I parked the car and opened the driver’s side door. The pot next to me on the passenger seat was still hot as I grabbed it and hoisted it over the steering wheel, careful not to spill its contents. Since my hands were full with the pot, I used my foot to kick the door shut with such force that the entire car shook.

I marched to my mother’s gravestone, steam sneaking out of the pot as the lid shifted and wobbled. Her grave was easy to find. The dirt still looked fresh compared to her neighbors’ plots.

“Here!” I yelled at the stone as I dumped the sauce onto the ground. The hot red liquid poured out with a splash and steam lifted from the cool ground below. As I inhaled the bitter smell of tomatoes, I felt nauseous and empty.

“I can’t do it,” I yelled at the gravestone. My mother’s name stared back at me. “You should have showed me. You died and now your sauce dies with you,” I said to the gray rock at my feet. I threw the pot at the ground and it clanked against the stone, echoing through the empty cemetery.

In the shine of the gravestone I saw my mother’s face, clear as day, tsking at me. “Oh Kara. You’re always so dramatic,” I heard her saying. For the millionth time since she died, my memory conjured an image of her that felt real enough to reach out and touch.

I’d spent all day trying to perfect that sauce. Robbie told me that I’d never be able to do it.

“Mama’s sauce is magic,” he said as he dipped a finger into the pot.  He licked his finger and grimaced. “Nope. That’s not right.”

“It’s not magic,” I said. “It was just sauce.” I pointed to the ingredients lined up on the counter like an army. “Tomatoes, garlic, oil, thyme,” I rattled off. “Unless she had a secret ingredient she never told us about.”

Robbie opened the fridge and grabbed two beers. He popped the caps and handed me one.

“Sis,” he said. “It’s magic. You won’t be able to do it. Mama’s gone. So is the sauce. You have to accept it.” He kissed the top of my head as he hugged me from behind.

I couldn’t accept it, I thought, as I stirred. “It just needs salt,” I murmured.

“It’s not the salt . . .” Robbie started.

I threw the wooden spoon into the sink. “It’s just sauce!” I yelled. “I’ve seen her cook it a million times. You’ve seen her do it too. What am I missing?” Robbie opened his mouth to talk, but I cut him off. “I swear to God if you say the word ‘magic’ one more time I’m going to lose my shit.”

“Going to?” he said. “I think you already have.”

“We should know how to do this. It’s a family recipe. At least I’m trying,” I said.

“You’re losing it, Kar,” he said as he took a swig.

He was probably right but I was stubborn. “Maybe I have lost my mind. I lost mom. My sanity. I’m not losing this sauce, too.” I felt tears well up in my eyes but I hadn’t cried since the funeral and I wasn’t going to start now. “Where’s the salt?”

I needed to do this. As silly as it sounded, I didn’t know how I’d ever be able to move on without this sauce. The smell of the house while it cooked all day. The sound of the simmer as it gently bubbled on the back burner. My mother yelling from the basement, “Somebody stir the sauce!” and fighting with Robbie as we watched television about who was going to get up and stir. “I did it last time,” I’d say. He’d throw something at me. “Do it and I’ll give you five bucks,” he’d offer.

I added a pinch of salt and stirred.

“Mama would be proud of you for trying,” Robbie said. “Try again next week.”

I ignored him and took a taste. Nope. Robbie was right. Something was off.

“Dammit!” I yelled as I shut the flame and pushed the pot to the back of the stove. Sauce sloshed over the rim and dribbled down the side into the burner. Through blurred eyes I stomped past Robbie and grabbed my coat out of the closet.

“Where are you going?” he asked as I shoved my arms into my coat.

“Out,” I said in a fit of rage. All I felt was anger. At my mother, at myself, at Robbie, at God. Stupid fucking sauce, I thought, as I grabbed my car keys and squinted at the pot. Ignoring Robbie’s concerned look, I cradled the pot in my arms, my keys dangling from my fingers and stormed out.

Now, standing in the cemetery, sauce splattered like blood across my mother’s grave, anger quickly turned to sadness and sadness to regret. I sat down at the foot of my mother’s grave and I cried until the sun set and I had no more tears to give.  I used my tear-drenched coat sleeve to wipe the splatters of sauce off of Mama’s gravestone.

I’ll try again next week, I thought as I picked up the pot and walked back to my car.

Thanks for reading! The Weekly Writing Challenge can be found here. Have a nice night.

9 thoughts on “Mama’s Sauce- Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward

  1. Very moving tribute to your mom. The power of her imprint on your life flows through you and your words. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more of your writing.


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