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Sylvia Santiago

Last Suppers


We eat well in the spring. “Well” being a relative term. Nico and I go out to the beach at low tide, turn over rocks looking for shore crabs. Most of the time, they’re still alive. The crabs are tiny, just a couple of inches wide, but what they lack in size they make up for in speed. Once uncovered, the crabs scuttle madly for cover, sunlight winking off their glossy purple shells. Even the crustaceans are in survival mode. We boil the crabs with fiddleheads and eat them with fistfuls of dandelion greens. Nico calls this our soup and salad seafood special.

The last time I ate good crab was the summer before the world went to hell. We drove to Seattle and spent a week on a rented houseboat. Our last morning there, we had brunch at a restaurant on the waterfront. I ordered Crab Eggs Benedict. The crab meat was sweet and delicate, and when I cut into the poached egg, the yolk oozed out like liquid sunshine. I smiled at Nico and a look came over his face that made me think he was going to propose. Thankfully, he didn’t and the rest of the day was perfect.


Summer is nice, because of the fruit. Mainly, berries. And you can’t get any fresher than off the bush. There’s an enormous thicket of salmonberries on the shady side of the forest. We avoided it in the past, because of the bears. On more than one occasion, we came across a black bear in the thicket, stripping the branches of berries. But the bears and most of the big animals are gone now. Still, we have to act quickly if we want to get to the berries before the critters do. Sometimes Nico lucks out and catches a critter while he’s out picking. I had to start thinking of them as “critters” because it was easier to eat them that way. I never imagined that one day I’d be eating squirrel, raccoon, fox. And then there was the Golden Retriever. I wanted Nico to let the dog go. This was a pet, I said, someone loved him. Nico scoffed, Didn’t love it enough to keep it safe. He said either the dog would starve to death or someone else would benefit from finding him. It broke my heart, but I managed to choke it down.


In the world before, fall was my favorite season. Buying a cozy scarf at the first hint of cold in the air, picking up a pumpkin spice latte before work. Now, fall is mushroom season. We stick to harvesting the two most easily identified kinds; black morels and yellow chanterelles. They’re nice toasted over the fire or boiled as soup. It’s ridiculous how much I used to pay for a bag of chanterelles at the Farmers’Market. We can have as many as we can find, though we have to venture further into the woods for the same amount of mushrooms as the year before. Things are on the move, looking for the last of the edibles. Not just critters. Some of those foraging are like us and they’re worse than critters. Critters eat what they need and leave. And they still know how to be afraid.


We eat poorly in the winter, even with our cache of dried berries and tree bark. Sometimes I imagine that the bark is beef jerky, like the kind we used to buy in vacuum sealed packages at the convenience store. The time when we could walk into a store and pluck food off a shelf or from a bin seems like a dream. Or a fairy tale.

Winter, still.

Watching Nico sleep, memories crawl out from the corners of my mind. Drinking beer around the bonfire on late summer nights. Making waffles on lazy Sunday mornings. Firing up the Hibachi on the deck, even in the chill of November. Something about the smell of grilled meat in the frosty air is irresistible.


Sylvia Santiago writes occasionally, worries daily, and wishes upon stars nightly. Sylvia’s writing has appeared in Parentheses Journal, deathcap, Uncanny Magazine, and elsewhere, with more forthcoming in Crow & Cross Keys. She can be found on Twitter @sylviasays2

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