Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Snippet 40

Apparition of the Face of Aphrodite
by Salvador Dali
print for sale at

OK part six is now inserted into the shell I posted Friday.

You can catch up or review via the links to the first five parts available below.

Thanks for your patience.

Home Is Where the Horror Is
by Joy Renee

(part one; part two; part three; part four; part five; )

By the time her father returned with the kids, Crystal had dinner all but ready. Only the last minute things were left to do. The spaghetti sauce was simmering in one pan, the water for the pasta was gently boiling in another. The cheese bread set on a baking sheet with a mountain of grated cheese covering it ready to go under the broiler. The table in the dining room was set for five--Father, Jasper, Jade and her sleep-over friend, Winston and herself.

The tray for Father to take up to Mother was also prepared with a carafe of hot ginger tea, an assortment of crackers, another carafe of hot vegetable bullion and a lemon gelatin square--not the name brand sweet treat but a homemade version flavored with real lemon juice and lemon zest and sweetened with organic honey tho this confection of Mother's own concoction was only mildly sweet. The bullion too--a vegetable broth--was one of Mother's recipes as was the spaghetti sauce and like the spaghetti sauce the bullion had been made in large vats and frozen in containers of both single serving and family meal size.

Crystal knew that the nausea and violent vomiting that plagued all of Mother's pregnancies held another level of torment for her beyond the physical distress and the loss of the simple pleasures of eating--it prevented her from engaging in her passion for food preparation, including the growing of the herbs and vegetables in the garden. It also took from her the deep satisfaction she had in serving her family and church--nourishing both bodies and souls with food prepared and offered up in loving-kindness.

When she heard the car pull into the drive, she and Winston were sitting together at the kitchen table where she was chopping tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado while Winston busily tore up large green Romaine leaves into bite sized chunks and dropped them into a big wooden bowl. As Father and the three kids trooped through the front door she was scooping her piles of diced veggies into the wooden bowl and tossing them with the lettuce with her hands. She grabbed up the remaining leaves and hurridly tore them into the bowl and tossed it all again. Then she garnished the top with a little of the mixture of three kinds of shredded cheese--cheddar, mozzarellas and Parmesan--which she'd used on the cheese bread.

"All done!" Winston said, clapping his hands as Crystal wiped the cutting board down.

"All done." she said, trapping his hands in the towel to wipe off the bits of green stuck between his fingers. "You want to help me carry the bowl into the dinning room?"

"Wishtong help!" he clapped as she lifted him down from the high chair which also needed to be moved into the dining room but she could ask Jasper to do that if it still needed doing by the time he got to the table.

She took the salad bowl and bent down to Winston's level and laid it atop his outstretched hands. Then she put her own hands under the bowl and began crab-walking towards the dinning room in Winston-sized steps. She didn't need his help carrying the salad bowl but she needed to keep tabs on him while there were so many hot or sharp items scattered about.

They were setting the bowl on the big table when she heard Father instructing Jasper and Jade to take their stuff up to their rooms and wash up for dinner.

"No dawdling." he called after the herd of feet on the stairs. "And keep quiet. Your mother is unwell."

Back in the kitchen she stood Winston on a stool in front of the sink to 'wash' a jumble of plastic containers and utensils with cold water and a sponge. This would keep him busy while she broke the long spaghetti lengths in half and submerged them in the boiling water. She was reaching for the tall jar containing the pasta lengths when Father entered the kitchen.

He glanced at the tray she'd prepared for Mother but instead of reaching for it he nodded at it as he said, "You'll have to take that up to your Mother. I find I still have a great deal of work to do on tomorrow's sermon. I'll be in my study. You can send Jasper in with a tray for me later. While you're dishing up for the kids or after you've got them fed." He saw her setting the jar of pasta down and added, "No, go ahead and get the meal on the table. Your Mother is probably not in a great deal of hurry anyway. Wait until the kids are served at least. You can eat first yourself if you wish."

She had begun breaking the spaghetti into the pot as he spoke. Now, at the sound of footsteps overhead, he was backing out of the room as he continued speaking, "You will, of course, need to supervise the girls activities as well as Winston's this evening. And again in the morning. I suspect your mother won't be up to it."

Crystal's heart was racing as she stirred the pasta into the roiling water. Something was up. Something had put Father in a barely restrained foul mood between the time he left to pick up the kids and now. There was, as her English teacher would say, a major subtext going on here. Why was Father shunning the family? And even Mother? Yes, shunning was the exact right word. Choosing to isolate himself in his study at evening meal time was not something he did casually. It was a loaded message. And Crystal had learned long ago that it was imperative to figure out the sub-text before Father lost patience with subtlty.

As soon as the pasta was all in the pan and completely submerged, Crystal moved over to the oven where the baking sheet with the two long slabs of French bread mounded with cheese was waiting. She switched on the broiler and then punched the button on the pre-set timer.

"OK big guy," she said to Winston. "Time to saddle up." She swung him down off the stool and led him to his high-chair which he climbed into. She buckled him in and then kicked the brake away from the back wheel and began rolling him into the dinning room. "You keep an eye on that salad for me. Don't let it run away." She left to the sound of his high-pitched cackle.

In the kitchen she quickly dumped the spaeghetti sauce out of the pan into a large white ceramic bowl and carried it into the table. "Now don't let these two start dancing." she said to Winston. "If they run away together all we'll have is naked noodles for dinner."

Winston crowed and hooted at the joke but as Crystal turned to leave he said, "Cheese fred."

"Oh, that's right. We still got the cheese bread. And I'm sure you would be quite fine feasting on only cheese bread leaving the naked noodles for the rest of us."

"Cheese fred. Cheese fred." Winston chanted as he bounced in his chair and slapped his palms on the table.

Just then a buzzer sounded from the kitchen. "And that's the cheese bread calling." she said.

She grabbed oven mitts and pulled the baking sheet out of the oven and set it on the kitchen table before going to check on the noodles. Finding them ready too, she picked up the pan with ovenmitted hands and dumped its contents into a colander waiting in the sink. Leaving it to drain she returned to the cheese bread with a chef knife and quickly sliced repeatedly across both slabs at once turning them into a double line of inch-wide pieces which she scooped up with a spatula and lay in a flat basket.

She knew better than to tempt Winston by leaving him alone with the 'cheese fred' so she left it on the kitchen table while she tended to the spaghetti. She heard the kids on the stairs as she picked up the colander and heard their chair legs scrape the floor as she dumped the 'naked noodles' into a red ceramic bowl. Mother always put as much thought and effort in the presentation of the food as in its preparation. Thus a red bowl for the white pasta and a white bowl for the red sauce. Mother's presentations were a work of art and most of them were one of a kind but this spaghetti dinner was one of a handful which she had distilled into a formula and carefully taught to Crystal.

As she entered the dinning room she noted that Jade and her friend sat on the near side and, reluctant to hoist the hot pasta over their heads, she walked around the table. Jade and Jasper were busily 'sword-fighting' across the table with their knives. "Stop it, you two." she said. "What if Father sees you?"

They stopped and glanced guiltily at the doorway to the front hall. "Don't worry. He's not planning to come to the table. You're to take him a tray as soon as I've prepared it but first I need to dish up for Winston."

Jade's friend was huddled face to face with Winston singing 'Itsy, bitsy spider' as she walked her fingers up his arm. Her long dark hair was a curtain hiding both their faces. "Jade? Are you going to introduce me to your friend?"

Jade tapped the girl's arm nearest her. "Hey, Nadira, this is my sister, Crystal. Crystal, this is Nadira, Jasmine's cousin."

And as Nadira lifted her head and held out her hand, the sub-text of Father's 'shunning' became clear. The thick black hair framed a cinnamon-dusted dark tan with features straight out of an illustrated vollume of One-thousand and One Nights.

How had Jade reached the age of twelve in this family without learning that friends with 'natural tans' had to be kept out of Father's sight? Or did she know and was purposely flaunting the unspoken rule? And Mother, who must have given permission for Jade to bring a friend home, she must not have realized that Jasmine's cousin was...was...was not as prone to sunburn as Jasmine. And for this she was suffering Father's shunning. Though she probably was unaware of anything amiss as yet.

"Pleased to meet you Nadira." Crystal managed a bright smile as she took the proffered hand. "And thank you for entertaining Winston. I can see he is quite smitten."

"Cheese fred." Winston hollered out.

"Yes Winston. I haven't forgot the cheese bread." Crystal put a hand to her hot cheek as she turned back to the kitchen, hoping fiercely that the flush that spred over it looked like nothing more than slaving over a hot stove.

Who was going to explain this to Jade before Father gave up on subtle and directed one of his creative object lessons at her aimed at shocking her into seeing things his way? Crystal cringed at the thought of having to find a gentle way to explain this to Jade. But with Mother so ill and still unaware....

Well, the mystery was solved anyway and Father was not going to move from shunning to object lesson before tomorrow after church at any rate.

4 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  4/23/2008 8:08 PM  

Thanks for stopping by my site.

Wow. That's too big of a problem for a young girl like Crystal to have to shoulder. Good job conveying the dilemma she faces.

Joely Sue Burkhart 4/25/2008 5:32 AM  

Oh, yikes, I'm all caught up on Crystal's story and dreading how this all ends up...

IanT 4/25/2008 10:48 AM  

Just catching up...

was...was...was not as prone to sunburn as Jasmine.

Hm. Very self-editing. :-)

Elizabeth Bauterfly 7/27/2008 9:49 PM  

so I have kept reading and am very impressed and also very anxious to get back to modern time so I am going to keep reading and looking forward to talking to you about crystals story.

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