Tomato Soup by Alan Caldwell

Image by Petra Tant from Pixabay

The Woman wiped the blood from her thighs and sat on the folded feed-sack sheet to absorb the flow. She took the Child who had been inside her for about three months and held her in the palm of her hand; she was less than three inches long. The Woman’s stomach still hurt where the Man had kicked her, her hip bruised from her fall. She wrapped the tiny fetus  in a newspaper and put her in a Hills Brothers coffee can and hid the can in the back of her dresser drawer. She wrapped herself with the string quilt and lay down next to the Man and tried to sleep.

The seal on the Ball Mason jar had not ruptured. The tomatoes were as tasty as they were when they were harvested in the August sun, as fresh as when the jars cooled on the kitchen table, their lids popping at intervals through the night.  The Woman recalled drying the condensation on the jars with her apron and placing them on the shelf next to the canned beans and fig preserves.

All the kids, and the Man, loved tomato soup, especially with cornbread and especially on a winter afternoon. There was little farm work left  to be done.  The field was gleaned and the stove-wood split small and laid by. The older boy saw to that.

The two girls and the younger boy pulled the bowls close, crumbled the pone in the bowl and blew the steam away. Even in the drafty kitchen, so far away from the fireplace, the soup was too hot to eat without the cooling breath.  The older boy, on the other hand, separated his elements, taking a draw from the spoon and then a bite from his own mealy triangle. The younger ones giggled like younger ones do, when it’s too early to count, when one can still laugh with bruised faces and split lips. The older boy never laughed, but he never cried either.

When the children finished, the Woman put a large plate over the stewer top to keep it warm for the Man, and then told the children to get their wool coats and go outside and play. The older boy didn’t play, but he went outside anyway.  

About an hour later, the Man awoke and went into the kitchen, his hair matted, his body and clothes still smelling of the foul sugarcane mash called “buck” by the locals. The Man said nothing about last night to the Woman. In fact, he said nothing at all. He sat at the table and waited.

The Woman removed the plate from the stewer and stirred the soup, its surface had already congealed..  From a deep pocket in her calico dress the Woman produced a small clear vial filled with white crystals and sealed with a cork. She ladled the soup into the bowl, her mother’s Sevres china.  She removed the cork from the small clear vial and watched the crystals disappear into the soup’s surface.


Alan Caldwell is a brand new writer. He lives in Carroll County Georgia, but is working on moving to his rural property in the mountains of Northeast Alabama. He has been married to his lovely wife, Brandi, for 33 years. He has one son, Caleb, who is a firefighter, a daughter-in-law, Chelsee, who is an emergency room nurse, and a brand new grandson, Asher.  Alan has been teaching for 26 years and spends much of his free time outdoors or reading.  Alan has been collecting stories, mostly about his family, for over 40 years, but has just begun writing them down.