw to the harvest.  I was so naive at the time that I truly believed that spending 12 – 15 hours a day with two very young boys, a 6-month old baby and an ugly, randy, black dog named, Fletcher, was preferable to picking or packing fruit.

This was back in the day when summers were hot and this particular summer was the hottest  I could remember. The kids were miserable all the time. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, so I couldn’t take them to a movie theatre or a play park or even to visit friends. We hung around the dusty farm playing by the dried-up creek. Or we’d walking through the bush looking at bugs. But most of our time was spent splashing in the kiddie pool trying to keep the heat at bay and shaking Fletcher off our legs.

It certainly wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever had, but it surely wasn’t the best either.

Until…around about the middle of July. The job benefits  increased dramatically when my boss took on a farmhand – a blond, young, strapping, guitar-playing Adonis-like farmhand.  Eddie.  Eddie was only a couple of years older than me, soft-spoken, with a halo of Byronic curls and the soulful eyes of a poet. 

He moved into the small hired-hand shack in the middle of the apple orchard. The very apple orchard that edged our property. The very apple orchard and shack that I was able to see clearly from my very own bedroom window.

Eddie would spend his evenings sitting on the tiny porch of his summer shack, strumming his guitar and smoking. Sometimes he’d sing along, softly in a sweet, sad voice.

I often watched him from my bedroom window before I went to sleep — memorizing everything for my dreams.  I’d hear him singing as I drifted off to sleep, imagining him sitting, shadowy, under his dim porch-light. 

Of course, I was completely besotted.  He was so unlike all the boys I knew from school; so grown up, so sensitive, so perfect. His skin was clear. His hair was clean. He played guitar. He lived in his own shack!

Eddie and I would say hello and smile at each other if we happened to pass in the farmyard. Or perhaps we’d exchange some brief word or two when I’d bring out the Hi-C in the scorching afternoon for the thirsty pickers.  But that was all. We didn’t seek each other out.

Instead, I spent the summer in a hazy fantasy  involving Eddie tossing pebbles at my bedroom window late at night, beckoning me to join him on the front porch of his shack. (The fantasy went hazy to overcast and foggy at that point because I was, afterall, still very young and innocent) 

Late one hot, sweltering morning near the end of August, the skies suddenly grew black. A frantic wind danced through the thick humidity. A rumble of thunder could be heard approaching in the distance.  The air became charged with electricity as lightening crackled over the hills.

The pickers were all sent home.  The morning’s harvest was hurriedly packed and loaded onto the truck and the farmer and his wife drove off to get their fruit to the cannery.

The farmyard was deserted in record time as the storm raced toward us.  And then there was just me, the kids, the ugly black dog and Eddie. The kids, of course were in super high-gear because something new and exciting was going on. Eddie rushed around putting equipment away before the rain came.

And all at once, the skies exploded with a crash of thunder and lightning and the clouds opened wide releasing a torrential downpour. Everyone screamed.

I hustled the kids and the dog indoors without any of us getting too wet. The screen door slammed behind us. But where was Eddie?

We looked through an almost opaque curtain of rain and could barely make out Eddie as he struggled to close the barn doors against the lashing winds.

By the time he got himself up to the house, he was soaked to the skin; his hair plastered darkly to his skull; his clothes clinging to him, dripping on the kitchen floor.  The kids had never had this much fun. They jumped up and down. They laughed at Eddie. The ugly black dog was so excited he was trying to mount the baby.

Then there was another boom and a crack that shook the house and then the lights went out. And then we were in the dark. It was like night. Everyone but the baby went quiet.

We all rushed to a window to see if we could see what had been hit by the lightening. But it was too dark and too wild out there. The heat of the last few weeks was just a memory as ferocious winds swept the farmyard.

Eddie shivered and peeled off his sodden t-shirt.

He shrugged and stepped into the bathroom.

The kids decided they were starving. They needed food. The baby was trying to mount the ugly black dog.

And Eddie emerged from the bathroom with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. 

Oh my.

He grinned and blushed and murmured an apology for not having anything else to change into.

I stammered something in return which I’m sure was inane and I suddenly felt grossly overdressed in my shorts and tank top.

The kids were climbing into the fridge foraging for sustenance.  Eddie and I decided we’d better feed them.

Eddie lit some candles and I scrounged around the pantry for something everyone could eat. I found some tins of Campbell’s Tomato soup. Eddie got the kids out of the fridge and found some bread and cheese. We decided to make soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Eddie set himself up at one side of the stove creating cream of tomato soup. I was at the other side grilling bread and orange cheddar.

We were only millimetres apart cooking. Stirring, sizzling, steaming. I could smell the rain on Eddie, but oddly, could smell neither the soup nor the cheese nor the grilling bread. He turned and smiled at me every so often and once said something about cream of tomato being his favourite. I felt a little silly admitting I’d never had tomato soup in my life, let alone tomato soup with milk in it. He was so amazed. He promised I was in for a treat. We laughed. I don’t know why.

Then, strangely, after a certain point in the kitchen that dark morning in August, I don’t remember much of anything about what the kids or the dog might or might not have said or done. Seems to me everyone and everything but Eddie and I were in a state of suspended animation, though I’m sure that can’t be true.

I know we all sat around the kitchen table safe and dry in that farmhouse while the storm raged on outside. And we ate the sandwiches and the cream of tomato soup by candlelight.

And I clearly remember thinking that cream of tomato soup was the single best food in the whole entire world. And I marvelled anew at Eddie who was, on top of everything else, surely the best cook in the whole entire universe.

Things quieted down after a while and I tucked the two younger kids in for a nap while the older one did something in a corner of the living room with his little cars and legos.

Eddie and I washed the dishes and then sat ourselves on the sofa talking about stuff. I don’t remember what. It wasn’t important.

At the beginning of September, Eddie went back to wherever he came from.  But we spent pretty much every evening until then, together on the tiny porch of his shack.  We listened to music and talked some more.  Sometimes Eddie would play something on his guitar and sing and I would get a lump in my throat willing myself not to cry at the beauty of it all.

And Eddie was so very chivalrous the entire time. Oddly so, I think now. Not that I was irresitable at 14 or anything, but he was a 16-year-old boy with his own pad and without any other company for 2 whole months. And there I was totally, and probably very obviously smitten.

But to me, at the time, I thought it was perfectly lovely to be with such a kind, respectful boy. It all so terribly, terribly romantic. All the more because I knew Eddie and I would never see each other again after the summer.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but to this day, whenever I eat tomato soup or experience a summer storm I always feel a small warm whisper of that extraordinary afternoon in August and Eddie.

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34 responses to “What I Read at Blog Out Loud

  1. The timing of that dog howling outside last night (the ghost of the ugly, randy, black dog?) while you were reading your story was priceless. LOL.
    I still say you should write romance novels. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed your reading last night. The writing was excellent and you read so well. The accent was a nice addition.

  3. I swear to god I cared for those same children and randy black dog but without the Eddy. Sub in their lech of a father and you have the story of a summer from hell.

    You have the most wonderful way of reading. I look forward to hearing more.

    PS I pronounce it XUP.

  4. Trashee – I’m sorry you couldn’t make it either – -you would have enjoyed it. And thanks!

    Jazz – Naw, at the time it was perfect. I wasn’t ready for anything else.

    Hannah – Wasn’t that ghost dog something? I couldn’t have organized that if I’d tried. (Romance novels suck!)

    Brie – Thank you so much. I enjoyed your reading (and everyone’s) too.

    Dr. Monkey – I do believe no one has ever called me that before.

    Grace – Well, that would make the job really bad. No Eddie and a lecherous boss. And thank you so much for the lovely compliment. It was nice to finally meet Zoom’s Grace! (and yes, I mean that in all senses of the term).

    Julia – Ya, where were you? And as for Eddie being gay, I think that’s what I was alluding to there near the end. The last time I posted this story all sorts of people commented saying “D’uh! Eddie was OBVIOUSLY gay!” It wasn’t important at the time though because I wasn’t up for anything physical at that age anyway.

  5. Sorry, I was watching the Tour de France. For 3 weeks in July, that’s what I do every evening. Even though it’s Tivoed, you have to watch it every day otherwise you end up with too many hours to contemplate. Plus, it was raining and I would have had to take the bus, need I say more. Next year!

  6. What a great story! I’m glad you enjoyed the reading. Just imagining doing something like that almost gives me a heart attack.

  7. That’s a sweet story. Don’t you wonder what Eddie is doing now and if he remembers you the same way (or at all!)? How delicious to contemplate!

  8. Elaine – They should have had that little bastard fixed. He was forever humping someone or something and getting’ his doggy slime everywhere. Seriously, that’s all you need when it’s 100 degrees out. Right in the middle of my story last night when I said the thing about the dog getting so excited he was trying to mount the baby, some big hound of the baskervilles starting howling right outside the cafe – loudly. Pretty much brought the house down.

    Julia – It wasn’t raining just before 7:00!! Ah well, lots of people in Ottawa weren’t there and I’ll bet they’re feeling really left out and are rushing to the website right now to reserve their spots for next year.

    Geewits – You’re not alone. Of all the bloggers we know only 16 were brave enough to read. Some of those really had to screw up their courage to do it, but they did a wonderful job and it was such an easy, friendly environment, there was nothing to worry about. I read Zoom’s entry as well because she was too shy to do it herself. (Oh and I read mine with a wee bit of a Blanche DuBois accent because it seemed to want to be read that way)

    Nat – You too lady! You and me and Andrea laughing so hard we stopped breathing for a while. And I think La Canadienne (at 18) didn’t seem to be quite sure whether she should laugh along with us or be horrified at all this old-people-doing-sex stuff!! (Just kidding, Evey)

    Pinklea – I’m sure, as many people have pointed out, that he was probably gay and at 16 not in the same fantasy land that I, a 14-year-old girl was in. My daughter tried to facebook him for me after I read her the story. We came up with 2 guys by the same name and they both responded, but neither of them were him.

  9. What a great story. You mix in just that right touch of humor too. Gosh, now I am going to have to go back and read your past blogs.

    Like I could do that with the rain and my phone lines. What is this? Forty days and forty nights?

    Seriously good, XUP

  10. oh hell, if he was gay? that is the best love interest for an innocent fourteen-year-old girl to have – geez! LOL gay boyfriends were my only marks in high school, it kept me completely out of trouble.

    though i dunno – he blushed? maybe not …! ;D

    maybe he was just innocent like you and wanted to stay that way a little longer. it wouldn’t be unheard of, you know. the menz are people too.

    that was a lovely story. i’m so glad you wrote it, and shared it. and i’m terribly sorry i’m not local and couldn’t go to this thing, it sounded like such fun! (i would have had the same doubts as you – really.)

  11. That was a pretty hot story – gotta say!
    Was great to meet you – hope we don’t have to wait another year to do it again, those hours flew by – a real great evening!

  12. Unneutered male dogs (as opposed to unneutered female dogs? what? no.) are some pitiful beings, it’s true. My mom’s Benjamin Bunny draft stopper lost its life to the few weeks prior to her dachshund mix Oscar’s neutering appointment. Beatrix Potter would’ve been horrified to see her beloved character peering out from Oscar’s legs like that. It was truly unholy and there was no going back. We had to throw it away.

    Also, I too have a halo of Bionic curls.

  13. Word on Twitter is that your reading was a favourite. I certainly loved it and it was even better hearing it with your own twang! I can’t wait to see what you’ll pull out for next year :).

    Thanks again for all your advice and help in the planning stages!

  14. Mary Lynn – Thanks. It was (and still is) a great memory. You should organize a similar event in your area. It was awesome.

    Sheryl – You seem to have exactly the same weather as us. Except for 4 days at the end of June, we’ve had rain every day for the last 2 or 3 months I think. (And thank you)

    Hallie – It would have been great to have you there! And yes, maybe he was just an innocent. We’ll never know. And that’s exactly the way I’d like to keep it, I think. Perfect.

    Ian – Thanks dude! Nice to meet you and Sara, too! It was an amazingly quick 3 hours. Next time we need to make a day of it, I think… maybe… I will let you know if/when there are any other blogger events coming up before then.

    Elaine – I can totally see how a dachsund could fall for a draft stopper…that long sleek physique… Bionic curls, you say??? My curls are kind of bionic, too. Although I would say they’re more ionic.. responding to weather conditions

    Lynn – SHUT UP!! The Twitter is twittering? About moi?? I’m going to look around and see if you’ve left the same comment on everyone else’s blog. I’m so happy it was enjoyed in any case. Pressure is on for next year (for both of us!!)

  15. “Unneutered male dogs (as opposed to unneutered female dogs? what? no.) are some pitiful beings, it’s true.”

    Ahem…. I beg to differ.
    My land shark proudly sports his “juevos” and he is far from being pitiful.
    He had a great sense of humour and is a great animal across the board.
    Want pitiful?
    The fact that a dog after geting “fixed” has only one mood… defined as “Uhhhhm master, have you seen my balls? I know they were there and then after I took a nap they were gone!!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ! HELP ME FIND MY BALLS!!!!!” So sad , so pathetic…. SO PITIFUL!

    (By the way its the same look that you get from a gelding too. Even DECADES later)

  16. I was one of those thinking he was gay too. A 16 year old guy not trying to put the moves on the only girl around? Just doesn’t sound normal. Loved the story.

  17. This was a lovely post to hear live, and I quite enjoyed your delivery! It was nice to finally meet you in person, too. FWIW, you’re “ex-up” to me! 😉

  18. I came across your blog recently, and have enjoyed the variety of postings, as well as the quality of writing (including this piece). Thanks!

  19. XUP, you read that so wonderfully. Very evocative, and a great choice given the weather.

  20. Oh, Lebowski. Why am I not surprised that you are one of those men who looks to his dog’s balls to bolster his own tenuous masculinity? It is beyond self-centered that due to your own identity/sexuality issues you would risk prostate enlargement, prostate and testicular cancer, and other health issues for your dog.

    There’re always neuticles if this is truly a pathological issue for you.

  21. I like it when you are so human….

    I could have done without the whole frank with no beans remarks however….

  22. Lebowski – As long as you’re both happy, I guess that’s all that matters, right?

    Linda – Thanks Linda. And ya, you’re probably right, but that doesn’t change anything, really.

    DaniGirl – It was nice to meet you in person, too and hear one of your blog posts read out loud. We really MUST do this again next year, if not sooner!!

    Vic – Thank you for the nice comment. I hope you’ll keep enjoying the posts.

    Amy – What a great post — a little review of the entire evening!Thanks. For some reason I couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment there??

    Peach – Ha – I hadn’t even thought of it in terms of the weather, but I guess you’re right. Not to mention arranging for that dog to howl at just the right time, eh?

    Elaine – Since you’re addressing this to Lebowski, I shall step back and let you two duke it out.

    Cedar – Aw, shucks…thanks. (And ya, how did the discussion digress there, anyway?)

  23. what an awesome story, i wonder if anyone taped your reading or anyone else’s? that would make a great podcast, kind of like the moth or this american life.

    maybe eddie actually had manners? not all boys that age are grabby and ready to sex you up, in fact aren’t boys just as afraid of us as we are of them?

  24. Leah – No one taped it, unless they did it secretly. It would be a very long and noisy podcast and I don’t think anyone would sit through 3 hours of that. As for Eddie, it doesn’t matter at all if he was gay or just being a gentleman. The story and the memory are the same either way.

  25. What a lovely story. I’m sorry I couldn’t have been there to hear you read it. I am always fascinated to hear people read their own words.