|The Great Chili Cook-Off
Margaret B. Davidson
© Copyright 1999 by Margaret B. Davidson
Chapter 1: Preparation
EdnaMae wiped her brow with her sleeve. Boy it was hot in this cave of a kitchen. And if one more sliver of plaster landed in her pot of chili she was gonna swat that no-good husband of hers right up side of his head. She’d bin askin’ him to fix that ceilin’ for months! She scooped up a ladleful and took a slurp. Hmm... Not as hot as that hussy SueAnne’s entry from last year. Gotta be better than hers, not that she deserved to win for that mess anyways. EdnaMae threw in a dozen more peppers.
As she stirred she lost herself in anticipation of the success that would surely be hers tomorrow at the County Fair. Everybody would sample the entries in the Chili Cook-Off competition, but the Mayor himself would make the judgment as to the winner. For years EdnaMae had been longing to snag the blue ribbon, but she was always beaten out by some upstart. Probably somebody who’d paid the Mayor off ahead o’ time. Not this year!!! No Sirree. Not this year!!! She’d gotten Sammy to offer to plow the Mayor’s driveway the whole of next winter. It was her turn to take home the prize. Her thoughts were interrupted by Brooser leaping onto the counter. He sniffed the air and then sidled up to the pot. EdnaMae swatted him with the ladle. He yelped curses at her and jumped down, spraying chili in six directions. With a baleful glance, he disappeared around the back door.
Chapter 2: Competition
The great day arrived. It was hot and humid -- the air almost as thick as EdnaMae’s chili. Samuel looked downright spiffy in his blue chinos. He’d given himself a shave in honor of the occasion, but the resulting specks of blood were barely visible on the red checks of his best shirt. EdnaMay had managed to squeeze herself into last year’s green calico. She didn’t think anybody would notice the small split in the side.
Brooser was nowhere in sight. EdnaMae thought he’d been out all night, and this was just fine with her because she didn’t want him getting into her pot of chili. He often spent the night hunting. She’d ‘a’ gotten shot o’ that old tom by now if he wasn’t so good at riddin’ the barn o’ rats. She rather expected to see him at any moment come slinking around the door with a corpse or two hanging limply from his clenched jaws. But he didn’t put in an appearance, and it was time to leave.
The pot was huge, and it took the two of them to heft it onto the back of the pick-up. It slopped over the sides a bit but that was no matter. Old Barfus was riding in the back and would lick up any dregs from the flat-bed. They backed out from the rutted driveway onto the main road, losing a little chili along the way and making Barfus a happy dog. They were on their way.
Chapter 3: Secret Ingredient
The Fair had been underway for several hours. EdnaMae felt that things were going well. She’d sampled all the Chili entered in the competition and had no doubt that her own was the best. And, as luck would have it, somebody had tipped over SueAnne’s entry and it was running amid streams of sawdust into the parking lot. SueAnne was in hysterics and was being ministered to by the entire fire department. They’d carried her into the old cowshed and were attempting to calm her, but EdnaMae could still hear her screaming from her vantage point on the other side of the field.
Anticipation was mounting. The Mayor was expected to make his appearance any minute now. Feeling the tension, EdnaMae retreated to the stream where several ladies were busy scrubbing plates and gossiping. She grabbed a handful of dirty spoons and began swishing them back and forth in the muddy water. “That sure is a handsome chili of yours, EdnaMae,” piped Hetty Snipes. “What’s yer secret? You got a secret ingredient in there?” “That’s for me to know and you to wonder,” quipped EdnaMae smugly. Then she was distracted by the sight of the Mayor in the distance beginning to scoop samples from the various pots. Oooh, she couldn’t stand to look. She turned her back.
That’s why she didn’t see Sam come lumbering across the field towards her, his arms waving frantically. But she did hear him yell out, “EdnaMae, EdnaMae, I think the Mayor just found Brooser...!”
EdnaMae didn’t win the blue ribbon that year either.
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