Gooseberry Jam

by Jennifer Todhunter

It was a night for the record player. A box of forty-fives, a bottle of Bordeaux and a shallow bowl of orange cape gooseberries. The pop of the cork echoed against the walls, the new moon hiding from the belt of stars stretching overhead outside.

Robert Johnson’s Stella pined away as I applied lipstick to my cupid’s bow, and blotted it against the inside of my wrist. The warpaint was the colour of blood — the same colour of the wine. It took awhile to find the barbecue lighter reserved for sparking candles. Somehow, it ended up under the coffee table in a shoebox containing old pictures of us in happier times. Polaroids with notes written in permanent red marker.

The mood changed once the flames from a plateful of candles shone, their flickering falling and building with the music. The blues danced with anyone. I flipped Robert over and stuck the needle in his groove, then poured myself a glass of wine.

It was summer — canning season. Mason jars lined my kitchen counter. I found a ripe chunk of Stinking Bishop in the refrigerator and a row of sesame thins in the cupboard. A wonderful combination with the gooseberries. It was a feast of strange proportions. Another glass, another record. Billie’s song about fruit hung in the air while I ate.

Our pictures shredded easily. I would’ve thought it more difficult to pull the memories apart. They floated like flankers from the fire, through the opening of one of the four-ounce jam jars, and pooled once they reached the bottom. Two years of memories stuffed into a glass prison.

I slid the leftover gooseberries into the jar, topping our pictures like icing. The last piece of the Bishop coated my tongue before the wine washed it down. It was enough. The rest of the bottle joined our shards and the gooseberries. One more song, a bit of stardust. Every evening should end with Etta.

The wicks were drowning in their pool of tears, spilled over the course of the evening. The wax was hot when touched, coating my finger and forming a cast. It poured slowly over the top of the wine, forging a seal. Thicker and thicker, until there was no chance of remembering. I freshened my lipstick and blotted it on the top of the lid before placing your jar on the mantel.

It was the best jam yet.

Jennifer Todhunter is a number nerd by day, word fiddler at night. She enjoys dark, salty chocolate and running top speed in the other direction