By: Duane L. Herrmann
The middle aged man was still glad to be divorced. The shrill screaming of his wife was beginning to fade away, but not the memory. He didn’t miss her except for one thing: the Apple Crisp she would sometimes make. His favorite dessert was apple pie, which she refused to make, but she would make Apple Crisp. It was close enough to apple pie that he appreciated it. Other substitutions of hers, or outright refusals, were more difficult to endure. Apple Crisp was as close as she came to making any food he liked.
Since the divorce, he had surprised himself with the things he learned he could do. He could wash his clothes reasonably well. He could keep his home as clean as he felt necessary. And he could cook, at least simple things: scrambled eggs, oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, etc. He was quite pleased with his new survival skills. Still, a microwave dinner was quicker and much, much easier.
He missed the baked apple treat so much that he finally decided to try to make it himself. It was simpler than a pie. He searched the internet for a recipe, printed it, carefully listed the ingredients then added those he didn’t have to his shopping list. That shopping trip was unusual because he wasn’t used to searching for specific items. Normally he would buy something only if he saw it. If he didn’t see it, he would do without. Searching for specific items on the shelves was a complication he avoided; this time he made the effort.
Back home, he carefully set out each of the ingredients in preparation for combining them in the correct order and measurements. First, he turned the oven on to pre-heat, then he cored and cut the apples into pieces. He didn’t bother peeling them, that was tedious. He filled the baking dish and set it aside.
In a mixing bowl, he began to measure and combine the ingredients for the crumbly topping. He made one change though of his own. He had never thought there was enough of the topping, so now he decided to double the amount. There would be plenty of crispy topping!! He was pleased with this decision. This was going to be his own, special Apple Crisp. It tickled him to feel this rebellious. His wife never departed from a recipe. And, it had to be a recipe of her own, not one from his family that he liked and enjoyed. Still, she was not a good cook. Eating became a chore not a joy.
Just as he was about to add the topping to the apples, there was a knock at the door. He quickly put a plate over the bowl with the topping mixture as protection from the ants as he went to answer the door. Ants were so common in his childhood home, and in the house of his marriage, that he didn’t think much about them. They were normal.
An elderly neighbor woman had stopped by to ask him about a concern which she and several other neighbors had. She was talky and he couldn’t think of a way to excuse himself for quite a while. He didn’t want to be rude, but he wanted to bake the Apple Crisp soon enough so it could cool so he could eat some before he went to bed. He felt he should respond to the concerns; he was an interested neighbor.
Nearly an hour passed before he was able to get back to the kitchen. He knew the oven was well hot enough, but he didn’t expect to see ants crawling over the apples in the baking dish. He’d not thought to cover them! The apples were alive with movement! It was summer and they were foraging for food. They liked the sugar! He’d not thought about them finding this sugar so fast!
He didn’t know what to do. He really wanted his dessert – tonight! And, he had no more apples. The oven was ready, the topping mixture was ready, his mouth was ready, his stomach was more than ready – and time was running out. Another moment of indecision, he did not think to rinse them off, then he did the only reasonable thing: he spread the topping mixture over the apples and the ants, added more cinnamon – popped it all into the oven and set the timer.
He figured the ants were small and their taste, if there any, would be over-powered by the apples and cinnamon. Ants might even add some protein. Many cultures eat insects for that very reason. He would cover them so he wouldn’t see them anyway! He was proud of how he negotiated this near disastrous turn of events.
Later, just before going to bed, he sat down to eat his first, very own Apple Crispies, and buried it all under vanilla ice cream. It was delicious!
Duane L. Herrmann, a reluctant carbon-based life-form, was surprised to find himself in 1951 on a farm in Kansas. He’s still trying to make sense of it but has grown fond of grass waving in the wind, trees and the enchantment of moonlight. He aspires to be a hermit, but would miss his children, grandchildren and a few friends. His work has been published in many real places and online, even some of both in languages he can’t read (English is difficult enough!). He is known to carry baby kittens in his mouth, pet snakes, and converse with owls, but is careful not to anger them! All this, despite a traumatic, abusive childhood embellished with dyslexia, ADHD (both unknown at the time), cyclothymia, and now, PTSD. He’s still learning to breathe and perform human at the same time.