Meat Loves Salt 1
When the old man looked ahead at his dwindling days he grew lonely and afraid. So he called his three daughters to him.
‘Before I draw up my final will you must each give me a gift which shows how much you love me.’
The next day the eldest daughter presented him with a bejewelled crown.
‘My love for you is as rich and bright as this crown,’ she said.
The old man placed it on his head and was reassured by its heavy weight pressing down on him.
‘I will give you a third of my wealth,’ he replied.
‘The middle daughter presented the old man with an opulent fur coat.’
‘My love is as rare as this coat.’
Her father wrapped the fur about him and was reassured by its warmth even though it stifled his breathing.
‘I will give you a third of my wealth,’ he said.
Finally the youngest daughter approached. She handed him a small and simple paper bag.
The old man grabbed it, full of anticipation, sure that this gift from his favourite daughter would be the greatest of the three. He poured out the contents, then stood shocked, open mouthed, as a pile of white salt streamed into the palm of his hand.
‘What does this mean?’
‘I love you like meat loves salt,’ the youngest girl said.
The two elder girls sniggered and the old man grew angry.
‘Salt! How dare you! Get out of here you ungrateful wretch. Leave my house now if this is how much you love me then I care nothing for you.’
That evening the old men was bad tempered as he ate his dinner alone. He missed his youngest daughter, as she usually kept him company in the evening. His new crown was too heavy and the fur coat was itchy against his skin. He also had a sneaking feeling that he looked ridiculous.
He stabbed at the meat on his plate and started to chew. It was bland and unpalatable.
‘Salt,’ he cried. ‘I need salt.’
Then he fell silent and realised how very, very foolish he had been.
When he looked up there was somebody standing in front of him, it was his youngest daughter, she was holding a salt cellar out to him.
‘I love you like meat loves salt,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘I love you like meat loves salt.’
Like Meat Loves Salt II
When the waitress offers the woman seated at a table in the corner of the restaurant a drink she just shakes her head. Ten minutes later she asks again but receives the same response. The woman doesn’t fidget and fiddle with the cutlery or glance at her watch or look up every time the door opens, she just sits, hands in lap, looking at the white cloth. Another ten minutes pass. The restaurant is busy now, the bustle of a Thursday night.
Then suddenly the door is flung open and a man rushes in. He is tall, middle aged, wearing an expensive wool coat, bejewelled with beads of rain. He doesn’t pause at the reception desk but rushes into the dining room and falls on one knee in front of the seated woman.
‘I’m so sorry. Something came up. I’m so sorry.’
The woman looks at him and gives him a small resigned and lifeless smile. The man stands up and shrugs off his coat and drapes it over the chair then calls to the waitress.
‘A bottle of Champagne please. Your best.’
‘You don’t have to,’ the woman said. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘Of course it matters, it’s our anniversary and it’s the first time you’ve been out since….’
The waitress brings the bottle of champagne. They clink glasses then silence falls between them. And now they both stare at the cloth. There is nothing to say. Then the man picked up the salt cellar and let the salt stream out and he draws the shape of a heart. The crystals are a glistening white against the matt starch of the cloth.
‘I love you like meat loves salt,’ he says.
The woman gasps.
‘Of course, I remember everything. I remember your face, so beautiful twenty-five years ago when I lifted up your veil and kissed you as my wife for the first time. I remember the first time I saw you dancing and I was too afraid to speak to you. I remember when you were lying in the hospital bed…’
The woman gasps again. But the man continues to speak.
‘Holding our children for the first time. I remember how you grew and changed from a girl to a woman. And I remember how just a few weeks ago again seeing you lying in a hospital bed, just waking up, and how I was still amazed at how beautiful you are.’
The woman puts a hand to her breast and slowly tears fall down her cheek. She cries silently and he leans over and kisses her face. Her tears taste salty. Then she picks up the salt cellar and draws a heart that intertwines with his.
‘I love you like meat loves salt,’ she says.
Then they both put their index finger into the salt and lick it off.
Then somehow, it was a stupid mistake, an accident, when the woman licks the salt she bites her lip and it starts to bleed. Blood flows out and run down her chin. She tries to check the flow with her napkin but it won’t stop.
‘Darling, are you alright?’
‘I should go to the bathroom’, she says, but she is unable to move.
‘Come, let me help you,’ her husband helps her out of her chair. The waitress watches them and is shocked to see such grief.
In the bathroom the woman washes her face. The man strokes her hair and then he holds her to him. She isn’t crying any more. He starts to kiss her tasting her blood and some grains of salt that still linger on her skin. Slowly she starts to kiss him back. It has been a long time. They rediscover the shape of the others mouth, teeth and tongue, once to familiar, so sweet to remember.
Then they start to kiss harder and the man runs his hands over her back. Then he unzips her dress.
‘Don’t I’m too…’
‘Sssh. I love you like meat loves salt.’
Now her sobbing comes from deep in her throat. And she holds the sides of his head and tips her own against the back of the wall.
‘No’, she cries as he undoes her bra. ‘No.’
‘Ssh’ he says again as the soft, liquid filled rubber that fills the left cup falls to the floor with a thud. ‘Ssh.’ Then he licks the scar where her left breast had been and she throws her body back against the wall as she feels his lips tingle against her. He cups her right breast and he slowly kisses the skin flat against her ribs just above her heart. She grips on to him tightly and wraps her legs around him. When he pushes inside her her body thuds against the wall.
‘I love you…’ she cries.
‘Like meat…’ he gasps in reply.
Her back thuds against the wall again.
‘Like meat,’ he says.
‘Loves salt,’ she whispers.
‘Salt. Salt. Salt.’
When they return to table the waitress looks at them. She had heard the thudding and drawn the obvious conclusion but she couldn’t believe that this respectable middle aged couple would do such a thing. Then she sees the woman’s face, gone is the grey pallor, the stillness, here is a person full of life. Full of hope.
‘Do you need anything?’ she asks the couple.
‘No thank you. We have everything we want,’ the woman smiles at the girl, the smile reaches her eyes, and then she turned to her husband.
‘Yes,’ replies the man, ‘we have everything we want.’
They reach out their hands to each other across the table.