Val Bonney and Maggie Caldwell

Val Bonney


Bellefontaine Soup


Maggie Caldwell

Inspiration Piece

Sunday Supper


The first time I ever ate raccoon

was at Bellefontaine Cemetery

over on the north side of town.


(You know,

that’s where your grandparents are both buried)


I was dating Norma Lynne Hoffman that summer –

her parents were caretakers

over on the Protestant



That day I went to work at dawn with Pop,


and shaping

black wool


and grey felt


for the men to pick up before the weekend.


(You know,

that’s one of those old hat blocks

your mother used to frame

your baby shoes in the upstairs hall)


We went extra early that day because Pop

said he couldn’t remember

a summer so hot even the mosquitoes

were scared

away, and even with the big fans


out from on the wall

and down from the ceiling

and up from the floor

it was warm enough back there to heat up our whole school in January.

My mother brought us lemonade

and cold fried chicken

and when we finished up, I hopped into my red ’52 Sunliner

and went straight to band practice.


(You know,

I had that car for five years

until I wrecked it on my first date

with your mother)


I met up with Norma Lynne – we had a date

afterwards but we skipped band

and instead


down the ragtop,


to the river,


on the levee above those smooth



and spent the afternoon on the carousel

riding painted horses

up and down

around and around

making a breeze –



best we could.


So then we walked out over Chain of Rocks Bridge

with a pocketful

of pebbles

and tossed them one by one into the swirling



trying to hit the wide barge


slowly under us,

loaded down with fat

trunks of maple and oak.


(You didn’t know my cousin

Ralph Potter – he worked upriver

at that logging operation for a while)


When I took Norma Lynne back home

down the winding drive

past neat rows

of white marble

old Mr. Hoffman was standing

on their wide front porch swinging

the biggest raccoon

I ever saw by its tail.


(No, it wasn’t road kill,

it was caught in a fair and square sort of way)


He had a satisfied


that reached all the way to Illinois.

He asked me if I’d care to stay

for supper.


Norma Lynne and I watched while Mr. Hoffman took out a bowie

knife he said belonged to his pop,

and cut off that raccoon’s tail,

but then Norma Lynne squealed

and covered her eyes

and said she couldn’t watch

so I chased after her red curls

all the way to the Catholic

side of the cemetery,

where we snuck


and kisses

in the soft grass

behind the twelve foot marble crucifix

where Monsignor Ferretti was laid to rest in 1936.


(You know,

there were still fresh roses at his grave almost twenty years later)


Finally the smell of spit roasted raccoon

called us back to dinner. Mrs. Hoffman had set a nice table

with buttery ears

of sweet yellow corn

and a mound of thick grits

with raccoon gravy

and a big plate of fresh dandelion

greens Norma Lynne said she just picked that morning from over in the field.


(You know,

that’s where the new Bellefontaine Hospital

was built a few years later,

where you were born)


So then Mr. Hoffman set a big platter of roasted raccoon

in the middle of the table,

cut off a thick slab of meat with that old bowie knife,

and, still grinning ear to ear, said


well, this here’s one varmit won’t be messin up my compost heap again.


Well, we ate and we ate – that was a delicious meal – then Norma Lynne

took out her accordion

and played Auld Lang Syne

as the sun set

and I made a couple of oompahs

on my tuba

with her for good measure.


I heard that Norma Lynne was married and had a couple of kids by the time

we buried Pop there, about five years later.

Old Mr. Hoffman didn’t seem to remember me that day.


And he had passed on himself by the time we buried

my mother

right next to Pop

the next fall.


(But you know,

I thought of Mr. Hoffman and that raccoon

every single time I picked up some garbage

one of you kids knocked over and never cleaned up)


Hmmm? Oh, it tasted like chicken.



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