Chili Beans

by Bill Tope

“Do you know how to get rid of ten pounds of ugly gristle and fat?” asked Betty, addressing her neighbor in the kitchen of her friend’s home. Molly replied that she did not. “Cut off your head!” shouted Betty, then convulsed with hilarity. Molly narrowed her eyes at her friend but said nothing. “Cut off your head, get it?” demanded Betty, slapping her thigh and singing an operatic Har-har-har!

Molly went back to her stove, continued preparing the chili she’d started before Betty had burst through her back door, a half dozen cans of Del Monte Stewed Tomatoes clutched to her breast. Molly noticed the tomatoes for the first time. She said,

“Haven’t your learned anything, Betty? Dumpster diving is going to be the death of you.” She frowned and shook her head.

“Hah!” spat out Betty, shaking a can of tomatoes in the homeowner’s face. “I learned quite a lot from Agnes, I’ll have you know,” she said importantly. Agnes was both their friend and was a notorious dumpster diver, particularly in pursuit of stewed tomatoes.

“What’s that?” inquired Molly sardonically. “How to break your foot with a can of stewed tomatoes?” The last time Betty had gone dumpster diving with Agnes, the other woman had dropped a can of tomatoes on Betty’s foot, fracturing her toe. Betty’s face turned purple, but then she said smugly,

“I learn from my mistakes, Molly. Here, check this out,” and she kicked an antique sideboard, rendering it into fractured panels and splinters. Molly gasped. Betty held up her foot, remarking proudly, “Steel toes!” I could reduce this kitchen and everything in it, to saw–dust in minutes.” She reached down and with her knuckles rapped upon the toe of the ugly military style boot. A metallic ding reached their ears. Molly drew her hand to her throat in alarm, said,

“Please don’t!” Betty smirked at her friend’s reaction, faked a kick at the kitchen table and drew another gasp from Molly. Betty smirked again, drunk with power. Suddenly there was a knock upon the door and before Molly could answer the summons the door banged open, revealing none other than Agnes, a three gallon restaurant sized can of chili beans cradled in her arms. Molly promptly stepped out of range, but Betty, armed with her steel toed boots, remained confidently in place. Before anyone could even utter a word, the huge can of course slipped from Agnes’s hands and landed, not on Betty’s steel-sheathed toes, but on her ankle, shattering it almost beyond repair.

Molly drew her hand to her mouth, unsure whether to laugh at or commiserate with Betty. Not missing a beat, Agnes retrieved the errant container and lending Betty a shoulder, helped her out the door and to her car. This was a familiar routine; it had happened twice before and they knew the way by heart.

“Are you going to the hospital?” Molly called after them. Agnes nodded.

“Yes, I can’t wait to get there, too. They fill their dumpsters on Thursdays. Hot dog!” and the women sped away.

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