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Archive for August, 2011

A thirty- gallon fish aquarium is the centerpiece of our new apartment. A goldfish named Brooklyn rules the crystal waters, but shares space with two Chinese algae eaters that constantly vacuum the interior of the glass with rubbery lips.

 

Brooklyn is six years old. He is of the comet breed of goldfish. He has a translucent tail. He managed to survive the journey from New York. He swam across the Hudson River inside a plastic zip-lock freezer tucked inside a garbage pail. During the journey the bucket was placed beside our two cats; a tabby that was locked inside a pet taxi, and a British long-hair that was shoved inside a dark cardboard box. Our entire life was packed neatly inside a small white van. We made our way to our new home during the evening rush hour, creeping through the Holland Tunnel like a turtle, and praying our driver would not hit any potholes. 

 

We placed our fish on the kitchen counter, dumping them from the zip lock bags into the plastic bucket. We used an old aquarium oxygen pump taken from our first five- gallon tank to put oxygen into the water of the bucket. This offered a temporary, cozy and safe haven to the creatures that had grown from tiny, pinky-nail sized minnows to near edible masses. 

 

The fish remained on the kitchen counter for several weeks. A bubbling and constant humming from the cheap pump nearly drove us mad. It took weeks for my boyfriend to fill up the large tank. He wanted to find a nice table to set the tank on, despite my plea to simply place it on the wooden floor. I found a square, wooden table on trash day. Apparently the glass of the heavy, oak table had broken and the former owner simply decided to throw it away. It was the perfect size for our tank, even though the tank is longer than the width of the table. When first entering the apartment before turning on the light, the tank appears to be suspended mid-air. The fluorescent light of the tank is refracted like moon light within the crystal clear water and our tank is absolutely stunning.

 

It was only after I took note of Brooklyn doing a dead man’s float in the stagnant, murky, waters of his temporary home, that we finally decided to get the big tank up and running. With no money to buy a table, I ran frantically though the streets of Union City in search of a solution. My lover was so impressed with the table I found.

 

Brooklyn gasped for his life after we dumped all three fish into the cold fresh tank water. The Chinese algae eaters did not seem affected by the weeks spent inside a dark bucket with no currents. I was tempted to reach into the tank and grab Brooklyn with my hand, to squeeze him gently, offering a type of aquatic resuscitation, but decided to simply let him harden.

 

After three hours, Brooklyn miraculously flipped over and started swimming happily around a stone replica of the Roman Colosseum that I purchased for nearly $100 on Christmas Eve, 2004.

 

Suffering extreme guilt for neglecting a fish that we had cared for, for so many years, I decided to purchase a black comet goldfish with a tissue-like tail to offer company to Brooklyn. The tiny black fish, less than one-tenth the size of Brooklyn, started nibbling upon the flashy golden tail fin of the comet, causing a look of despair to shine in Brooklyn’s black bubble eyes. Immediately we flushed our new black goldfish down the toilet, not wanting to bring any further harm to the creature that seemed so determined to remain part of our lives and the focal point of the ambiance in our new apartment.

 

There is so much dust in the air of New Jersey, in particular, here in West Hoboken. The filter of the tank quickly fills with green slime, requiring constant changing of a charcoal bag, and an intense scrubbing of the filtering contraption. Undertaking this chore bright and early this morning, before having my first cup of coffee, caused me to accidentally fracture the plastic tube that pulls water from the tank and offers a constant flow of water through the somewhat complex filtration system. As I examined the damage I had done to the plastic, my heavy hand broke the duct in two separate pieces.

 

Times are tough in Jersey. Finding $3 extra dollars for a new charcoal filter was already a stretch, causing me to debate on whether I should simply make a seafood bisque from Brooklyn and use the tank as a fancy lighting fixture. The filter on our tank costs nearly $50 to replace, and I’m already forced to drink Budweiser in order to buy fish flakes.

 

 

I found two dollars in quarters on my dresser and ran to the corner deli where I purchased a tube of crazy glue. I laughed at a man hanging from a steel beam by a construction helmet on the packaging of the crazy-glue. Surely crazy glue is waterproof, thought I.

 

There is more than one way to skin a cat I said to Brooklyn as he came to the surface near the fresh flowing stream of filtered water. Unlike in our old apartment, the cats can no longer climb atop the tank and threaten the poor little fish. He seems so happy with that little black goldfish gone. I carefully adjusted the tube into place. He seemed totally unaware that a hurricane is headed for West Hoboken today. Perhaps by Sunday, we will all be stuck atop a kitchen counter here in Hoboken.

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Rule 1: Submissions to the competition must be posted on the  Craigslist Writer’s Forum on October 31st.

Rule 2: Submissions must be posted under the title “A Charlie Taylor Halloween”.

Rule 3: All short stories must be based on the Gospel’s version of Jesus walking on water.

Why this miracle at Halloween? Because according to the Gospel, the disciples, who were on a boat “were greatly afraid”, and information left to us by Christianity’s most cherished scribes lacks essential details relating to what was seen that dark and stormy night upon the Sea of Galilee.

Was it the Lord’s intention to frighten the poor fishermen to death, or was he just trick-or-treating?

 

The writer receiving the most points wins. A $10 CASH PRIZE will be sent as a ten dollar bill through the United States Post Office on November 1st.

The three best stories will be published above the offical rules of this contest.

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A stray kitten named “Cinnamon” was trapped on a fire escape early this morning.

My boyfriend feeds Cinnamon every morning before leaving for work at 6 a.m. He discovered the trapped cat and insisted, before leaving, that I rescue it before the scorching rays of the sun strike our side of the building.

The kitten started meowing loudly when I first attempted to rescue it. Never having been held by a human before, the wild kitty made quite a fuss as I handled it by the nape of the neck. I am fearful of contracting rabies and did not want to be bitten by an animal that shares space with a little opossum that also lives in the back lot. We named the rodent “Templeton”. Templeton acts just like a kitten and has been seen late at night, rooting through the trash with Cinnamon.

I ran down the stairs inside the building like a bat out of hell, nearly losing a flip flop. The poor tabby dangled from my hand like road kill. His typical brown eyes turned black as he hissed at me. I had hoped to release it into the lot where it typically hangs out. I made it all the way down two flights of stairs with Cinnamon and was not at all concerned about the awful noise the cat was making. As I attempted to open the back door leading to the back yard, and while holding him in my bosom, Cinnamon jumped from my hand and ran back up the stairs. He leapt out the second floor hallway window again, onto the fire escape where he was initially ‘trapped’.

A calico mother cat gave birth to four kittens just before we moved in here. We fell in love with the litter before our electricity was turned on. The kittens made the back lot their home. As owners of two cats already, and having dry cat food readily available, my boyfriend started feeding the kittens. Cinnamon has always been our pick of the litter, but his siblings Nutmeg, Samantha and Baby Girl are just as adorable. Cinnamon often sticks his tail high into the air when we open our window screen to toss out the Meow Mix. Today, with no orange tail pointing up at us in the glow of morning, and only the two calicos and rusty little tom scurrying around for food, we knew something was wrong. It was only after calling Cinnamon’s name that we heard him cry from across the way.

I decided to get a bath towel from my apartment before attempting to gab Cinnamon a second time. As I re-entered my side of the tenement building, I bumped into my neighbor Lucy, who lives across the hall. She was waiting for her husband to warm up the car.

“Good morning, baby,” Lucy said. She spread her arms to give me a hug. She kissed me on my cheek, as is her custom. Lucy started calling me ‘baby’ the first week I moved in here. Every time I bump into her she rubs my head, calls me ‘baby’ and reminds me of how much she loves the sensation of rubbing her hands in my closely shaven hair. The Puerto Rican momma is hot blooded and a little touched in the head, but who isn’t in Jersey? She taunts her old husband, Juan, and has often said jokingly, in front of Juan, that she is going to marry me when he dies.

“Oh, baby, what you doin’ with dat towel?” Lucy asked as I attempted to slip by her, unscathed.

“Oh, mommie,” I said, using the term of endearment common in the Spanish language, “one of the cats I feed is stuck on the fire escape on the building next to us. I think it was trying to find a way to get up here to my window. Someone must have left the door to the hallway open last night, and it went inside and found its way to the second floor. I must get it down.”

Lucy ran outside to the back yard so she could watch me. As I stuck my head out the hallway window and called to Cinnamon again, I realized there was no way he was going to come close to me again. I stepped onto the fire escape with my purple bath towel and suddenly, Lucy screamed–

“Oh my God! It’s going to jump. Oh no!” All of Jersey must have heard the fire engine cry streaming from between Lucy’s heavily painted lips. The darkened windows of the tenement building suddenly were filled with light.

Cinnamon jumped and spread his little legs and arms, making the terrifying leap. He landed inches from where Lucy was standing.

I quickly ran into my own side of the building, hoping no one knew who was causing the commotion. As I re-entered our building, Lucy was standing by the mailboxes, laughing and slapping her leg.

“Good job, Papi,” she said. “I thought you was gonna kill it!”

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Blueberry Island

Like almost everyone of middle class status living in New York City, we could not afford a car. Parking on the street was no easy cruise; often we had to move the car in the early hours of the morning in order to find a parking space on nights when the trash truck came up 46th Street.  Monthly rent for our two bedroom duplex apartment, furnished with a laundry room and dishwasher was more than a thousand dollars.

 

There was not enough income in our childless household for luxuries like a car. Weekend trips to the ritzy sands of Long Island were not common to the class status that Anthony and I were in, but due to the friends whom we entertained with lavish meals in our vegetable garden, we found the favors returned, and ended up  in all the best vacation places in New England. As a pair, one black, one white, both from the Army, we were celebrated by lawyers to be who all went to Columbia, as tokens to the new gay lifestyle that seemed trendy and on the rise in the city at the time. Straight people who could afford vacation homes in places like Sag Harbor called us ‘very entertaining’. However, it felt empowering to me that we were visiting a rich friend that I had made, and not one of Anthony’s uppity, highly educated, and often condescending Jewish friends. They all had cars and looked down on me for not being one of them, even though I was well hung and circumcised. .

 

My boss, Claude Winfield who was making this weekend journey to the Fire Island Pines had offered to send a limousine to Sunset Park to take bring us to his cottage. “Darling,” Claude explained, “I never do that god damned train. Tilly and I travel only by water taxi from the Hudson or a limousine with a fully-stocked bar.”

 

Anthony, with a jaded sort of New York attitude, refused Claude’s generosity and insisted that we take the Long Island Railroad there, if indeed it was mandatory that we spend a weekend with one of my “God-awful old friends. Does he really think he is going to take you from me?” Anthony asked.  “His an old spent black queen who thinks he’s fierce!  You should be honest with him. Tell him you can never leave this,” Anthony taunted, grabbing his crotch and waving his manhood like a stick at me after ripping to shreds the business card for the limousine service that  Claude had handed me before I left the office on Friday, on my way to have ‘cordials at Julius’s’.

 

The subway system proved to be the most logical method to travel to our jobs in midtown. It was not a big deal for me to take the train there. The seats on the Long Island Railroad were luxurious compared to what we were used to. The soft seats had padded head rests, unlike the graffiti designed plastic chairs found in subway cars. The subway operated at all hours, but at night and early hours of the morning, the N train ran through Sunset Park as infrequently as a white woman jogging in that neighborhood at night. We stood on hot subway platforms ready to scream at anyone just to relive the New York pressure building up inside us. We waited for that train for more than an hour at times when we came home from the city after midnight.

 

Drunk and crazy, we tossed down cocktails in a race against the clock during the funniest happy hour we had ever spent. My gay cousin Stephen, who we met every Friday after work for ‘cordials at Julius’s’, fell off of one of the wooden barrels and ‘sprung his wrist’, yet we ordered another round for ‘medicinal purposes’.

 

The evening spent at Julius’s turned into an entire night. The old queens who hogged the bar stools were as funny as any standup drag queen performer, but they bought young people like us more drinks when our glasses neared empty.  We waited for what seemed hours upon the subway platform, cranberry and vodka mix coming back to haunt me. I wished then we had a car, but even if we did, we would not have been able to drive.

 

I wondered if we would be able to get up early Saturday morning to catch the first train out of Penn Station. Sweat tainted with a twist of lime rushed down my fat cheeks, and still, no sight of a light in the tunnel. In a sway, I wished secretly for a change. I wished we had  rented one of the young hustlers from Julius’s. Sick of Anthony’s sweaty black ass in my face, I wanted to adopt one for the night and pet him with Anthony for just one night, like a couple would treat a stray cat in their back yard.  A straight one named Jesse was always standing on the saw dust covered wooden floors of the bar, offering to act as a waiter, and bring us our red drinks. His jeans, revealing both something on the front and back that would make either a top or bottom turn, and beg to get fucked. There was something in his service that made us all want to order another round, even though the two drink special had ended at nine. Anthony flirted shamelessly with him, right in front of me; never once did he take into account my true feelings on the issue of gay infidelity– why not a threesome?

 

No, Anthony was not the type to share his lover with anyone, even if just for recreational purposes. He would rather run with straight Jewish friends and leave me to suffer in my imagination on a subway platform for hours with nothing to do but wait for him to mount me, again. That was not like Anthony– to bring home a hustler.

 

We entered the Freeport Station of the Long Island Railroad. Fire Island was at least an hour away. I wanted to take a nap to ease my aching head. I felt a draining sensation in my legs, so I moved the blueberry pie from my lap and placed it on the empty seat next to me. John and Anthony were sitting across from me, talking office gossip again, and draining me. Oh, how they bored me. At least when John’s girlfriend Linda was with us on weekend excursions, the world did not seem to revolve around just them. I hoped I would have a chance to be away from Anthony while on Fire Island and search for, if not a hustler, at least some old, white queen with a ten- inch cock. There was a good chance I could on Fire Island; John was with us, and Linda was back in Brooklyn. Perhaps, I thought, John will finally come out to him. Anthony’s insatiable  eyes would ease their control of me and focused more, perhaps, on his straight, best friend.

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Anthony insisted that we take our new Eddie Bauer beach chairs to Fire Island, even though my hands were full with a homemade blueberry pie. The chairs were light, made of blue canvas and an aluminum frame. They folded down neatly and had a carrying strap. It was the Eddie Bauer logo that impressed my lover, causing us to spend money we did not have. We reached a limit on our joint AT&T Universal Mastercard, but as usual when we were without a dime in our pockets, my lover managed to come up with the cash.

Anthony was sure to turn his beach chair so that fellow commuters on the subway would notice the logo and his style and sophistication. John carried my Eddie Bauer chair as we boarded the Long Island Railroad, and pointed out, as we sat down, it was only fair that he should get to sit in the chair when we reached the sand. He said it only seemed right.

The chairs were forty dollars each, but only cost us five bucks in real, hard-earned cash. The Eddie Bauer store in Soho, like all stores belonging to this high-end brand, permitted its customers to return anything bearing the Eddie Bauer logo. Receipts were not necessary. Anthony tested the store’s return policy after finding a pair of wool socks at a Salvation Army. The socks had the famous trademark on the heel. Anthony walked into the store in trendy, lower Manhattan and complained to a sales clerk that the particular pair of socks he had were faded beyond his satisfaction. He demanded an immediate in store credit. The clerk agreed and issued a fifteen- dollar, in-store credit for the socks, although Eddie Bauer no longer carried the particular style.

We spent an entire afternoon running from Salvation Army stores to more prestigious second hand clothing outlets in search of anything with an Eddie Bauer tag after we learned the store would take anything back. Three dress shirts pulled from the racks at Housing Works had netted us more than fifty dollars that day, which was what we used to buy the chairs. We were, after all, headed to a beach where the rich lay in the sun.

Although Anthony grew up in a poor neighborhood in East New York, he was an artistically gifted child with an IQ exceeding that of most white children. I admit, it was his wicked sense of humor combined with a sharp mind and tongue that caused me to fall in love with him. The New York public school system had granted Anthony the opportunity to attend the High School of Art and Design when he was the impressionable age of thirteen. This was where, according to Anthony, he learned the trade of shoplifting.

“I skipped class with a group of white girls almost every day. They were from really good homes. They all had parents who the salespeople at Bloomingdale’s worshiped. It was easy to stroll into those stores, try something on, and walk right out of the store, leaving our old things behind on the floor of the changing rooms. It was then that I realized how easy white people have it in life. Those little girls taught me so much about acting calm when committing shameless sin. It seemed so unfair that my mother suffered so poorly in East New York. I wanted to be just like the white girls. Of course I could never change my skin color, but I learned that if you hang out with white people, other white people treat you just as white. This is why I love you so,” Anthony explained.

One would think after Anthony spent nine months in a military prison for shoplifting from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s department store, he would never again attempt anything unethical with a store. He didn’t even blink when we walked into Eddie Bauer for our refunds.

The time he served locked in a prison did nothing to correct my lover’s need to be like the white girls he went to high school with. I learned my own lesson in regards to shoplifting though him, although I never developed the severe addiction he seemed to have when it came to taking things that were “insured by the stores, anyway”.

While stationed in Bavaria together, we were able to sneak away to the Austrian Alps on weekends and stay in the most extravagant of hotels there. Anthony was always giving me nice clothing to wear when not in my uniform. I never stopped to question how he could afford the gifts. I assumed I was just really good at sex. The trips to the Alps, like our Eddie Bauer lawn chairs, were financed through the skills Anthony learned in high school. We did not have the opportunity to make out in a bed. Our sexual intercourse took place in Anthony’s Subaru. It was the age before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was enacted. Gay men in the Army went to jail for sucking dick. What we were doing in the store was not considered that bad.

Anthony stole things and returned them for the cash to finance our love affair. Who was I to tell him he could not have an Eddie Bauer beach chair?

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The ingredient that gives my blueberry pie a hint of sweet sadness is lemon zest. Bits of grated yellow peel sting the tooth, and cause the lips to pucker and twitch. A hint of bitterness clings to the root of the tongue. The back of the licker rises constantly, forcing down mouthful after mouthful of flaky crust embedded with berries chewed with only the roof of the mouth. The taste can make one cry, or bring a tear to the eye. It is the peel of a lemon that brings out an intoxicating sensation in the mind. Lips loosen. Ships sink. The berries do not gel into a glob of purple jelly, especially after the pie has cooled.

My blueberry pie nearly caused Linda Aldory to be admitted to Beleview. She begged for a third refill to her glass of Conacha y Toro wine and a second helping of what I knew was the best pie ever made. Later that evening, she broke down like a baby and cried. I think it was the pie that caused her to lose her composure. Anthony and I served the same type of wine every time they came over. I knew it wasn’t the wine that was causing her sadness, she drank it almost every night. The wine was cheap. Linda talked with her mouth full all the time, but never had I seen tears roll down her bloody lips. Her legs were crossed all evening as we dined, never once getting up to fetch something for the table or even to pee. She had a cloth napkin from the Pottery Barn draped over her entire lap. Anthony picked up the linen cloths at 75% discount. They were the type that required ironing. Linda was skinny and pretty. She sat with the napkin draped over what kept John in check, never once wiping her mouth. Her Middle Eastern features, unlike John’s, were of the Islamic vine. Her father, I understood from past conversations, was Saudi Arabian.

John the Jew and Linda, a token Muslim, how cute they were as a pair. John with his curly, brown hair, fat lips and big nose looked nothing like Alex and Russell, John’s former roommates who hung out with Anthony and me before Linda came into the picture. John had what Anthony called a “certain doofiness about him”; a certain stupidity that was not due to genetics or a common capacity to learn, but an ignorant sort of trust for others. Anthony said he saw the same features in me, only I was what he referred to, often while slapping me across the ass in public, as “white trash with a big ass and an ability to cook like a black woman.” At least I knew how to cook, which is more than one could say in regards to Linda.

Anthony and John met at work. John was the vice president of marketing for his uncle’s business, a company called Norma Ribbon and Trimming. Anthony, a graduate from the School of Fashion Institute of Technology was production manager there. He and John often referred to Norma Ribbon as a sweat shop. Neither could wait to get away from ‘pedaling Uncle Bob’s ribbon all day’. Norma Ribbon used Mexican women who lived just across the boarder from Brownsville to hand weave strings of satin lace into intricate flowers and bows. They worked almost non-stop inside huts with dirt floors, according to Anthony. Machines could not duplicate what these women made with their hands and Bob Steinhart sold to companies like Gloria Secret for a small fortune. John and Anthony were like pastry chefs of the fashion industry and could not wait to get out of the kitchen. Norma Ribbon has touched the bosoms of almost every woman in America, according to John. The fancy bows were commonly found on women’s undergarments prior to the resurgence of breast- feeding in the early 1990’s.

Continued at this link

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I listened from the kitchen window to an argument the three of them were having outside. They waited for me to bring out fresh slices of pie for everyone, but they talked in whispers which was what caught my attention. I had disdain for the three of them when they excluded me. No one could really hate John, but I did grow tired of him spilling something on himself at our favorite hangout, a bar on the West Village called ‘the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. We went there all the time. When John would spill his drink, Anthony would quickly reach for a napkin and in a playful manner, in front of both me Linda, would wipe John’s crotch. John would slap Anthony and ask me, “Charles, how come you put up with that?” Linda giggled at their interactions and sick type of unsexual foreplay. She dominated all conversations when she was around, always striving to keep others abreast of her plans to go back to school for a doctorate in communications, not in the least bit concerned whether or not her future husband had any gay traits. Anthony wanting to do nothing but have dinner parties or go out with John and Linda to dinner every night, played new Donna Summer music when we were at our place. Unlike me, John and Linda never grew tired of it. Anthony was obsessed with the queen of disco like I was blueberry pie. There they were, sitting around getting fat in their 30’s, fussing over some secret that obviously, I was not mature enough to handle or take part in discussing.

The pie calmed everyone down. They changed the subject as I came outside through a screen door. The discussion of a weekend trip to Fire Island returned as central topic. “My God,” Linda said reaching for one of the ceramic plates I was carrying. She looked at me with her mouth opened as I spatted a dab of freshly whipped heavy cream atop her second piece of pie. “Never have I had pie like this. Look at it, John. The blueberries have hardly burst, most of them are still whole. It has the consistency of good jam. It’s not too sweet, either. Tastes more like a tart than a pie, Charles. You really should think about starting a catering business. I agree with Anthony, you should make one of these pies to take to Claude and Tilly’s next weekend. Maybe Claude and Tilly will be convinced to subcontract you at their catering company.”

“What were you talking about, just now?” I asked. “Was it really about wedding plans again? Don’t you guys get sick of talking about the ceremony? You fuss non-stop over details of an event you know neither one of you can really afford, and one that will be over with in less than an hour. I don’t think it’s fair that I’m not in your wedding like Anthony is. I could be the gay ring bearer if you want. What am I supposed to do all weekend in Maryland when you guys practice for the big day? Wait with the other forgotten and ugly girls for Linda to toss her bouquet in a feeding frenzy? Anthony is John’s best man. You should have at least asked me to make your wedding cake. I could have saved you a lot of cash. Your third degree is not going to come cheap, Miss Doctor Aldory.” I tossed her plate onto the table. It came to rest at the edge of the table, but did not fall into her lap.

Linda started crying, her shoulder length brown hair fell over her hands as she hid her face as if awfully embarrassed about something. John jumped from a plastic lawn chair, nearly spilling his glass of wine, and ran to Linda’s side to hug her to his hip. He adjusted a set of wire-rim glasses and looked at Anthony and frowned. “You can tell him. It’s not a big deal. It’s only Charles. He does not work at Norma Ribbon. Who is he going to tell? It was an accident, besides, the ring was insured.”

I sat there quietly, waiting for details. The three of them had played this game hide and go seek another bottle of wine for us before. My lover turned into someone else when he was around them, making me feel like a common housewife. I didn’t care. It didn’t really matter to me anyway, all that education, and what really is journalism when everyone can write? I was content to cook for them, and simply have them around me as company. I loved cooking, and the dinner parties, and all our fancy dishes and the fire torches that I lit every night to keep the mosquitos away. Their company, although somewhat distant, seem intimate at times.

I was content living in the seven- year relationship I had formed with just one man. John and Linda had a lot to learn from us. The way I used the small set of teeth on my metal grater was proof of a certain fondness I had for all of them. Many trips to the dishwasher left my metal grater rusty in places, but I felt there must be some nutritional value from trace elements that chipped off of it, and besides, it was impossible to pick out the zest from tiny specks of metal my grater caused when adding the lemon zest.

I carefully scraped away the outer layer of the lemon and added this yellow saw-dust to the other pie ingredients. The yellow skin of the lemon quickly disappeared and the sugar mixture slowly away at the tender skin on the blueberries. This was how the three of them affected me, I concluded, sitting there trying to make sense of what ring they were talking about. The sweet juice had the consistency of beef gravy. In less than ten minutes, a violet liquid had formed at the bottom of my glass bowl. I wanted to create this same pie again, only this time, adding a little more butter under the top crust. My mother, who I watched as a child, making such pies, told me that if someone cries at the supper table, it meant the food was good. For a moment, I thought the tiny pieces of metal we were eating in the pie were affecting all our brains. I stuck my finger in the mixture as it marinated, not caring about germs because it was John and Linda coming over for dinner again. I licked my finger when I was cooking, laughed, then puckered and contemplated whether to use quick cooking tapioca pudding, as was suggested in my “New York Times Cookbook. Surely I had not poisoned her, I thought. I wanted to make the exact pie again to take to Claude and Tilly’s on Fire Island, only this time, I would use a knife to scape the skin of the lemon. I wanted it to be exactly like the one we were eating, so I chose then not to fix something not broken. What was causing such emotion in Linda? They seemed not to want to fill me in.

Although my pastry shells were thick and I wetted the crust with water before sealing on the top shell and fluting the edges, I grew somewhat concerned thinking about how to improve the dish. I distracted myself from the conversation at hand and started brainstorming about the effects of quick cooking tapioca as a substitute for the flour in the berries. I wondered if the hot pie would start to bubble if I used Tapioca. I surely didn’t want another smoke scene in the kitchen again. The pie we were eating that night bubbled over in the oven. I had to take out batteries from the fire alarms. Tasty blue lava seeped through the steam vents cut like little bird prints upon the top of the pastry. There was so much to think about as I sat there, tuning them out, inventing.

Tapioca offers a certain thickness to the consistency of pies crafted of blueberries, but I knew with Tilly being British, it was silly to make a dessert with the consistency of American jelly. Tapioca infused pie filling reminded me of cheap, store-bought pies though. I had experimented numerous times with blueberries, but had never used lemon zest, as recommended by a recipe in a Better Homes and Garden cookbook. One little ingredient changes everything, I realized. Oh how I cherished that cookbook. It was printed in 1955. The introductory pages taught women on the importance of good cooking. I bought it at a yard sell in Pennsylvania while antiquing with my lover on a rare summer weekend when the two of us went somewhere without John and Linda tagging along.

“We lost a ring that was a sacred Jewish heirloom. An ancestor of mine had it on while running from the Germans,” John confessed, sitting back down in front of a fresh slice of pie. “I’m so sorry,” said I, pretending all the time to be overly concerned about a little ring.

“What ring was that?” I asked. “Fresh whipped cream anyone? I made it from heavy cream, you know. You never showed me a ring. Was it an engagement ring?”

Linda removed her hands from her face and explained, while holding her left hand as though she had burned it, what they had been discussing. “It was John’s great grandmother’s ring. I feel so bad. How could we have been so careless? We think it may have fallen through the crack of our livingroom floor.”

“Oh, but all is not lost,” my lover insisted, rather casually as he reached for his concha y toro. “It was insured for $50,000. How bad can it really be for the two of you and a ring older than dirt? Are you sure you really lost it, or are the two of you running a scam to pay Linda’s tuition?”

Linda giggled just then. John’s face turned from blue to pink as he took a bite of my famous pie. For a moment, we all stopped talking and just ate our warm pie. My orange tabby cat came through the bars over the opened kitchen window. She could hardly squeeze through. Bette Midler, as I called the cat, brushed by Linda’s leg. The cloth napkin fell silently atop the cobblestone patio. I didn’t say a word other than, “That was the last piece.” I secretly hoped one of the tender, baked blueberries would fall upon Linda’s white skirt. None of them did, she gobbled it without staining her thin, pink lips.

Continued at this link

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