Tag Archives: Pulp

2.50 Thursday’s child has far to go…

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(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.

Seriously.

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?”

“Office!”

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. 

Ben.

Hands shaking, I managed to answer the call on my fourth swipe of the screen.

Me: “Hello?”

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. 

“Bad news? 

“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.” 

1.8 Lessons In Random Ordering

(To Be Clear – this is not The Fungus House!)

Random ordering is not a sound strategy in a place called The Fungus House.

Beatrice’s mushroom pho looked like a pretty piece of modern art in a bowl.

Wood’s portobello burger looked like an actual burger with cheese, ketchup and lettuce – I think a special sauce might have made an appearance as well.

My lentil and mushroom shepherds pie looked like a sick topiary covered in week old snow.

While contemplating how to tackle the beige mountain that was my dinner (while eating as little of it as possible) I tried to shift the topic off my impending homelessness on to anything else. Wood beat me to the punch.

“So Bee how is life in the book world treating you?”

My ears perked up, “Books?”

A smile crossed her face, “I am a buyer and store promoter for Pulp. I just got back from a trade show in New York. Oh Wood, I got the new Neil Gaiman advanced reader copy for you”. She dug in her briefcase and handed Wood the aforementioned book.

I have never been so jealous of Wood as I was right this instant. I love Gaiman. Eight more months I would have to wait for his new book to hit the shelves. I wonder if Wood would loan it to me when he was finished. Now to the important question, “You get to see where books are born?”

“Something like that, publishers hold book expos to promote their hot, new or exciting titles. Pulp sends me to figure out what is the genuine article and what is just hype. The only unfortunate thing about the trip was my place was broken into while I was gone.”

“That’s no good. Did they take anything irreplaceable?” Wood asked while tucking the book next to his leg.

“No, that’s what’s weird, they only stole a couple old paperbacks and that painting you hate. But other than that, they just rifled through the place and left.” She leaned back in the booth, the conversation causing her to lose her appetite, or perhaps she was full – her bowl was nearly empty.

“Well that doesn’t sound too bad, the painting was hideous. Do you know how they got in?” Wood chimed in while I made sympathetic noises.

“The police weren’t sure. The working theory is that Ms. Hettie left a window upstairs open and they found her key to open the door and went downstairs. They left her stuff alone. If they cased the place, they would have known she would be home soon and the police would investigate immediately rather than a week later.”

Chiming in, “Did you change you locks?”.

“On all the doors and windows. I made it much harder to get in, should they decide for round two.” A hint of competitiveness (or annoyance, it was hard to tell) crept into her voice – apparently thwarting thieves was a sport?

Speaking of larceny, Wood knew I was eyeing his book (he did after all turn me onto Gaiman), when my hand started creeping towards the volume he and the book scooted away from me, “Excuse me for a minute, ladies, I need to use the facilities and put this in my car before I forget it.”

Drat.

It was then that the bright pins and needles sensation began pricking my toes. Curling them in my shoes I did my best imitation of Winged Victory (you know the statue), trying not to crane my neck to spot who’d popped up into the restaurant. Fortunately I didn’t wonder long – two dancers waltzed past me and started to gliding their way through the restaurant. I tried not to stare but her dress was so beautiful. It reminded me of the wedding dress Grace Kelley’s character wore in her last movie High Society, graceful lines with lace and chiffon swishing elegantly about her knees. Her partner was harder to make out, more the idea of a tuxedo giving him form than what he actually possessed. Or perhaps his partner just sucked all the light towards her, it was hard to tell. In either case, my fellow diners ate on, oblivious to the spectacle circling through them and I lost the thread of the conversation entirely.

“Her dress is lovely isn’t it.”

Startled I refocused on the woman sitting across from me, “Her dress?”

“The couple dancing, her dress is deliciously vintage isn’t it?”

At this point my mouth did a great goldfish impression, “You see them?”

Before she could answer Wood came back to the table patting his pockets, “Beatrice do you know where my keys are?”

Distracted from the dancers by Wood’s question I asked, “Why would she know where your keys are?”

“Bee always finds my keys when I lose them.” Wood looked expectantly at Beatrice.

I could feel her eyes rolling, “You are the only person I know who loses them so regularly.”

“Please?” Wood did his best imitation of a cocker spaniel.

Beatrice closed her eyes for a moment, “They are under the table over there.” She pointed an empty table near the restrooms.

Wood hustled over to where Beatrice pointed, taking the book with him (gggrrrr!), “That’s a neat trick.” I commented, relieved the dancers had left without noticing me.

She smiled, “You think so?”

After dinner we all ended up at The Rusty Hinge, drinking beer, playing pinball and shooting the breeze (where I managed to scarf down a bacon burger with Wood being none the wiser). The Fungus House was a distant memory by the end of the night.

(Above Burger Photo Credit)