“Now what?” my sister whined impatiently. “Can we eat it already?”
“Shhh,” my aunt cautioned her. “Somebody will hear you.”
My little cousin stared blankly, hypnotized by the salami. We’d always considered him dumb, but now a tinge of sadness colored his stupidity.
“Well, I guess we can cut off a little piece for the kids,” my mother said, clearly improvising. She had no idea what it meant to cut off a few slices. She couldn’t grasp the essence of salami anymore.
“Where did it come from?” I asked, suddenly curious as to how my brother had explained the salami.
“Your brother found it,” my mother answered, taking nervous, tentative steps into this new reality.
“Where?” I persisted.
“Well, that really doesn’t matter,” my aunt said. “It’s clearly a miracle. But if you insist, it came from the lake. It washed ashore from the other side.”
Hearing footsteps everybody froze.
“You left the door open,” my aunt whispered with a sneer. “The neighbors must have heard.”
But it wasn’t the neighbors. It was much worse. It was my aunt’s fat, sad excuse for a husband and I swear on my life that his eyes were closed and his nostrils were twitching. So acute was his sense of smell that he’d caught the scent of meat from the corridor. He came shuffling into the room, his face serene as a monk’s wandering the monastery garden paths, immersed in a solemn conversation with god. It wouldn’t last long.
“Holy dick!” he bellowed, his eyes lighting up like a child’s. “Go close the door before the neighbors smell it,” he ordered his son.
I felt a stirring in the back of my empty mind. The beginnings of an answer to all this.
My aunt’s husband was rubbing his hands together greedily. “Somebody grab a knife. We’ve got to test it.” His face grew serious. “I’ll test it. We’ve got to see if it’s real. Where did it come from?”
As my mother explained, he feigned adult concern, scratching his chin.
“Hmmm. Yes, it’s better for all if I test it. Who knows what’s happening on the other side of the lake. If it was sent with malicious intent, I’d rather it was me than the kids that suffered the consequences. Otherwise how could I live with myself?”
“What? Well then I’ll test it too,” my aunt insisted. She didn’t care much for salami, but wouldn’t tolerate her husband enjoying a delicacy without her.
“And one slice for me,” my sister added. “Mommy already promised.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s just too dangerous,” came the swift reply from my aunt’s husband. “She’s just a little girl. One slice is never enough for the young. It could raise her hopes unnecessarily. After one slice she’ll need another. Then another, until poof and it’s gone. It could drive her insane. And you,” he started, turning to my aunt. “Everybody knows you haven’t been well. Plus you’re the light of my life and the mother of my child. To let you risk so much for a slice of salami with such a grave question mark hanging over it, would jeopardize a solemn oath I swore to your father all those years ago.”
My aunt couldn’t let this go unchallenged. “Do you really want to get into your oaths now?”
But her husband continued undeterred. “Let’s stay focused on the matter at hand. I’ll need a sample of decent size and sufficient time to digest it.”