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Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Salt of the earth, my mother would bellow, because somehow that phrase couldn't be spoken in her normal voice at a normal volume. The person being so described would share one quality with every other person my mother defined thusly -- he or she would live on a farm. Of the earth seemed to be the operating principle rather than salt, and so the people who had little nailbrushes next to the kitchen sink, the people who used lava barsoap regularly, these were the people about whom my mother bellowed.


My father wasn't allowed salt. Instead he took a handful of pills and while he looked healthy to me, my mother would always ask him if he had taken them, did he need water. It's my blood pressure, he would say if he caught me looking. I would salt my food carefully, making sure not to shake the shaker in a way that salt fell astray. I imagined one loose crystal would be enough to kill my father, and I lived in terror of it. The salt would fall in a thick, dense layer, and my mother would say, You've put too much salt, my goodness, take some off. I would use the edge of my knife to scrape and spread, pretending it was like fertilizer for my meat, needing to be put down evenly.


No salty talk, she would say and glare in the rearview when she heard one of us use a word she believed to be leading toward profanity. My mother's definition of salty talk included oh my gosh, dumb, shut up. My brother and I would mouth our salty speak and watch her eyes in the rearview to see if they were upon us. You're stupid, he would enunciate. Your face is stupid, I would reply soundlessly. Zip your lip, he would hiss. Hey I said no salty talk, shooting eye daggers at him while I made the universal haha face of little sisters everywhere.
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