I MADE YOU SOME MORE THANKSGIVING CARDS (2017)

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MICROFICTION: CRANBERRY STATE

"...Cranberry State, cranberry hate, Cranberry State, cranberry hate..."

Red, oozy bubbles formed around the berries, sugar and water and heat popping them to make the sauce, fresh always for Thanksgiving, always Joanie who made it. She didn't even like cranberries, she thought to herself, frowning slightly as she stirred, the childish rhyme repeating in her head. The air in her mother's kitchen was thick with the smells of holiday dinner, turkey and gravy and sweet potatoes and green beans and rolls begging to be slathered with butter, each of the aunts and sisters and daughters working at their tasks, as always.

Her mother, bent over and rummaging loudly through a cabinet, let out a sudden, forceful sigh of exasperation and slammed the cabinet and stood facing it, her back to all. Everyone stopped working; the only sounds now were the bubbling of the sauce and boiling potatoes and the muffled conversation from fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons in living room, punctuated by a cheer or cry depending on what was going on with their football game.

No one in the kitchen moved.

Joanie stared into the pot, cranberries boiling too furiously now, thickening, like coagulated, angry blood. "I left this place, and learned from it!" she blurted. "Why didn't you?"

Her mother's shoulders lowered. That's the problem, she thought sadly: you leave, you change. It used to be no one left, and nothing changed.

Silently, the women went back to the food and the silverware and the serving dishes, while another triumphant yell from the men filled the empty space.