Off Kilter and Out of Season

Every Wednesday, on Writing Under Pressure, you’ll find a post based on Today’s Word (from Past essays, poems, or flash fiction pieces can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

Today’s word:

El Niño. noun. A weather phenomenon characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

Check out’s theme this week – words related to weather. They each make for some challenging prompts!


Off Kilter and Out of Season

Delores drove to the grocery store with her windows down.

“Mmm.” She shook her head. “In the middle of May.”

In her seventy-two years, she had never known such a hot day this time of year in Minnesota. The weather seemed to flip flop more often than not: hot when it was supposed to be cool and cool when it was supposed to be hot. Just last summer, the rose buds popped out too early and froze before they reached full bloom. The tomatoes didn’t plump up until late September, and they never turned red — at least not until she dropped them in a paper bag with a banana and rolled it up tight.

She showed the bag trick to Amanda next door, the young woman who moved here from the city early last year. Amanda was desperate to grow tomatoes, “so excited to be living out in the country, now!” she’d said. But, she didn’t know the first thing about gardening. She planted the seedlings on the north side of the house, in the shade. The plants still produced, to Delores’s amazement, but then Amanda pulled the fruit before it even had a chance to ripen.

Amanda stood at Delores’s front door one Sunday afternoon in early October – in tears – with a handful of hard tomatoes, sobbing and saying nothing was working out like it was supposed to. Delores wondered if Amanda was upset about more than just the tomatoes.

“Patience,” Delores had told Amanda over a cup of coffee and a box of Kleenex. “These things take time.” Delores patted Amanda’s hand. “You can’t expect everything to work out perfectly in the first season.”

Standing in the grocery store, though, Delores wondered if she were wrong. She gripped the cart as she rolled past mounds of vegetables and fruits picked before their prime, some bigger than her fist. She realized that neither patience nor the weather had anything do with cultivating and harvesting these days. She could buy what she wanted whenever she wanted. But, while the fruits all looked pretty, she wondered about the taste.

When her husband Ed was still alive, he grew his own vegetables out back. He weeded around the cantelope with a gentle hand, taking care not to damage the vines. The melon always felt rough and looked ugly, but it melted in her mouth. He grew cucumbers from seed, which wasn’t easy. There were plenty of seasons when too much rain ruined the first crop. But, Ed was patient and persistent. Even his kohlrabi grew in juicy and sweet.

Surrounded by all those fruits and vegetables, Delores missed Ed. After fifty-three years together, she had grown accustomed to his mood swings. She was fond of the curve in his back, as she nestled up to him in bed. It had taken a long time for her settle – completely – into their relationship.

Years, in fact.

Delores thought of Amanda. She hadn’t seen much of her in the last few months. Delores rolled her cart around the potatoes and onions and back out the door. She stopped off at a bakery and picked up a rhubarb pie: in season, just right. When she got home, she knocked on Amanda’s door and offered warm pie and a little conversation.


4 responses to “Off Kilter and Out of Season

  1. What a great neighbor. For some reason, I find myself craving vine ripened tomatoes.

  2. And, I have a hankering for a firm, juicy cantelope. I never seem to pick the right one… maybe that’s why it showed up in my story yesterday 🙂

  3. And I read a recipe just yesterday for fried green tomatoes, which makes me want to re-read the book.

    Your characters have such depth, Christi.

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