“I don’t care what you say,” said Viola. “It’s just not fair.”
Gretchen rolled her eyes. “Don’t raise such a fuss, Vi. It’s just a ribbon, after all. And it’s only one event.”
Viola’s mouth pursed in on itself until it almost disappeared. “It’s the principle of the thing. It’s simply not possible to win every damned year like that, as if it was automatic or something.”
Viola rarely swore, so Gretchen knew the kettle was truly on the boil. “You won four blue ribbons for other pies. What’s so special about that one?”
“I’d have had a sweep of the entire pie category. But she stole it from me. Again.” Viola swiped away a tear. “And mincemeat was my Nana’s recipe. She won the Ohio State Fair with it. The State Fair. Of course, here’s different, but I’ve been making it to her recipe since I was old enough to reach the top of the stove. Yet every year, I have to see Minnie preening with her Blue-Ribbon Maine Mincemeat.”
“Well, it does sell pretty well, I hear.”
“That’s another thing,” Viola’s nostrils flared. “She does it for money, like some prostitute or something. They shouldn’t allow her to enter with the rest of us. Maybe she pays the judges, like she gets paid, that’s how she does it.”
“It’s new people every year.”
“It’s not right. I won’t let it happen again.”
Gretchen frowned. “What are you going to do?”
Viola nodded, as if confirming something to herself. “I’ll get that recipe if it’s the last thing I do.”
“Vi, that’s her living. She’ll never give you the recipe.”
Viola’s sudden smile scared Gretchen. “Who said anything about giving?”
The next evening, Minnie answered the ring of the doorbell.
“Why, Viola, what a pleasant surprise. Come on in.”
Viola entered, her gaze darting around the interior of the house, as if trying to pick up clues. She’d never been in Minnie’s home before, and why would she? The old bat had to be in her seventies, not a comfortable fortyish like Viola. And whenever I see her around town, all the woman can talk about is her stupid one-pie business.
“Would you like some tea?”
Viola forced a smile. “Yes, that would be lovely.”
“Come sit in the parlor while I put the kettle on.”
Viola shook her head. No one said parlor anymore, except old farts like Minnie. Why couldn’t ancient crones like her just step aside and let someone younger take over?
Viola did a double take at the deer head staring down from the wall over the fireplace.
Minnie smiled. “That was my first kill. My father took me out. I was seventeen.”
Dear Lord, who would put some atrocious thing like that in their living room? Excuse me, parlor. It’s sickening. The woman is nuttier than a pecan pie.
“I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” Minnie left the room.
Viola nodded. That was another thing. The things she came out with, those stupid sayings. Did all old people talk like that? If I ever get that way, I hope somebody shoots me first. She looked around the room. Fireplace, with a set of brass-colored tools: a shovel, a poker, a little broom thingie. Framed photographs and articles on the mantel. Some kind of lacey snowflakes on each chair and the weird little sofa, doilies on the coffee table and lamp tables, coasters at strategic locations. A sort of wall unit holding shelves of little porcelain figurines and knickknacks. A Grandfather clock, of course. No television, no magazines. Surprised the old biddy doesn’t have twelve cats. But the thing that really caught the eye was the display of blue ribbons, dozens of them, in rows. Viola’s mouth turned down at the corners as she clenched her hands.
Easy now. Viola breathed deeply and opened her hands again. She picked up one of the lacy things and studied it.