(New Mexico red chili sauce went so well with these!)
It wasn’t just my desire to avoid a hangover on Wednesday morning that inspired me to pass the atypical copy of Nevermore’s Conventions over to Beatrice for her perusal – but also a little known fact about my roommate.
It’s no secret that Beatrice has dedicated the bulk of her adult life to the written word. Working at PULP, the West coast’s largest independent purveyor of glue, paper & string, she’s perpetually got her nose buried in one book or another. On top of her voracious reading, she pens blurbs, reviews, and reports for PULP’s patrons and bosses. Then there’s the small detail of her earning a doctorate in Medieval Literature at university. Owing to this continuous and long-standing immersion in printed material, Beatrice’s grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary are all top-shelf.
All of which makes her abominable penmanship kinda ironic.
Even Wood’s notorious chicken scratch, which he claims is the result of acing the elective ‘Calligraphy for Clinicians’ in medical school, doesn’t hold a candle to Beatrice’s scrawling hand.
I only stumbled across this quirk a few months back. Whereupon returning home one afternoon, I discovered a series of sinister symbols dashed across the cloudy glass of my bedroom door. Unsure if these unknown characters, scribbled in easy to clean red dry-erase marker, signaled the casting of a spell or a curse on my person, I sent a picture to Beatrice asking for a second opinion. She texted back a translation of the script, which to my eye, resembled the jumbled glyphs in no way, shape, or form.
(I returned her text with a picture of a great-horned owl dramatically swiveling their head with a caption – “Are U Sure?” and received an eye-roll emoji in return.)
Now unlike my handwriting-challenged roommate, the author of the unorthodox version of the Conventions probably won penmanship awards in primary school. The loops, flourishes, and slant of the script lends such an air of splendor and grace to its’ pages, your eye gets lost in the whirls, swirls, and flow of the midnight-blue ink.
And that’s the problem.
Our scribe favored form over function to such a degree it renders the unique copy of the Convention’s pages as unintelligible as Beatrice’s phone message to me. Indeed, our author was so committed to creating a gorgeous work of art they even deviate from the standardized spelling of words whenever a letter clashed with the overall flow of the page – thus making the book’s decoding that much more difficult…
…Unless you happen to have an expert on Penmanship Pandemonium on tap who possesses a competitive streak a mile wide.
Beatrice, the aforementioned expert, seemed to relish the battle of wits she was waging with a past Nevermorian penman. So much so she finished wading thru the entire tome by the time I got home from work on Thursday evening.
Stepping thru the front door, I called out, “Beatrice you home?”
Shedding my outer layers, I pattered on about my day before tracing the absentminded answer to its source.
“I hope you had a good day because mine was crap. Not only did Mr. Nowak manage to break a jar of sauerkraut in the Princess’s front seat this morning. Later a pregnant lady took a half dozen sniffs of the leftover fermented cabbage fumes and booted out the window – all over the passenger side panels of the Princess. The only upside is I’ve nearly finished my punchcard at Squeaky Clean Car Wash.”
Standing in the doorway of Beatrice’s office, I found her hunched over her desk, one hand manning a wooden ruler underscoring a line in the Conventions while her other pecked at the computer keyboard rhythmically.
“Nearly done here…”
“No worries, I’ll start dinner.”
Stepping into the kitchen, my mind on repurposing Tuesday night’s leftover arroz con pollo into scrummy hand-pies, I robotically clicked the radio on. Just in time to hear the headline leading KARB’s top-of-the-hour news segment, “Earlier today, community groups barricaded themselves inside two buildings in Nevermore to protest the Cemetary’s expansion plans. Said plans include the demolition of both clubhouses and the destruction of several acres of forested land…..”
Since the station’s news desk hadn’t reported anything new on the situation since seven this morning, I flipped off the mellow voice of the newsreader mid-sentence. Staring into space and tapping my fingernail against the plastic housing of the radio, I tried to figure out how this development fits in with the outline of events I’d started the other night.
Before I got very far in either my brooding or dinner prep, my cell started ringing – the name on its display sending my heart into instant palpitations.
Hands shaking, I managed to answer the call on my fourth swipe of the screen.
Little Ben (hesitantly): “Hey, Morticia.”
Squeezing my eyes shut, I struggled to keep the disappointment out of my voice. Finally, an Abernathy calls me, and it’s the wrong one.
Me (walking over to twist a knob on the oven): “What’s up?”
Pithy equals politic at the moment.
Little Ben (babbling): “I was hoping I could swing by on Saturday and talk with you.”
Me (yanking the necessary ingredients for dinner out of the fridge): “About?”
Little Ben: “I’d rather not get into it on the phone. Are you free around one?”
Me (slamming the microwave door on the leftover arroz con pollo): “Yes.”
Little Ben: “Can we meet at your place? There’s too much going on in Nevermore right now….”
I let his understatement roll right by.
Me (unrolling the premade pie dough on the counter): “Sure, do you need directions to the apartment?”
Little Ben: “No, I know the way.”
Me (cutting the dough into perfect circles with a rim of a bowl): “Cool?”
Little Ben: “Okay, see you then.”
Staring at my phone, I hit the red disconnect symbol, striving to fathom Little Ben’s sudden enthusiasm for my company – and I mean enthusiasm – he sounded downright giddy at the prospect of coming over. Beatrice, who apparently came in at the tail end of the call, fetched the container from the microwave and joined me at the counter.
Whilst mixing a prodigious amount of queso fresco into the warmed leftovers, Beatrice addressed the frown on my face.
“No? Frankly, I’m not really sure. Little Ben called to ask if he could stop by the day after tomorrow.”
“Well, at least you’ll have something to talk about besides the protests.”
Beatrice’s offhanded comment made me reel back slightly and inadvertently drop a dollop of cheesy filling onto the linoleum.
“You found something?”
Walking over to the now enthusiastically annotated copy of the Conventions Beatrice, after wiping her hands on a tea-towel, slid several sheets of paper out from under the front cover and held them out to me.
“Oh, yeah, I found something.”