Stone Soup for Digestion and Boredom – Advice #26

Posted on August 17, 2010


Helga, who cooks stone soup, lives below me. I’m alone and bored and there are enough cracks in the walls for the cold of winter to sneak through. The combination is perfect for craving someone’s company, or a conversation, or any sort of acknowledgement that the world is still running properly.

I open up the front door. Helga is waiting. Fat, short, and alarmingly muscular for her age, Helga stands in the doorway with a toothless smile. She wears oven mitts designed to resemble flamingos and steam rises from her gourmet dish. The stuff smells like sulfur and milk.

“Stone soup,” she says.

“You really shouldn’t have, Helga,” I say.  “Do come in.”

I grab bowls and spoons as she sits the pot down on my table. She always makes me eat the stone soup in front of her. Never touches the stuff herself. Instead she lets out a stream of conscious, one way conversation.

“Don’t worry about the soup, sweetie,” she says. “With all the demolition, there are plenty of stones to go around. We got to have room for those parking lots. Got to make sure people can get down here with their cars. It’s getting pretty lonely. Not many buildings like ours left. But the soup, oh don’t worry about the soup. I just walk out there each morning. I take a bucket and I fill it up. You’re eating part of the Park West. My! Beautiful place! Just beautiful. Can’t believe they tore it down. I remember sitting in the park across the street and thinking how beautiful it was. Always wanted to live there, but you knew Roger.”

Helga continues while I swallow spoonfuls of soup, pull in sharp breaths and repeat. I never enjoy eating the stuff. It makes my throat feel raw and used. And I get full quick, but I can’t tell Helga that. I have to scarf it down. Got to put those stones in my stomach. Got to get my fill.

If I live by any principle it’s to always remember my manners.

The whole mess is a conundrum. I don’t mean eating stone soup, and not the destruction of the neighborhood. I mean being content.  I’m always dying to be with someone, to have a nice conversation, eat a nice meal. But then I’m there, eating soup and listening to Helga. And I sit there for a time, suffering, wanting to be alone again, wanting to concentrate. It’s like this stone soup – heavy in the gut and bad for your heart.