As part of the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction every day except Sunday for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning: A, B, C.
“I thought the entire plant was usable,” Holly said.
Sybil sat across from her, performing the same task. She nodded her head.
“It is, we will use these other parts, too, but today we are making something specifically for enjoyment. The flavor is the key on this one. Any greenery will result in a bitter taste.”
Holly remembered the bitterness of the alfalfa tea and wondered if there was a scale for measuring such a quality. Surely she had experienced the worst already.
Additional facts about the plant flowed freely from Sybil, almost like she was talking in her sleep, or reading a poem to a child at bedtime.
“Taraxacum officinale,” she said. “Very safe, no toxic accumulation or interactions, completely edible, contains several vitamins and minerals, including iron.”
She stood and carried a basket of dandelion petals to a large pot resting atop a conduction cooker. She tipped it over the edge and returned to continue.
She said, “We will take a fresh root to Eleanor to apply the resin to her wart. The leaves and a few flowers will be dried for use in tea blends. It works well as a diuretic without reducing the body’s potassium. The roots will be roasted for coffee and we will prepare a tincture for liver health.”
Holly eyed the large pot and wondered what wonderful concoction they were creating. So far her favorite part of her chosen profession was fresh food. She hardly ever visited the mess now. At first, she avoided it because of the poor conversation. Everyone wanted to criticize her bizarre calling. Eventually she spent enough time with Sybil to discover there was no need to eat dried and processed food from the mess at all. She had complete access to the plants and could eat anything she desired to harvest and prepare.
Was it selfish? Everyone else ate highly processed meals, the moisture was retrieved and conserved. Cooking with water was a waste. The others had a daily choice of a fresh item such as an apple or lettuce, but Holly had it all. She felt guilty for the ability to watch steam unfolding above the boiling pot. All that moisture being set free seemed sinful. What were they making that was worth the process?
Almost like she could read Holly’s mind, Sybil said, “It is a surprise for you. By the time it is ready, you will be finished with your first turn with me.”
Holly let her mouth fall open a little. There were eight notches on the time cycle and she had been an apprentice for only two. What possibly needed to cook for three-fourths of a turn?
With the last flower plucked clean, Sybil stood over the pot of bubbling liquid and beckoned Holly to come closer. The water was boiling and the pot of petals rested next to it. They each grabbed a handle with gloved hands and tipped it over the petals. The steam tickled her face and licked her hair aside. Nectar-sweet fragrance drifted up at them and she smiled with excitement.
Sybil put the pot to the side and threw a large towel over the steeping petals. “We’ll check in on it in three days,” she said.
Holly felt a small lump of disappointment in her chest. It was going to be a long turn.