Mom greeted me at the door with a hug. “Oh Joey! I’m so glad you came. Now quick, Kate and Eddie are already here.”
I nod and step into the house, setting my picnic bag on the kitchen counter. “I brought the condiments, like you asked.” Quickly I empty the contents of the bag: ketchup, spicy mustard, relish, mayonnaise, ranch…
I look up. I thought Mom was staring at me, but she is staring at the bottle of Ranch dressing I just set down. For a moment, I see a tear in her eye.
*Of course. There hasn’t been a bottle of ranch dressing in this house since Dad died.
“I’m sorry…” I stammer. “I can put it back…”
“No, Joey. He would want us to have it at our family barbecue. It was always our favorite… and how he’d draw little designs on his burger before eating it…”
Mom tears up again and walks out of the room. I follow her outside and place the condiments on the picnic table. My family greets me, and when my uncle Ben arrives with the potato chips, we drift toward the food table to fill our paper plates. Mom’s hand trembles as she reaches for the ranch dressing and instead grabs the ketchup. She squeezes it onto her burger, and then picks up her plate.
But for the briefest moment, I thought I saw the bottle of ranch rise, tip, and squeeze the outline of a heart in the center of Mom’s hamburger patty.
*I cheated on this one and went 10 minutes instead of five, because I wanted to finish the story. But this is where the actual five minutes ended.