Her crinkled, dark hands are steady as she brushes the tops of the leaves with beaten egg, and she stands back, hands on her hips to look at our work….”
by christine tothill
Aunty Bobs brushes beaten egg on the pie crust and I cut a shape with the left-over pastry. I make a leaf, and press it hard onto the top of the pie making it collapse under the weight of my fingers.
“Oh child, good job this is called ‘cheerful pie’ or I would be scolding you,” she says.
She does a quick repair and presses another one of my leaves carefully onto the shining crust. Her crinkled, dark hands are steady as she brushes the tops of the leaves with beaten egg, and she stands back, hands on her hips to look at our work.
“Jody, if you ever make a pie as good as mine, then you’ll be taking after me,” she says. “Open the oven with that holder over there and we can pop it in.” She bends forward with the pie in her hands and places it on the middle shelf.
“Now for a drink, Jody. How about that?” We run our hands under warm tap water, rubbing off dry pastry and sticky fruit.
My Aunty Bobs is really called Isabel, but I have never heard her called that by anyone, not even my dad. I have another aunty, she lives next door and I call her Aunty Babs – her real name is Barbara, seems funny they can’t call themselves their real names. I have lived with Aunty Bobs all my life because my mum died having me – Aunty Bobs never talks about it. I must ask her one day.
Cheerful Pie is made from fruit picked from the small garden out the back. My dad told me stories about his sister’s pies, the prizes they won at the local fete, and how people ordered them from her when she had no money and no husband. I didn’t know my dad very well – I was five when he died. The memories are there, a big man, smelling of smoke, holding me up high under the apple trees on sunny days. Aunty Bobs tells me if I remember sunny days it is good “like a tonic,” she says. I don’t know what a tonic is but I suppose it’s like Cheerful Pie because she tells me they are a tonic too.
(illustration: dee sunshine)
Christine Tothill lives in Hampshire, England and writes short fiction. Her stories have been published in QWF, Scribble, Bright Light Cafe, Clover Books, Diddledog, Quiction and more. She is working on her novel and also plays the organ, if there is time left over. Many more of Christine’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.