(Originally printed in Lemon Press Zine)
Every year, they ask me what I put in the soup that makes it taste so good. They used to think it was one of my animals. But that was
just a bad rumor someone started because I kept winning at the fair. The Bengal had been alive for years, and I would never harm the
Lioness after her cubs had grown. Those were the only things big enough, but they had been here for years.
I made the soup the first time when Ben died. I mean, he left so suddenly, there was a huge hole in my life. I started cooking to keep
me occupied. After the funeral, and the required visits from friends, they slowly start to leave you alone and you need to keep your mind off loneliness. I kept things just like Ben wanted. He’s been gone so long, people think those crazy animals were my idea… No, they were his.
The recipe was his too. Well, not really his per se, he got it from his years of traveling with the circus. That’s how we met. He was so
handsome in that loincloth… with his whip going into the lion’s cage so fearlessly. Every once in a while, when someone died, the snake man would make the memorial soup. It’s how they all mourned. For Ben, it was comforting.
It was comforting for me too. The first time I made it. He kept the recipe in his little chest full of all his carnival belongings. I knew
he would have wanted me to make it. It’s not hard, I thought I was doing it wrong, especially the first few steps. How much work does
soup take anyway? By the end of the hour though, everything was coming together. The first taste was magical. I knew Ben was with me.
People have always tried to take the recipe from me. This town is full of little housewife spies. Mary Jo was the first. I caught her
peeping in a window while I was preparing the base with some bullion. I think she was more surprised than I was when I saw her in that window, she ran frantically to the backyard. Too close to the cages. That was an accident. Tigers don’t like human flesh. It’s way too salty.
People always come around. They’re curious I guess. People disappear around here. They used to blame the animals, but they’re
circus trained, even if I opened the door, they wouldn’t walk out without the command in German. My Ben trained them so good.
The fair is tomorrow. I almost didn’t enter this year. I didn’t have the heart to gather everything and defend myself from everyone’s
rumors again. But tonight, an animal control officer came to the door. There’s a new ordinance, he told me. I need to provide better cages and habitats for the animals. He went out to inspect Ben’s animals. He was trying to take away one of my last pieces of my husband! He never heard the German command to attack until it was too late. The tiger doesn’t like human flesh, but the lioness seems to think it’s decent enough. I only needed one of the legs anyway. That parts stews the best. The meat practically falls off the bone.
It looks like I’m serving soup tomorrow after all.