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DATo
July 23rd, 2016, 10:22 AM
The following story which takes place in rural America at the beginning of the last century contains conversations written in the local dialect. I hope this does not prove too distracting.


The Secret Recipe

by

DATo

Bertie Haskins stomped across the kitchen floor to bring her husband a second cup of morning coffee.

"I knows that partic’lar sound a’them boots of yourn Ma. What’s got ya so riled up?"

"I tell ya Pa, that Eleanor Pruit is in cahoots with them judges. I just knows she are."

"Now Ma, ye ain’t gonna start up on that a’gin, are ye?"

"Not only that, but she’s bold enough to beat all get-up. She’s been a hussy since the time we was in school books."

"T’were’nt neither Ma. Ellie was just a pretty gal, and so she had herseff lots’a beaus. Ain’t her fault the Lord done give her nice looks."

"She’s a hussy I tell ya Pa. I seen her flutterin them eyelashes at them judges and a’smilin at em. Last year she won that derned blue ribbon a’gin with that lemon meringue pie, and ever body knows I make the best lemon meringue pie in this here county."

"You do make a fine lemon meringue Ma, and that’s a fact."

"Things is gonna be different this year Pa. You just wait and see. I’m a’fixin to wipe that smirk off’n her face fer good. She’s cahoot’n with them judges I tell ya."

"Now Ma, ya know them pie judges gots no idea who baked what pie. Y’all have to use new pie tins so’s the judges cain’t tell em apart. Only Reverend Sikes knows which number is yourn when he writes yer name down in his book and gives ya that there card with yer number on it - the card ya put with yer pie on the table with the rest of em. You and Reverend Sikes is the only two folks on the green earth what knows which number is yourn, and Reverend Sikes ain’t even one a’them judges. Ye knows it yerseff that the reverend is the kind o’man what won’t tell nobody who baked what pie till the judgen’s over."

"That’s so Pa, but that Eleanor Pruit still got some trixies up her sleeve, and I’m a’tellin you fer the last time she’s a’cahoot’n with them judges someways! Well, I got me some trixies up mah sleeve too, so you just sit thar and wait, and you’ll see."

"How long I gots to sit here Ma?"

"Oh, shut up ! "

Across town, Eleanor Pruit and her seven-year-old granddaughter were busy at work in the kitchen preparing this year’s entry to the McCupin County Fair pie baking contest. This year’s entry rules required the baking of a twelve inch apple pie to be presented in a standard, new, and nondescript pie tin.

"Granny, are you gonna win that blue ribbon a’gin this time?"

"Why only the good Lord knows who’s gonna win Sally Mae. The winner is the one who bakes the best pie so we have to do our bestest, and that’s all we can do. I done won that blue ribbon three years in a row now, so maybe time’s come fer someone else to win."

"Granny, Momma says you got secret recipes and you won’t tell nobody what they are."

"That’s a fact Sally Mae. See that recipe book yonder? I ain’t got much else of value to give yer Ma cept that, but it’s a treasure still the same. It gots all my recipe secrets in it, an it’s to be yer Ma’s when I’m gone."

"Where you going off to Granny?"

Ellie Pruit took her granddaughter in her arms. "Now don’t you never-mind about that. Lord willin I won’t be going anywhere none too soon, least ways not till you is all growed up, so’s I can see with my own two eyes the pretty lady you is sure to be someday."

"Do you have a secret fer this here apple pie Granny?"

"I surely do, an you know what, I’m a’gonna tell it to ya, but yer not to tell nobody - not never. Now you keep stirring this pot on the stove and I’m gonna put the secret recipe gredients in whilst yer a’stirin. See this right here? this is extracts’es of some crushed and boiled cloves and a bay leafs; an this, this right here, is cinnamon; this tiny little ol’ cup right here is pure maple syrup; and this last one is the juice from some boiled down red pepper. We just gonna put in a bitty-bit-smidgen or two of that. Red pepper! Ain’t that a hoot?"

"Sure is Granny. What’s a ‘hoot’ Granny?" Eleanor Pruit laughed out loud as she once again hugged her granddaughter. Just as she turned back to the pot belly stove Eleanor heard a knock at the door.

"Now that must be Hiram. He brings the mail just about this time o’mornin ever day, and when he knocks it means he has a package I gots to sign a paper fer. It’s probably yer Grandpap’s pipe tobacco. Now you just keep a’standin on that chair and a’stirin that pot while I go see to Hiram."

Bertie Haskins, in her own kitchen, had hunkered down to business as well, for she and her husband would have to leave home at five in the morning to cover the eight miles to the fair in their buckboard wagon in order to arrive in time to submit her own pie entry. She was bound and determined to create the finest apple pie McCupin County ever knew. It bewildered Bertie to think that the choice of a simple apple pie had never been selected by the fair committee in the past when deciding the type of pie the contestants were to submit; but this year’s choice only played to Bertie’s strength, for her apple pies were second to none. Bertie always took great satisfaction in watching the facial transformation from indifference to pure bliss when the uninitiated took their first bite. But this satisfaction would pale beside the satisfaction Bertie was sure to experience tomorrow by beating Eleanor Pruit in the pie baking contest.

"That infernal hussy is gonna have her comeuppance if it’s the last thing I do!" muttered a determined Bertie Haskins.

By mid-morning of the following day Bertie and her husband had arrived at the McCupin County Fair. After entering her pie at the judge’s pavilion with Reverend Sikes, and getting her number card, Bertie had insinuated herself within twenty paces of the table upon which the contestant’s pies were displayed. Both she and her husband were nicely concealed behind a tall elderberry bush.

"Why is we a’standin behind this here ol’ bush Ma, and why ain’t ye put yer pie on the table?"

"Never you mind why. I just knows you’re a’hankerin to get over to the horse racin to see Elmer-John’s boy race that stallion of his. Well, be off with ya. I’m a’stayin right here. Go on now, git. I’ll catch up with ye after later."

As Bertie’s husband disappeared into the crowd Bertie kept an alert eye trained upon the table as she peered stealthily between the branches of the elderberry bush. She soon saw that for which she had been waiting. Eleanor Pruit was approaching the table accompanied by a very young girl. Eleanor then set her pie upon the table and placed her white number card in front of it. Bertie waited till Eleanor and the child departed in the direction of the red and white striped ice cream tent before she emerged from behind the bush.

"Second row, third from the left." noted Bertie Haskins.

Bertie now approached the table with her eyes fixed upon Eleanor Pruit’s pie much like an eagle bearing down upon its prey. Upon arriving at the table she laid her pie upon it and placed her number card before her entry, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of Eleanor’s creation. She took note of the beautifully glazed and browned crust. After glancing to her right and then to her left to make sure no one was watching she quickly bent over to smell the pie, but this exercise availed her little with regard to the information she so desperately sought. Suddenly, and unaccountably, Bertie Haskins’ confidence failed her. Was it the persistent, haunting memory of the lemon meringue debacle, or had Bertie somehow convinced herself that a benificent angel of Providence forever watched over Eleanor Pruit’s affairs? Bertie suddenly knew with absolute certainty that she was destined to endure yet another torturous year drowning in the agony of knowing that she had been bested by a woman she had jealously despised since her childhood. It was at that moment that Bertie Haskins made a desperate and profound decision. She turned slowly and casually while surveying the crowd to make certain that no one was taking notice before deftly switching her number card with that of Eleanor Pruit’s. Bertie then melted inconspicuously into the crowd of fairgoers.

The day wore on, and after the judges had sampled all of the pie contestant’s entries Reverend Sikes climbed upon a step ladder and made the following announcement through a long, tin megaphone. "The McCupin County Fair pie contest has been decided. Will the contestants please approach the judge’s pavilion at this time."

Bertie’s conscience was not troubled in the least as she made her way to the pie judge’s pavilion. She would finally have her satisfaction, and her revenge. After repeating the announcement twice more, thus allowing enough time to pass for all of the contestants to gather, Reverend Sikes stood upon the step ladder once again as the seven contest judges took their places behind him in a row.

"Ladies and gentlemen," thundered the megaphone, "for the first time in the history of the McCupin County Fair the decision of the judges for the blue ribbon award was unanimous on the first ballot. And the winner is .... Eleanor Pruit! Second prize goes to Miss Nancy Price, and the third prize is awarded to Mary-Alice Coombs. Congratulations ladies!"

Bertie Haskins grit her teeth and threw back her shoulders. Her face remained impassive. She then strode with a resolute, measured step to the elderberry bush she had hidden behind earlier that morning until she was sure to be so concealed that no one might see her. Only then did she permit herself to collapse to the ground and weep bitterly. Bertie Haskins had legitimately won the contest ... a unanimous decision ... first time in history ... but she could tell no one - not now, not ever - for what she had done by switching her card with Eleanor’s was so despicable an act that her name would be denigrated in infamy forever should anyone ever find out. The pie that Bertie’s nemesis, Eleanor Pruit, had actually baked, the pie before which Bertie had placed her own number card, did not even place among the winning entries. Eleanor never would have had a chance to win even if Bertie had not switched the number cards. This too confounded Bertie but her grief left little time to ponder the meaning of this mysterious implausibility.

On a street in town, the day after the fair, a group of eight women were congregated in front of Bulmer’s Hardware Store.

"My husband was one of the judges, and he said that Bertie Haskins’ pie was the worst thing he ever put into his mouth in his entire life." whispered Mabel Cass.

"Well, I hear’d it was so bad that some folks is sayin that Bertie was fer sure a’tryin to poison them judges." contributed Elma-Sue Barnett. "One of them mens took and buried the rest of that there pie in the ground lest some poor ol’ dog was to eat it from the garbage AND DIE."

Mabel Cass continued, "My husband told me, he said, ‘I declare, I never afore tasted an apple pie as delicious as Eleanor Pruit’s’. Herbert didn’t stop talkin bout that apple pie all night. That Eleanor Pruit must be some kind of pie-baking wizard to get Herbert that worked up. I’d give anything for that apple pie recipe of Eleanor’s, I surely would."

Back at the Pruit residence, as the afore-stated conversation was taking place, Eleanor pinned her newly won blue ribbon to her granddaughter’s jumper. "I owe it all to you Sally Mae. You stirred that mess o’ gredients just perfect, and that’s why we won this here blue ribbon."

"T’ain’t neither Granny. You won this here ribbon cause I put in secret gredients too when Grandpap’s tabaccy come and you wasn’t here."

"Why, do tell ! What secret gredients did you put in there Sally Mae?"

"Cain’t tell ya Granny, not never. It’s a secret."

Eleanor Pruit laughed loudly, and so hard that her whole body shook. She then hugged her granddaughter close and gave her a loud-smacking kiss on the cheek. "Well go on then and keep yer ol’ secret, an I’ll just go on an love ya anyways."

And so it came to pass that the story of the nineteen-ought-four McCupin County Fair pie baking contest entered into local legend and lore. Sally Mae, ever faithful to her convictions, kept her secret to herself, thereby becoming the only person ever to know that to win an apple pie blue ribbon unanimously it was absolutely necessary to include among the ingredients an entire tin of cinnamon, and the entire concentrated remains of red pepper juice. Stirring the concoction thoroughly, in Sally Mae’s considered opinion, may be viewed as optional.



/

Harper J. Cole
August 6th, 2016, 09:04 PM
A funny story with a clever twist! I didn't find the dialect distracting; I'm no expert but it seemed fairly convincing to me.

I do feel that the opening section was slightly dialogue-heavy. A few little movements or gestures from your characters could have varied things up a bit.


Across town, Eleanor Pruit and her seven year old granddaughter were busy at work in the kitchen preparing this year’s entry to the McCupin County Fair pie baking contest.

I think that this is meant to be hyphenated ("seven-year-old").


This year’s entry rules required the baking of a twelve inch, apple pie to be presented in a standard, new, and nondescript pie tin.


Eleanor then set her pie upon the table and placed her white, number card in front of it.


Bertie waited till Eleanor and the child departed in the direction of the red and white, striped ice cream tent before she emerged from behind the bush.

I don't think you need any of these commas; when reading the story, these don't seem like natural places to pause.

Hope that some of this has been helpful!

HC

DATo
August 6th, 2016, 10:19 PM
Thanks so much HarperCole. You are entirely correct on each of your suggestions. I do have a tendency to sometimes place commas where I would naturally take a breath rather than according to proper rules of punctuation. I am trying to break myself of doing this and your notice of this habit is an incentive to try harder. I also have a terrible habit of writing it's when I mean to write its.

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my story as well as for pointing out my errors. I have corrected them in the story and credited you for pointing them out in the "Reason for editing" section.

Saul Bee
August 7th, 2016, 11:00 PM
Loved it.
To be honest I had guessed all the twists but had not expected them all, and saving the last one till the last few lines really gave it the edge even though it had been seen coming.

My favourite part was the discussion of the pies by the townswomen. It gave a whole new depth to the disaster of the sneaky act, a reputation destroyed. Not something I would of thought of doing but I am here to learn so thanks.

Which I could be more helpful and constructive.

Jay Greenstein
August 8th, 2016, 02:29 AM
One of the limitations of our medium is that while you can hear the tone a given line is spoken in, and thus know the emotional content, the reader gets only what the words suggest to them. So for the most part, what you've supplied is a script, minus the stage directions and character background that would tell the aqctor how to speak the line, and the physical action that goes with it.

When people converse, they hesitate, stop to think, rephrase, change expression, and more. They modify their response based on their analysis of how the other character reacted to what was said/done last. When they speak it's with the intent of creating a preferred response in the one they're with. But your characters are just lobbing dialog back and forth like a softball. No one nods approval, frowns, or taps the table. But that, and the things we do while we're conversing carry meaning. Someone who is twisting a napkin as they talk is telling the observer of their mind state, which matters a great deal to the feel of the scene.

Remember, your reader is hoping to be entertained by being made to feel that they're living the scene in parallel with the protagonist, in real time. And that takes knowledge of the character's emotional state, interpretation of what the other person means/does, and the characters resources and imperatives. It's how we conduct conversations in life, so can your characters do other then that and seem real?

A little digging into the tricks the pros take for granted can give your writing a lot more impact.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

DATo
August 8th, 2016, 11:56 AM
Greetings SaulBee and thank you for your response.

Yes, I agree that the twist was thinly veiled. I would have preferred that it be more pronounced but I didn't know how to do it.

I'm happy to learn that you liked the scene of the women gossiping in front of the hardware store. I had to introduce the fact that the pie thought to be Bertie's was terrible and the idea that the one thought to be Eleanor's was delicious. I wasn't quite sure how to do this until I considered the gossipfest and allowing my audience to listen in. It's encouraging to learn that this bit was appreciated.

Once again, many thanks!

DATo
August 8th, 2016, 12:07 PM
One of the limitations of our medium is that while you can hear the tone a given line is spoken in, and thus know the emotional content, the reader gets only what the words suggest to them. So for the most part, what you've supplied is a script, minus the stage directions and character background that would tell the aqctor how to speak the line, and the physical action that goes with it.

When people converse, they hesitate, stop to think, rephrase, change expression, and more. They modify their response based on their analysis of how the other character reacted to what was said/done last. When they speak it's with the intent of creating a preferred response in the one they're with. But your characters are just lobbing dialog back and forth like a softball. No one nods approval, frowns, or taps the table. But that, and the things we do while we're conversing carry meaning. Someone who is twisting a napkin as they talk is telling the observer of their mind state, which matters a great deal to the feel of the scene.

Remember, your reader is hoping to be entertained by being made to feel that they're living the scene in parallel with the protagonist, in real time. And that takes knowledge of the character's emotional state, interpretation of what the other person means/does, and the characters resources and imperatives. It's how we conduct conversations in life, so can your characters do other then that and seem real?

A little digging into the tricks the pros take for granted can give your writing a lot more impact.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.


Thanks Jay!

Your post is most informative and I think there is much wisdom in what it suggests. I must agree with you that the inclusion of physical mannerisms can add a lot to the delivery of the dialogue and can add a great deal of meaning to what is being said. I have no excuse for these omissions but I shall certainly keep your post in mind in future projects. I save all critiques that I feel are instructive and I will certainly save yours.

Often when writing I try to keep the story as compact as possible in order to not over-tax the patience of the reader, thus the brevity of much of my dialogue description; however, I think you are right to suggest that brevity should not take precedence over quality.

Thank you most sincerely for pointing this out!

Saul Bee
August 9th, 2016, 06:02 PM
No problem credit where it is due and I may steal the 'overhearing' idea myself. It shall not be forgotten.

Bard_Daniel
August 10th, 2016, 01:31 AM
You got me interested in a pie eating contest. That alone should speak for your writing skill DATo. A job well done!

Thanks for sharing!

DATo
August 10th, 2016, 08:42 AM
Howdy danielstj !

Thanks for responding to my story and also for the "like". Yup, I have to agree. There isn't much one can do with a pie eating contest as a premise *LOL*

This story was written as the result of a short story contest in which the authors were tasked with the challenge of demonstrating "the self destructive results of hate and jealousy". I wrote it but never submitted it to the contest. It occurred to me at the last minute that I write for fun and when contest competition or money enters the picture things start to become too serious.

I will never be a published author. I accept the fact that I am not talented enough to be one, and that's OK; however, when someone such as yourself compliments something I write it is tantamount to a royalty cheque. It makes me feel that I did not waste the reader's time by presenting them with something they couldn't enjoy. That is my absolute worst fear when I submit these stories - that a reader will feel I've wasted their time.

Thanks again! [:- )

Sonata
August 10th, 2016, 09:45 AM
I enjoyed reading your story - thank you for giving me that pleasure.

qwertyman
August 10th, 2016, 10:48 AM
The dialect was convincing and an easy read. Nevertheless, it reads like an info-drop and less of a conversation. It is also repetitive.

The ‘new pie tin issue’ is repeated three times and the granddaughter has two goes at asking grandma if she has a secret recipe.
~~~~

“Last year she won that derned blue ribbon a’gin with that lemon meringue pie, and ever body knows I make the best lemon meringue pie in this here county."

"You do make a fine lemon meringue Ma, and that’s a fact."
~~~
Three lemon meringues? Especially as, at the end, it becomes an apple pie!

Pa has to be elevated above the role of info-drop feed. Consider developing his attitude. Is he tired of hearing about pies, is he supportive or into auto-reply mode? He makes a start by announcing,
“…Ellie was just a pretty gal, and so she had herseff lots’a beaus. Ain’t her fault the Lord done give her nice looks." Does he think Bertie is a bit of a goat compared to the stunning Ellie? Where does he stand in this?

When we get to ‘pretty-gal’ Pruit’s house there is more repetition and overt info-dropping. Pruit’s character is an ‘honest Joe’ in this story which is fine, although it makes it more of a parable rather than a conflict. An indication of her life outside the pie-prize, something small would be enough…does she collect Barbie dolls?

Dialogues often need a beat between discourses to indicate the pace of the scene, the weight of the responses or indicate the thought or mood behind the words. Preferably done with a line of narrative, not a descriptive dialogue tag.

To sum-up, the dialogue needs attention to disguise info-dropping as regular conversation.

Yes, I guessed the ending but it was still an enjoyable read. Keep 'em coming.

DATo
August 10th, 2016, 12:05 PM
Hi qwertyman and thanks for the reply! I'm glad the dialect didn't read to ambiguously.

DATo
August 10th, 2016, 12:06 PM
I enjoyed reading your story - thank you for giving me that pleasure.

Thank YOU Sonata for taking the time to read and respond to it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

EmmaSohan
August 10th, 2016, 10:38 PM
You did a good job of interesting me in a pie contest. Obviously, it's clever plot-wise that she switched pies, but I liked how you handled it -- a sudden impulse. There was a lot to like, and I'm guessing you need the dialect, so good choice on that.