Tag Archives: dinner

2.49.b It’s not Biscuits & Gravy…But It’ll Do

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Between the intensity of the conversation and my zeroed in concentration on the cutting board, I nearly lopped off my own fingertip when the buzzer above the oven sounded off. Beatrice, leaving the place settings on the counter, strode over to the stove and picked up the red hot orange pot. Setting aside the bloodthirsty blade, I scooted around Beatrice trivet in hand, placing it on the table where she wanted to set our sweet-smelling supper. 

No longer able to maintain my feeble facade of non-existence, I wordlessly started shepherding the arroz con pollo trimmings (I’d already sampled for quality assurance purposes) to the table. 

Beatrice began setting it – for two.

Ms. Hettie, who’d fallen silent after Beatrice’s cryptic observation, swirled her scotch and eyed me for a moment before shifting her gaze onto her great-niece.

Ms. Hettie (scour-pad voice scraping across the eardrum): “I know my bible-thumping sister and the rest of her brood are a bunch of nogoodniks Beatrice, but Grace is facing prison.”

Beatrice (thumping a plate onto the table): “A predicament that didn’t interest them the least when it was mine.”

Ms. Hettie: “Just think about it.”

Draining her glass in a single swallow, Ms. Hettie (who was wearing a sky blue sweatshirt with kittens chasing silver snowflakes across her bosoms today) levered herself out of the chair, casting significant looks at each of us before ambling out of the kitchen. The sound of the front door opening and closing followed a few seconds later.

Beatrice (dropping bonelessly into a chair): “Sorry, I didn’t think she’d keep hounding me if you were here.”

Me (placing spoons in the sides): “No worries, I’ve been on the receiving end of my fair share of familial guilt trips.”

Beatrice (rubbing her temples): “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about it.”

Watching Beatrice, I realized her gaze was fixed sightlessly on the glass of Oban Ms. Hettie had been sipping during their ‘discussion’. Unsure my liver had fully recovered from the last time we hit a bottle I caste about for a distraction.

Me (sitting down across from her): “Don’t worry about it. I’d rather not give Ms. Hettie the satisfaction.”

Beatrice (her hand pausing halfway to the bottle): “Satisfaction?”

Me (smiling): “She named the puppy. So I’d ask questions we’d talk and hopefully, in the end, convince you to do whatever it is she wants you to do. As I’m not interested in doing her dirty work, you needn’t explain a thing to me.”

Beatrice (flicking a glance at the three-quarter full bottle): “Damned, I always forget how good she is.”

Me (catching sight of the dull gold strip peaking out my pack next to me): “Funnily enough, Ms. Hettie’s not the only one hoping for your help tonight.”

Quirking an eyebrow at me, Beatrice waited a moment for me to elaborate. However, due to the proximity of the fragrant arroz con pollo – plus the knot of containers filled with lettuce, queso fresco, tomatoes, black beans, avocado, and steaming tortillas – my stomach chose that moment to issue a long and LOUD complaint.

Beatrice (corners of her mouth twitching): “Why don’t you explain after you’ve sated the beast.”

Feeling the tips of my ears grow hot, I simply nodded and started dishing up. After my first helping made a cameo appearance on my plate, my hands stopped shaking, and the hangries receded enough to resume polite conversation. 

Leaning to the left slightly, I pulled the brown paper wrapped book from my pack and handed it to her. Pushing aside her plate and the nearest containers, she wiped the table with her napkin before carefully opening the cover and gently leafing thru the first few pages.

Me (speaking around a bite of beans and cheese): “I was hoping you’d have better luck deciphering it than I am currently. The handwriting gives me a splitting headache after ten minutes.”

Beatrice (eyebrows drew together in concentration): “Why not just stop reading it?”

Me (holding my breath for a second): “Because that’s the only copy of the Nevermore Conventions I can lay my hands on at the moment. As all the others, including mine, have disappeared. I’m hoping the reason why is somewhere inside.”

Beatrice (tilting her head and looking up at me): “And a bit more besides?”

Me (smiling wryly): “Yes.”

Beatrice (wrinkling her nose): “And the sooner I finish it, the better?”

Me (deflating slightly): “I know it’s a lot to ask…”

Beatrice (nodding once): “No problem.”

Me: “Really?”

Beatrice (an edge of her mouth tipping upwards a little): “Consider it a thank-you for not falling into Ms. Hettie’s trap.”

Me (grinning): “Can I push my luck and borrow your laptop again?”

Beatrice (shrugging): “Sure. Why?”

Me: “I need to organize my thoughts and that mind-mapping program you’ve got looked like an excellent way to do it.”

Beatrice (looking very much like her Great-Aunt for a moment): “These events wouldn’t include Sarah ratting us out to Little Ben the night of the Brace Affair, would it?”

Well crap, so much for me not being an awful friend.

1.66 Why Am I Helping Him Again?

Aware my fish was about to bite I kept my tone even, “If Iron Creek floods the water will work the caskets to the surface and carry them downstream then into town. The City Council will hammer you over it.”

The Rye City Council is a constant source of headaches for Big Ben and his family. Over the last ninety years, they’ve attempted no less than eighteen times to carve up Nevermore for the ‘betterment’ of the city. 

They will not be pleased to discover Little Ben expanded Nevermore boundaries further – even if his plan includes helping the city’s hungry. They’d be actively looking for any way to strip Little Ben of the land. Poorly placed graves would give them the ammunition they needed to accomplish the deed.

Circling my bait Little Ben stalled, “That’s just an urban legend.”

Tugging the line enticingly, “It’s not. Research the recent flooding in the south or call one of the others in the association – they’ll confirm the problem. I promise.”

Finally biting, he strove to appear uninterested in his own question, “Where would you place ‘the feature’ in Sunny Valley Farm?” A group of kids wandered close to us, so he used a euphemism. Didn’t matter, they were too busy talking amongst themselves to notice our conversation.

Taking a beat before answering to still myself, “I’m not very familiar with the farm. You should really ask the MacGregors, they’d know the best spot to place it. But from the narrow slice I’ve seen of the property, the field across the road from the Seven Roses might work. ” (Seven Roses is the name of Big Ben’s house in Nevermore) Shrugging I let my attention momentarily wavered off of Little Ben and onto Ruth who currently carried two plates filled with food matching our orders from the kitchen.

Wreathed in smiles, Little Ben bellowed his goodbyes and nearly knocked Beatrice’s burger out of Ruth’s hand with a particularly sizable sweeping gesture in my direction, “I nearly forgot why I originally came over here!” 

My heart lurched in my chest.

“You left some stuff in the cottage when you left. I packed it up and moved the boxes to the main offices. Sarah said she’d call you about them, but I guess I saw you before she did. You should pick them up soon, I’m sure they’re in her way.” On that last note, he left us to clean our plates in peace.

It took a moment for my stomach to settle down enough so I could sate my Reuben colored craving. When he’d turned back around I’d half expected him to hand me paperwork banning me from Nevermore. Which would have been awkward. 

Beatrice shifted her focus from her phone to me the moment Little Ben exited our sphere, “You handled him beautifully.”

Unable to speak, having taken a rather ambitious bite of my sandwich, I shrugged. When I was finally able to comment my voice sounded tired even to my ears, “My approval of his scheme means he won’t worry himself about how he was able to afford it.” It’s also why I was confident that my words worked. Whatever small portion of his conscious still bothering him about laying me off would quiet once he acted on my suggestions. 

I did find it interesting that he did try to place a small wedge between Sarah and me.

We worked our way thru our dinners with yummy noises replacing actual conversation. When only a few stray fries remained on our plates talking resume.

“It is rather anti-climatic though, using my words to convince Little Ben he should reconsider where to put the pet cemetery. My backup plan featured breaking & entering, a switcharoo, and arts & crafts. Nail-biting stuff! But I suppose this produced more reliable results.”

Beatrice laughed at the rueful note in my voice, “Well after last night’s near-miss this solution is probably better. Speaking of last night… will your Aunt really send a copy of our piratey portrait to my parents?” Her smile fading at the end of her question, while her fingers started shredding the lettuce garnish on her plate.

“If they live within a hundred miles of Rye she’ll find them.” Sensing the tension at the table, “I can ask her not too.”

With a smile that didn’t entirely span her face, “I’d appreciate. We aren’t on speaking terms presently.” 

“No problem.”

(Sandwich Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

1.64 A Conundrum

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(Take-Out from the Spare Rib from a previous visit…)

My half-day flipped into a full-day when a couple of the Senior Center members asked me for a favor. They had a hankering for barbeque and wanted to go to the best joint around, The Spare Rib. Familiar with the unyielding grip of a food craving we came up with a compromise. I would drive them there (it was an hour one way) if they got their food to go and didn’t eat in the Princess (good bbq is Messy with a capital ‘M’). The fact I just flat like Betty and Joan didn’t hurt either.

Moreover, the flu-induced set schedule ended in a couple of days and with it the regular hours. So earning a few extra brownie points amongst the Center’s members seemed wise. 

When I finally dropped them off, bbq in hand, at their apartment building I was starving and had zero interest in cooking. While the bbq whetted my appetite, it wasn’t what my tastebuds hankered after this evening.

My heart’s desire could only be found at the Rusty Hinge – a nice thick Rueben sandwich (they make their own Rye bread, Russian dressing and sauerkraut – it is to die for) and hand-cut fries. When I slid into my preferred booth, the one in the back next to my favorite pinball machine, my bones fused to the vinyl. 

My poor body was unused to the amount of running we did last night and needed a moment to regroup before attempting to retake my Addams Family crown (aka the high score that Benedict stole from me). Leaning my head against the scalloped cushion, I took a deep breath and let my mind float along the waves of ambient stimulus – the aroma of sautéing onions filtering from the kitchen, errant strands of dialogue emanating from the pinball machines and groans from the football fans watching their team commit yet another penalty. Slowly my mind spun until it landed on the conundrum Sarah placed in my lap earlier today (she’d texted me after our marshmallow bargain).

Sarah: Just thought I’d let you know – Little Ben was tipped off that you guys were coming last night.

Me: ?????

Sarah: He let it slip to Seth last night. Someone called him. That’s how he had security, the MacGregors and the groundskeepers on site so fast.

Me: Crap. Are you sure he doesn’t know it was us?

Sarah: Yes. I don’t think he could keep it to himself if he did. He’d have called a meeting to inform all us you were banned from the property. Like he did with Sue.

Me: Any clue who called him?

Sarah: None. This is all second hand, I didn’t want to grill Seth – might send up a red flag.

Me: Thanks for the heads up!

Sarah: NPAT

(Or No Problem Any Time)

Ruth broke into my train of thought to take my order (and Beatrice’s she was meeting me here), which was fortuitous since I might have drifted off in another second.

If correct Sarah’s data spun the previous night’s events in a whole new direction. But who on earth knew we were bound for Nevermore last night? On top of that, other than Little Ben, who would care?

Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.

My mulling moved to the back burner when a familiar bulky form barreled across the floor towards my booth. 

Little Ben boomed halfway across the floor, “Phoebe! I’m glad I’ve run into you!”

I’ve never ceased regretting telling Little Ben about my favorite greasy spoon.

“Hey, Ben.”

Reaching my table Little Ben’s voice sunk into conspiratorial tone, ”Did you hear about what happened in Nevermore last night?”

“I read about it in the Blotter this morning.” His question told me Sarah’s assessment was correct. If Little Ben had figured out I was among those he’d chased around Nevermore last night, he’d have let everyone hither, thither and yon know it.

Little Ben’s face set into a grimace, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” Without so much as a by your leave, he started moving towards the empty side of the booth to take a seat. Unfortunately (for him, not me) he found the booth’s entrance unexpectedly cutoff – Beatrice had arrived. 

Taking off her long purple coat, she laid it down on the seat between us and slipped into the booth, “Sorry I’m late. Things are crazy at Pulp right now. Hello! I’m Beatrice.” 

Biting my lip, I watched Little Ben’s frustration at being thwarted cross his face, “Hi. I’m Ben. I was just discussing something with Phoebe.”

Beatrice, draping herself with an air of innocence, “Oh, you’re Phoebe’s former manager. I owe you a big thank you!” 

1.48 Wrinkles

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Day six of my fourteen hour fortnight.

FLYT held a general meeting last Friday which I missed due to the Fall Foliage Tour. It turns out one of the drivers came in sick with – swine, C, Spanish, bird, #10 – some variety of nasty flu which knocked out almost the entire fleet of FLYT drivers. Not wanting another rideshare program to “muscle into their territory” they asked the last standing healthy drivers to extend their service hours for a rather nice bonus, plus base pay, and tips. 

When FLYT emailed me about Flu-Gate, I immediately contacted the Senior Center. I wasn’t the only driver the members used, but I didn’t want someone going without services because they couldn’t get a ride. It turns out one of the Center’s members did scheduling for Rye Memorial Hospital for forty years and hasn’t lost her touch. With sacred promises made by all not to fork up her work, she set a two-week schedule (for me, another driver who works the Center and the members). I think she may have issued a veiled threat somewhere to ensure compliance – hard to remember now – it feels like a hundred years ago. 

At this point, I am not sure if the Princess’s driver’s seat is taking on my butt shape or my butt is taking on seat shape. These are the things I wonder about now. Either way, it’s been firmly planted since Tuesday morning.

Last night I dreamt scientist created a bottomless cup of coffee.   

Even with all this driving, I’ve managed to wedge a tiny bit of multitasking into my day – monitoring the radio waves. Without a single fib I’ve managed to keep the Princess’s radio dial planted on KARB 98.1, Rye’s jazz/classical station – ‘Giving you energy thru the day!’. My fares grumbled a bit at first (they love their rock music) but gave in when they figured out I was working from 6 am to 8 pm helping them out.

Why am I on tenterhooks at the top of each hour? Because KARB’s news desk delights in scooping The Daily Harvest every chance they get (a feud which according to my Aunt Pearl dates back to an incident in high school between the Newspaper’s Managing Editor and Radio Station’s Manager). In the last year they’d been the first to report Stripper Gate (former mayor taking out visiting officials to said establishments), the apprehension of the Cascadia Con-man and the reacquisition of six lost Dutch Masters by RAM (Rye Art Museum and it turns out the paintings weren’t lost so much as stolen).

KARB is the only non-news station, west of the Mississippi, which employs four full-time investigative reporters – I’m pretty sure. So I figured if/when the sourest member of the Thin Green Line follows up on my materials – they will broadcast it first (it’s harder to monitor the Daily Harvest, traffic cops frown on reading & driving). 

Are drive-thru egg rolls are a thing?

If they aren’t, they really should be because my shift’s finally over and I can’t go home yet and I’d really like some egg rolls or Mongolian beef with fried rice or pad thai or pho or banh mi or sushi. 

Visions of wontons dance through my head… 

Wouldn’t be the first time I ate dinner whilst wandering through Nevermore. According to my phone Rye doesn’t have a drive-thru Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese restaurants, drat.

So Nevermore. 

At the time I didn’t realize how serendipitous running into Joseph at The Crossroads was. When I’d taken care of Nevermore, we spoke daily, no big deal. Now that I’m out in the cold it’s not so easy, which fills me with an uncontrollable urge to kick Little Ben in the shins.

Why you ask is my chest crammed with a thousand angry bees who’d like a word with my former manager? Since returning from the Fall Foliage Tour seven and a half days ago, I’ve been unable to locate Joseph and let him know about the looming problem getting ready to land in Nevermore. Not wanting to alarm the Residents I’ve kept the news to myself but he needs to know, and we need to fix on a solution. 

Why not ask them where Joseph is? Or pass a message onto him? Since my exile, this might lead to panic amongst the Residents, which could mean some uncomfortable nights for Little Ben in the cottage. 

So I’d worked out a cunning plan which cut the Residents out of the equation entirely. Regrettably, it requires my butt to remain planted in the driver’s seat for a few more hours (hopefully only minutes, but I’m not holding my breath). My bright idea? I will sit in the Princess, in Nevermore until Joseph finds me – listening to the radio – drinking coffee. 

Without egg rolls.