A Little Bit of Salt: A Short Story
She peered across the white laminated tabletop. Her eyes traveled down his jawline, past his chin to the white strands perched on the fork before him. The meat hovered in the air for a second before continuing its path up. Her breath caught in her throat while her hands pulled over and around each other underneath the table. The forkful of chicken entered the gaping opening of her husband’s mouth. She watched his eyes squint as his jaw mechanically pushed up and down. Up and down. This wasn’t right. It was taking far too long.
Her eyes darted towards her wrestling fingers and the shiny little diamond that sparkled back. She couldn’t watch him. She couldn’t take any more. An invisible wave pressed down against her body, and then the first tear escaped.
Her husband chewed faster–up and down. Up and down, before willing all the muscles in his face to force a swallow.
“It’s great, love,” he remarked between breaths. “Truly…delicious.”
A sob broke out.
He pushed himself up from the table and crossed the tiles between them until he was able to wrap his arms around her small shaking frame.
“The thermometer….broke…and..and.. the oven did.. seem… too…hot,” she squeaked between wails. “I…I just didn’t want to make you sick on our first…” but the words were overcome with cries as she buried her face in the wide stripes of his necktie.
He squeezed her closer.
“Judy, I love you. It’s perfect,” he whispered as he stroked the matts of hair piled against her wet face.
Her breathing slowed.
“Darling, I’d eat this every day from here on out if I could,” and he turned back toward the table to get another forkful of chicken. He took a big bite and proceeded to will his jaw down.
Her hand went up to wipe her eyes as she watched his mouth move down with a great deal of force. A smile broke out from her mouth.
Her husband heaped another helping into a tower on his plate. Then he reached for the small glass shaker in front of him on the table.
“It’s perfect Mrs. Hamilton. It just needs a little… salt,” he remarked as he tipped the shaker on its side and jiggled it back and forth for several seconds over his overflowing plate.
Giggles erupted between them, and they continued that night long after the food on the table was chilled.
Life moved quickly around that four-legged table. Newborns interrupted quiet meals with their screams, and later the same ones smeared spaghetti sauce into every single one of its crevices. Birthday candles ignited and diffused as years rolled on into the other. Interlocking hands formed a growing circle around the table as prayers of thanks repeated their path to the God who sustained the small little family.
On some days the laughter waned and darkness knocked. The warmth of love was replaced by the chill of bitterness, anger, and biting words. A loving embrace moved out to make room for the pierce of a salty word. Prayers of thanks turned to desperate laments for the help of the God who held their hope.
Yet year by year, in the bitter cold of grief or in the sweltering fires of sorrow, the couple stood–preserved.
Until one afternoon, the woman sat at that old laminate table–a book spread on its surface before her. The delicate pages boasted colors, lines, and words filling every inch of space. The kitchen walls around her spoke a quiet that she still wasn’t quite used to.
In the silence she arched her body over the typeface in the book before her. While repositioning the glasses on her face, her eyes devoured the words. Burnt offerings, grain, altars, sheep, goats, and numerous details filled the pages. It was easy to get lost in the confusion of a culture far-removed, but she pressed on.
Her eyes circled back to a phrase that caught her eye.
“You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
She paused and stared at the words.
The offering required salt. In a world without refrigerators and freezers this simple ingredient meant everything. It was the means by which they had food in their stomachs– the only way they were assured their meat would last for the weeks and months to come. Salt guaranteed preservation.
The God of the Israelites–her God—didn’t need the salt. Yet his people did. They needed to remember what kind of covenant God had made. His promises to his people would last. It would preserve his children through their years of unfaithfulness and blindness, and repeated return to his endless grace. His covenant of salt endured.
She sighed and glanced towards her husband, asleep in the chair in the opposite room. Then her eyes moved down to her hands on the table.
The shiny little diamond sparkled back against the backdrop of wrinkles and spots.
She smiled as the memories of all the years rushed through her mind. Of babies, of laughter, and even cold shoulders and harsh words. She remembered the tickle fights, and desperate prayers–all the I’m sorry’s followed by the imparting of forgiveness. She shuffled through the memories of a thousand loads of laundry, dozens of doctor appointments, and a million more squeezes of the hand.
Her fingers gently rocked the diamond back and forth on her finger.
So much had happened, yet here they were. Together. Their covenant all those years ago in the front of that little white church had held strong. It was preserved each day through the grace of the one who made and kept an even greater covenant. The Lord’s promises to each of them never failed, and he strengthened them to keep their own.
She chuckled and remembered that first meal in their home together. The overcooked, bland chicken–that awkward start to a full life they never could have imagined.
Just a little bit of salt. She smiled. Perhaps her husband was right that first evening.
For their lifetime of faithfulness, preserved by God’s grace, proved to be just another covenant offered with salt.
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