Early one morning, the aunt arrived, more flustered than usual, carrying a white plastic shopping bag that was a bit torn up and that looked to be full of brownish-green ooze.
“Is N here?” She asked directly.
“Why?” I asked. “What is that?”
“I’ll tell N,” she replied, and began to climb the stairs.
“Wait a minute, I’ll get another bag because I think that one’s going to leak all the way upstairs.”
“No! No!” she yelled, pulling the bag closer to her body. I feared that her quick movement would cause its contents to spill onto the floor, but as I examined it, I saw that, miraculously, it was not dripping. I thought it best not to argue.
Once upstairs, she barged into the kitchen and ordered me to clean some space on the draining board. As I cleared away the rinds of the oranges I had been juicing before she came, she demanded to know where N was.
“He’s in the bedroom,” I told her. She began to walk toward the door, bag and all, and I winced as I imagined it finally giving out in the vicinity of the bed. Just as she reached the door, N opened it from the other side.
“Vieni,” she told him, and she turned and walked to the sink, where she gingerly placed the bag on the now empty draining board. She began to open it, revealing an assortment of artichoke leaves partially covered by an exceptionally dented aluminum pot lid. As she lifted it, I noticed jagged pieces of shiny red plastic scattered here and there among the leaves, remnants of the artichokes’ erstwhile container. She began to tear the bag open, ever more aggressively, and all manner of oil, artichoke bits, leaves, and juice dripped down the front of the under sink cabinet and pooled on the formerly clean floor below.
“These are clean.” She said, indicating the artichokes. “They are all clean. Tell her to get a bowl,” she said to N while waving her hand in my direction.
“What happened?” N asked.
“They are all clean,” she repeated. “They were such beautiful artichokes.”
“What happened?” N asked once more.
“No, I put them on the ground. When I started the car I forgot about them.”
“So you drove over the artichokes?” I asked. N began to laugh.
“They are all clean,” she insisted.
I imagined the filthy tire of her ancient Fiat Panda rolling over the artichokes, nestled in their red plastic bowl, the aluminum lid, through no fault of its own, failing to protect them. Prompted perhaps by the look on my face as I imagined the scene, she said, “They were in another bag that wasn’t damaged. They are all clean.” She then began to sort through the mess of artichoke and plastic, placing whatever she deemed salvageable in the large bowl that I had given her. Once she was done, she handed me the soggy, torn bag, now holding only shards of red plastic. “Throw this away,” she said.
I decided to wait until she was gone to tell N that there was no way Pata was going to eat those artichokes.
After she left, he spoke first. “Isn’t she so kind? You can see how much she wanted to give us something nice. But I think it best we not eat them.”
Relieved that there wasn’t going to be an argument, I decided to honor the peace by not telling him that I could think of a few better words than ‘kind’ to describe giving people food you’ve just run over with your car.