Sunday March 30th, 2014

The exercise:

Write something that has to do with: boiling.

Since tomorrow is Kat's birthday, we went up this evening to her parents place to have turkey dinner. Because... that's just the sort of family I've married into.

Anyway. It was delicious, as expected. And Kat's dad made her a gluten, dairy, and soy free birthday cake that turned out to be absolutely amazing. The recipe is from this cookbook, which I happened to buy Kat for Christmas while we were in Calgary. She's been using it a lot since then and there have been far more hits than misses.

I'm glad we were able to do a little celebrating today, as Kat is helping out with an online class for most of tomorrow and I'm working an evening shift. We'll go do something, just the two of us, later this week, but that's still a sucky way for a birthday to go.


"So, Alex," Jonas said as he settled into the couch across from his guest, "why don't you tell us how you met our daughter?"

"I should check the tea kettle," Karen said with an apologetic shrug. "But you go ahead, dear. Tell my husband all about it - he can fill me in later."

"Oh, uh, sure." Alex rubbed the palms of his hands against his jeans and prayed the sweat would blend into the dark material. "So May and I have this, uh, mutual friend I guess you could say. He..."

The rest of the response was lost to Karen as she moved into the kitchen that was tucked around the corner from the living room. She was unconcerned, knowing that Jonas was an excellent judge of character. She trusted him completely.

On the stove the tea kettle rattled its way toward a high pitched whistle. The teapot and cups waited patiently in the living room, lurking on the coffee table between her husband and their daughter's would be beau. They would be drinking a fine Rooibos blend in less than five minutes.

Unless, of course, her husband gave her the signal when she returned to the room. In that case, the boiling water would not go in the teapot, but instead go directly onto Alex's lap.


Greg said...

Happy Birthday Kat! It does sound like you're both quite busy for the actual day, but you've made plans for it anyway, and that's the crucial element! After all, a birthday's a fairly arbitrary day, so you should feel free to move it if it helps to make it more special.
Huh. Is this the story of how you met Kat's ("Karen's") parents then? ;-) I like the organization of this family, though I suspect May is extremely careful about who she brings back to meet them!

Little blips broke the silence every now and then, but otherwise the room was quiet. A fair-haired woman was sat on the floral-pattern couch holding an apple-corer; the handle gripped in her fist like a weapon. The couch was old and the springs were largely broken, so the stained cushions bulged around her like a fat woman sprawled on the floor. There was a spicy smell, perhaps with a hint of aniseed, in the air.
The front door swung open, silent as though the hinges had just given way, and a shadow fell through the doorway and into the room. A fly lazily buzzed in, intrusive and unwelcome, and her knuckled whitened as her fist tightened.
"Debbie Sue?" There was a man casting the shadow in the doorway, and when he spoke his voice was like gravel in a cement mixer. It sounded painful.
"You know it," she said. Her eyes stared ahead, unfocused, unblinking.
"Mind'n'if'n I come in?"
"It's my house, Lawrence." She drew his name out into a drawl. "You can talk to the bank, they'll tell you straight. All paid for and everything. You can just stand out there on the stoop."
"I've got some questions to ask you, Debbie Sue."
"And I ain't got no answers for you Lawrence. I wasn't here when he come back, and he wasn't here when I did. If he were, he'd be here still and you'd have no questions at all, just answers you didn't like."
"And when did you come back, Debbie Sue?"
"Just five minutes before you did."
They both stopped talking, and the silence was only broken by the cookpot coming to a rolling boil.
"Aw shit," said Debbie Sue.

morganna said...

The words won't wait
They're boiling at fever pitch
Itching to pour out on the page
But I must go --
Duty calls.

David said...

Twenty nine minutes she drove. To get to a Starbucks. Not much of an alibi. She passed nineteen other Starbucks on her way here. Simple timeline. She left the preschool parking lot at 9:03am. Three minutes after drop off. It was now 9:32am, she had two hours and forty two minutes. Then she would need to drive home. Swinging by the school for pick up on her way.

She stirred her coffee. A caramel macchiato. Too hot to drink, she watched the steam rise from the mug. Milk and sugar and caramel, she guessed, all mixing together. She allowed herself this weekly indulgence. A special treat on Sundays after church. However, today was Tuesday.

She hated the Starbucks seating. Rarely could you find a table. Never one that was private. Today she was stuck at a counter. High back chairs. All these cheap bastards who want to leech off the wifi. You, Mr. Laptop, don’t you have a home? It was their bags and limbs that bugged her, as they slammed against her chair.

She stared down the cutesy couple in the corner. In their twenties she assumed. What did they know about love? Looking into each others eyes too intently. Losers. Think you are getting married? One of you will dump the other in a few weeks. He will say things that will annoy you. She will stop wearing sexy underwear. But enjoy what you have now. Smile and laugh and tell each other you will be together forever. Maybe one of you will buy it. Now just leave so I can have that table.

They did. It did not surprise her. She rushed to take their place, besting another Mr. Laptop, one with a backpack. Now she had a seat that faced the door. She could see everyone who walked in and out. She could feel her blood boiling now that her coffee no longer did. She checked her phone. No texts. No emails. One missed call. Not important.

A bell chimed every time someone entered the building. A jarring effect, causing her to whip her neck from phone to door every time it did. She counted the people who entered. One, two, three….she stopped after seventeen. She checked her phone again. Nothing. Nada. A big goose egg. Twenty nine minutes she had driven. She could wait a few more. Maybe five. No Seven. Lucky number seven.

The door opened. Bell. Chime. Him. What had she done?

Your correspondent said...

When you visit a busy newsroom, you have to learn to wait until it’s past deadline if you want to talk to the people who work there. Even if you’re the Governor of Arkansas. Even if you’re the Prime Minister of England. Even if you’re the Dalai Lama.

The editors and the writers know what a deadline used to really mean: a line in a prison yard that the guards watched, and if a prisoner stepped over it, that prisoner got shot. So those writers know they better get their stories written on time. Even meeting the Dalai Lama isn’t worth getting shot.

The day the Dalai Lama visited the newsroom I worked in, he had the good sense to come late enough in the afternoon that we could all leave our desks and gather around to listen to hear what he had to say. This was back in 1980, before the Dalai Lama became a pop culture phenomenon. When he arrived in the newsroom, we were all pretty intrigued, because he was a mysterious figure, and no one knew too much about him.

The International News editor, who had arranged his visit, asked him if he would care for anything to drink, and the Dalai Lama, an extraordinarily slender, short man in cotton saffron cloth and wire rim glasses, a bare wisp of a thing, asked for some boiling water. That’s all he wanted. Boiling water. The International News editor turned to his secretary and waggled his eyebrows.

His secretary was as extraordinarily nervous as the Dalai Lama was slender. She trembled everywhere she walked. She worried constantly that she had left the lights on in her bathroom at home—I knew this because I carpooled with her. She worried that her cat would not come home in the evening. And then she trembled at the sound of her cat coming home in the evening.

I am sure that the Dalai Lama spoke wonderfully and spiritually that day. I am sure that others were uplifted by what he said, that he spoke words of wisdom and peace and understanding. But I can remember only one thing, and that one thing will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I can thank the Dalai Lama for it.

I remember the trembling secretary returning to the newsroom and hissing at the International News editor: “I can’t get it to boil!”

Marc said...

Greg - I like this idea of moving birthdays around in order to fit your schedule. I think I shall move mine this year to 2025!

Haha, that's a fantastic ending to an intriguing scene. Quite enjoyed the dialogue in this one.

Morganna - ah, I can relate to this one. Very nicely captured.

David - welcome back :)

Excellent pacing in this one, everything really builds to a nice crescendo for 'his' arrival. Really great work.

Your correspondent - hah! The poor thing. You've conveyed her so well that I can't help but feel sympathy for your trembling secretary.