May is Short Story Month, and last night I dreamed about Cami Park, so it seemed natural to focus on her work for my May Plumb posts. But May is also the month I start back on Weight Watchers, and as I browsed through her remarkable catalogue of work, I could not help but notice that my favorite Cami stories are the ones that feature food & feeding in a big way. I don’t know what it means, but I can’t ignore it, either.
So to kick things off, here are four bite sized narratives that go great together.
begins, “St. Frank sops gravy, forks greens along with beans and rice, crisps chicken skin between his teeth, dribbles the grease down his chin, and there is nothing, now, between him and this meal . . .”
From the For Every Year project, filed under year 1535, Last Meals is a marvel for its elegant management of the emotional presence of its four characters based on catholic martyrs dispatched by Hank 8. Cami gives them common names, common foods, and all too common understanding. St. Frank is avaricious and existential, St. Dobie is childish and pious, St. Earl is paranoid, and only St. Angelo is in and of the perfect moment.
begins, “SIX hogs come squealing to the trough, COUNT them, Mabel, Max, Bill, Sugah, Sincerity, Templeton . . .”
A Wigleaf story about meat and love and pigs that begins like a fairy tale and ends in an ecstatic sermon. Told by a child with a cosmology to beat back the darkness.
begins, “You were in the kitchen, reaching to the highest shelf, for the last can of chili beans needed for tonight’s supper. On your toes, the very edge of the shelf barely out of reach . . . “
I almost didn’t include this one because I was on staff with Prick of the Spindle when we published it, but I remembered that Cami had said it was a piece that was close to her heart and that it had been so hard to find a home for it. This story of a woman trying to reach for a can of beans is sort of I Love Lucy meets JFK assassination.
begins with a recipe for above. By now you may be getting a little worried, a little oogy, a little looking-into-the-abyss-y. Don’t worry. Finish with this Forklift, Ohio gag and one of the best last lines ever.