Short Story Saturday: Cookies [SoHumBorn’s Back!]
For the last few Saturdays, we’ve been posting short stories. Today, SoHumBorn, a community favorite who captured the imagination of so many locals with her tales a few years ago, has agreed to publish a new story. (Go here to check her earlier stories out.) If you have a story you would like to submit, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As she drives, she looks at the trees going by and mentally trims each one–taking off a little here and there, evening them up until each is a perfect bud. She marvels that all trees and bushes share a basic plant shape, and after days of work they just look like more buds in need of trimming.
Her exhaustion spawns silliness and a little song from the old tootsie roll commercial comes spilling out with a Humboldt twist. “The world looks mighty good to me, ’cause big green buds are all I see, whatever it is I think I see, becomes a big green bud to me.” She sings to herself with a slightly delirious giggle.
The drive finally ends back at her own little home. The cat needy and frustrated by the daily abandonment winds around her legs loudly calling out his welcome and demanding a meal. “I know, I know, rough life, buddy, but somebody has to pay for that tuna.”
Opening the doorn she drops her bag of stinking work clothes and pulls a bottle of Calistoga from the fridge. Standing in the kitchen head tilted back she drinks the lime flavored water in huge gulps. The bubbles burn her throat and clean the dusty resin flavor from her mouth at last.
Setting the bottle on the counter, she obliges the still complaining cat by opening a can. As she bends to retrieve his bowl she startles them both with a loud and long belch. The cat’s face cracks her up.
“Wipe that look of your face! Ladies burp too!”
She fills his bowl and lowers it to the floor, smiling as he purrs while eating, a feat she’s never really understood.
Walking around the little kitchen’s island she hits play on the answering machine and picks up the bag of work clothes. Pulling the clothes out and stuffing them in the washer she listens.
“Hey Babe, we got the part, but it took a while. I’m probably gonna be a little late. Love Ya.”
“Hi it’s Mel. Hey we were thinking of doing lunch Saturday, maybe sushi. Call me if you wanna come.”
“The warranty on your vehicle is about to expire please act immediately to insure continued coverage. Press one to speak to a representative now.”
“Katherine, it’s Mom.” She laughs a little at this as she pours the fabric softener in the proper compartment. Like she wouldn’t recognize the voice. “Can you come over? I need to talk to you.”
That stops her. “Huh.”
She stands holding the light blue bottle. Her mom is not mysterious. She is old fashioned and simple. A wonderful comfort in a life that is often nerve wracking and complex.
Turning on the washer she walks over and picks up the phone. She dials the number automatically. It was the first phone number she had learned as a child, and she has been calling it her whole life.
The phone rings and listening to that ring she can picture her mom and dad. He’s in the recliner watching something incredibly dull on the History Channel while her mother sits on the couch with the cat curled up next to her as she crochets, quietly making little works of lace like art.
“Hi, Mom, what’s up?’
“Oh, honey, can you come over?”
“I just got home from work. I’m tired and I stink. I don’t want to get Dad started again. Can I come by in the morning?”
“I guess so.”
Hearing the the sad surrender in her mom’s voice she feels the sharp pang of guilt. Her mom rarely asks her for anything. What kind of jerk won’t give their mother fifteen minutes?
“No, Mom, it’s cool. I’m on my way.”
She runs her fingers through her hair twisting it back up into what her father calls her “hippie knot.” That keeps it out of her face while she rinses the day’s dust and stink off. The cool water makes her eyes feel fresher and lightens her mood. She takes another moment to spritz fresh perfume hoping to mask any lingering odor. One last sniff of her fingers reveals nothing, but after sitting in a room full of weed all day she can no longer detect it’s scent.
She drives to her parents’ home while trying to plan a simple dinner with ingredients from her cupboards. She knows better than to go shopping tired and hungry. Experience has taught her that that kind of shopping leads to strange purchases.
She pulls into the driveway and walks through the door to exactly the scene she had pictured. The man who had frightened her young suitors is in the recliner watching a documentary about the Korean war. Her mother’s small frame is tucked in the corner of the couch with a purring cat and a roll of thin cord. A small hooked needle working furiously in her hands.
Her mother sets the needle and string aside as she enters and heads for the kitchen.
“You want some coffee or juice, honey?”
“Water’s fine, Mom.”
She moves to follow her mother, and as she passes the chair she smiles.
“You stink. You know, you’re going to wind up in jail.” His disgust at her choices always a sore spot between them.
“It’s nice to see you too,” she says with a bright tone and a cheery smile.
Her mother is busy at the coffee pot as she joins her. “Are you sure you don’t want coffee?”
“No thanks, Mom.” She gets a glass from the cupboard that she used to need a chair to reach and fills it with ice and water.
Sitting at the table, she watches her mother pour coffee in a cup and mix in sugar and a large portion of some foul powder that she uses instead of cream. Her mom doesn’t speak or look up concentrating fully on the small task. Not a good sign. It means she is formulating what she wants to say. Working out words and phrases carefully in her head, before sharing what ever it is that caused her to request a visit.
She has sat at this table, through this process, countless times. It usually means she is somehow in trouble, and at 26 she feels no less guilty and nervous than she did at fourteen.
Finally, her mother brings her coffee to the table pulling out a chair she sits facing her daughter.
“How was your day?”
“My day was fine, Mom. What’s up?” she answers exhausted from the long day and not wanting to participate in this conversational dance.
“Your father’s sick.”
This is unexpected. Momentary relief at not being in the doghouse is replaced by the tug of fear in her gut.
“Sick? What kind of sick?”
Her Mother has both hands wrapped around her cup, as though she needs the warmth the coffee offers.
“Well, he’s been having some trouble with his stomach. He says it’s been hurting him and he hasn’t been wanting to eat. I got him to go see Dr. John.”
“What’d he say?”
“He said he thought Dad looked a little jaundiced. They ran some tests and had me take him up for a CT scan. Said it might be a gallbladder thing.”
“Oh, that’s not too bad, Mom. Lots of people have their gallbladder removed. Like your appendix, he’ll be fine with out it.”
Her mother rises and moves to the kitchen sink. Turning on the water, she begins rinsing her cup.
She opens the dishwasher, carefully placing the cup in the top rack. She closes it and returns to the sink. Holding the counter she stares out the little window into the darkness. “Dr. John’s nurse called me today. She said they want your father to see a specialist in Eureka. A cancer doctor.”
Those three words suck the air out of her.
For a long moment the two women silently hold their posts. The only sound is the droning voice over from the documentary playing in the living room.
She looks at her mother’s back and sees the shaking silent sobs. Pushing away from the table she goes to the woman who had been her comforter, the cushion that she landed on when life knocked her down. She wraps her arms around her, and rests her chin on the shoulder that had born so many burdens. Her mother lifts a hand to pat her arm, still trying to give comfort, rather than receive.
They part and her mother turns to face her. Seeing the tears the older woman is holding back, she takes a new roll.
“Why? What did they see?”
Her mother shakes her head “I don’t know. They won’t tell me anything.” With this, she squeezes her mother’s hands in her own. “She just kept saying they need the other doctor to review the CT. Then he’ll tell us what’s going on.”
“Assholes!” The exclamation is followed by a habitual “Sorry, Mom.”
“They are assholes!” Her mother’s unusual and vehement agreement yanks a startled laugh from her.
“O.K., I’m going with you. We’ll find out what’s up and make a plan. When is his appointment?”
“The nurse said the specialist’s office will call us to schedule.”
“Well, we’re not waiting. What’s his name?” she asks as she digs a pen and small notepad from her purse.
At this table where they had shared their meals, their hopes, their heartaches, and not a few disagreements the information is passed from Mother to daughter.
“Alright, Mom, don’t worry, I’ll call them in the morning and we’ll get this figured out.”
Seeing her Mother’s face relax a little, she realizes that this woman who cured all her ills is feeling relieved because, somehow, she has faith that her foolish reckless girl child has become a woman who can be depended on. The knowledge brings her heart a mix of pride and panic.
The weight of feeling useless in the moment pressed down on them both, quietly eating their souls. The world was a flame and not a drop of water between them.
“I better get home,” she said, needing so badly to break out of this horrible moment.
“It is getting late. Want some cookies?” Her mother didn’t wait for an answer. Pulling out a drawer she retrieves a large Ziplock bag and begins filling it with fresh home-made cookies. “I got this recipe from Woman’s Day. They have Craisins,” she says as she turns and offers the bag. A lifetime of years has taught the younger woman that there is no possible choice other than to take the cookies and so she does.
Bag in hand, she thanks her mother and heads through the living room. At his chair she pauses, “Good night, Dad.” He looks up “Good night, Kiddo,” a brief smile and an unexpected wink cause her heart to take an out of rhythm beat.
“Drive safe,” he says turning his attention back to Korea.
Her feet and legs carry her out and into her car. She crosses the bluffs between the two small towns her body navigating the car.
Her mind however, traveled a much more winding road.
She couldn’t remember the last time he’d thrown one of those jaunty winks her way. He’d done it often when she was a child. To her mind then, it had seemed his way of saying “Hey, we’re a team. It’s you and me.” He’d use it when they had a shared secret like an unmentioned stop for a Shirley Temple. Or when he was about to embellish a tale, turning a day’s events into a fantastic adventure. Those days -that Father, that Daughter- They were galaxys away. The easy joy they’d shared had not survived–the turbulent teen years and her troubled path to adulthood had left them both scarred.
He hated the culture of drugs the hippies had brought to his town. He saw the long-haired jobless men and women as bums and drug dealers, and he resented the fact that they worked so little and gained so much. They bought their brand new trucks and talked of their winter travels while he got up at 5:30 every morning so he could afford to feed his family and maybe save enough to take the kid camping in the summer.
What he didn’t see, she did. Successful happy families. People who felt free to challenge society’s ideals and rules. These hippies he despised were parents to so many of her childhood friends. They volunteered in her classrooms, were leaders of her girl scout troop, and though she often heard the animosity among the working class townsfolk, it didn’t grow in her own heart. So that even as the battles that teens and parents suffer in their path to life’s first inevitable breakup began to wane, the first few choices of her adult life set them at odds yet again.
Given the chance to go to work for a pot farmer and make more money than anyone should rightly expect straight out of high school, she did. She loved the job. The hard physical aspect made her feel and take pride in her own strength and she delved deeply into the study of the science of it all, coming to a deeper understanding of agriculture and the delicate balance of life.
There was also something maybe just a little wrong with her. Something that should have made her fear of the consequences stop her from doing it, was missing. In its place was something that allowed those sharp stabs of panic to make the rest of life seem crisper… brighter. Like in that moment, after a near accident in a car, when we laugh. Those ‘edge of it all’ moments are where she lives.
At first she’d maintained elaborate lies, her life a daily created fiction. A necessity for dealing with those outside the culture that she brought into her family life out of cowardice, and fear of disapproval. Time passed and the lies snowballed into a huge mass with a life of its own. When the weight of it all became impossible to support, it cracked apart all at once. Leaving she and her father screaming at each other. She declared the truth of it all, and when the two of them used their mutual shame, anger, and disappointment as weapons, words were spoken that neither could take back, or look past.
They took on the role of well armed neighbor nations, with occasional border skirmishes, but neither willing to face a full blown war.
She realizes she’s home, sitting in her parked car.
Thinking of the man she’d feared, loved, and admired more than any other in the world as mortal broke her. The tears came with huge racking sobs and she held on to both sides of her own head squeezing as though she could push back in the pain and fear pouring out. She cried in the way of a child, uncontrolled, snot running over her upper lip, wailing heedless of the world around her.
Finally nothing but hiccuping gasps remained. Like a zombie she wandered into her home and her bedroom. She undressed using her t-shirt to mop her face and climbed into her bed lying on her back. She felt her tears slowly soaking the hair at her temples as she drifted into fitful sleep.
He pulled up to the little house and was surprised to see the windows dark. The absence of its usual welcoming glow had him glancing around for her car, but it was right where she always parked. “Hmm.” The curious situation squeezed the small sound from him. He grabs his empty lunch box and the bag of tools and heads inside. Flipping the lights on he can tell she’s been here. He sees her bag next to the washer as he sets his lunch box on the counter. The cat, pushy as ever, tangles up his feet as he walks over to the washer, then meows indignantly when his stumbling inadvertently squashes a small paw.
“Dammit! Don’t bitch at me!” Seeing the cat’s half full bowl he shoots the animal another dirty look. “She feeds you before she takes off.” Unconcerned with the man’s vocalizing, the cat stretches his mouth wide in a yawn and strolls away.
He takes a few minutes removing the batteries from the various tools and placing them in the charger bases then wanders back to the kitchen and pulls open the refrigerator door. The contents don’t inspire him – carrot juice, a couple eggs, Three (or was it four?) day old Chinese, and a half a bag of salad mix. Usually there’d be a hot meal for him, but this time of year she always put in long hours and he couldn’t complain if some of the extra things she usually did for him slid a little.
He grabbed the little white boxes, opened one, and sniffed cautiously. “Chinese it is,” he said. Pouring the contents of all three boxes onto one plate, he slid the multicolored pile into the microwave, and sat down to take his boots off. He listened as the microwave hummed and tiny explosions popped and snapped from within the pile of Chinese food. Boots in hand he headed for the bedroom in search of a pair of sweats.
And that was how he found out she was home.
The overhead light illuminated something no man wants to find… clear evidence that the woman he loves has been crying. Her hair and pillow are soaked with tears. Her face is pale except for pink spots high on each cheek & her eyes show puffy evidence of their recent activity.
The light strikes her nerves sharply and in defense she throws up an arm, covering her eyes and defending a mind that feels like a tight sunburn.
Seeing this, he quickly flips the switch down again as he drops his boots and moves towards the bed. Perching on the side, he instinctively reaches out his hand and strokes her upper arm lightly in a soothing rhythm. “Hey, what’s wrong?” his voice is that low-pitched tone, the one that infers calm and reason. The way you may speak to a frightened horse, or someone who was injured, inviting those on the receiving end to join in the mood.
His hand and voice made her want to wrap herself in the warm comfort of him. She didn’t want to say it, nudge it any closer to being a reality. “I’m just overtired.” She let slip weakly. “I had a little melt down is all.” She, without guilt, wrapped herself in the gender stereotyped role so many had fought to discard. She’s just a girl after all, a weak, fragile thing likely to shatter under the rigors of every day life.
“Oh, Honey…” he chuckles low in his chest, as he pulls her limp frame up and enfolds it within his own. “You’re all right.” he soothes. “Why don’t you take a day or two off? Hang out with your mom, take a bubble bath?” in his mind, the list continues “pick up some groceries?”
She nods keeping her head pressed to his chest. “Yeah, I’m gonna do that.” She realizes they are gently rocking back and forth and wonders if he had started doing that, but then thinks maybe it had been her.
“Can I get you something? A glass of wine? A drink of water?”
“Just hold me.” she whispered. And dinner forgotten he did just that.
She wakes to him slipping quietly from the bed. She keeps her breathing even, and lets him tiptoe off to the bathroom believing she is still asleep. She still can’t face speaking to him.
His firm belief that all problems can be solved by creating a plan and putting it into action is one of the things she loves about him, but right now she just wants him to go to work. She needs to talk to some one who can explain the whole of the situation. She needs it to be in her hands, to be able to turn it over in her nimble mind and fingers, so that she is free to work and rework it–until by solving it, she is able to untie the knots now tied deep in her own belly.
A night of sleep has calmed her somewhat. The realization that the man she had always perceived as unconquerable, may indeed be subject to frailty, has rocked her core, but her confidence that she can do anything she sets her mind to floated through last night’s emotional storm, and arrived safely on shore with her this morning as the tide of tears receded.
She listens to the sounds of bodily functions and hygiene as he completes each task of his morning routine while preparing for work. She remembered the first time he had spent the night–how the next morning when she realized how well sounds carried through the thin walls she had been unable to use the bathroom herself, until after two agonizing hours of coffee, and a meeting of the Burgeoning Relationships Mutual Admiration Society, he finally departed.
She hears him quietly open the bathroom door and slip through the bedroom, pausing to retrieve his boots before going to the living room. She knows, without watching, exactly what he is doing. As his morning routine plays out behind her closed lids – glass of water (glug glug glug glug glug glug, thud) on the counter, right side of the sink. Boots in hand he’ll walk to the kitchen table & (skreeee) pull out a chair, set the boots on the chair (This bugs her every time, she doesn’t know why, but it does.) and walk naked to the dryer. Pull on clean work clothes. Place a fresh charged battery in (click thud, click thud, click thud) each tool, then put the tools and extra batteries in his work bag. Socks in hand he returns to the kitchen table picks the boots up and sits down to put them on. Every day, always.
She didn’t know exactly when the mornings had gone from being an extension of the previous night’s intimacies to this. This near ritual as they prepared to leave for the day, but she had come to love the sameness. She loved knowing in detail exactly what was going to happen, and though she was in bed while he played out his part this morning, she knew that when she got up she would play her role exactly as though they were getting ready together. Then he broke pattern. He went to the kitchen. While trying to decipher the scuffling sounds with one part of her brain, the back of her mind was chanting the end of the ritual pick up bag , kiss woman, leave house. He finished with whatever was ruining her pattern picked up his bag, and left the house.
At the quiet final click of the front door she rolled to her back and opened her eyes. She stretched out, muscles arcing, until they began to shake under the tension, then let her body sink back to the bed.
She wanted to talk to people, and the fact that not one office would answer at this early hour had her working the tender inside of her lip between her teeth. After a few moments she realized lying here being worried and frustrated was a crappy way to start the day, so she got up. She pulled on a sweatshirt & a pair of yoga pants & headed for the kitchen. There beside his empty glass was a note. “Take a bubble bath, read a book, walk down to the river. Know that I Love You-” This simple list, these things he knows bring her joy, forms a lump to her throat. She fills his glass, and while drinking it sticks the note to the front of the fridge with a magnet.
The kettle sits on the stove. She shakes it to determine the level of water inside and judging it sufficient. She lights the burner. While the water heats she makes a pass through the house picking up clothes and towels and carrying them to the washer. She moves the remaining clothes in the dryer to a basket, transfers last night’s load to the dryer and loads the washer again. As the machine begins to rumble and hum the kettle’s whistle begins its’ escalating tune.
She pours the water into her waiting cup, and tea in hand, she decides to take his advice and remove herself from the real world.
The passion fruit bath salts fill the tiny bathroom with a tangy steam. She sets the book on the rim of the tub and pulls off her clothes. Setting them neatly on the edge of the sink, she climbs in sliding down into the water until it slips into her ears and over her eyes buffering the sound and feel of everything with a sensation of lightness and warmth.
Reading in the tub is a guilty pleasure, pure decadence. The book pages get wet and wrinkled, the tea is drank, and for that time her mind is free of her own life, deep in the story of another.
The wet braid soaking a stripe down the back of her sweatshirt she is sitting in the sun at her little kitchen table.
With a fresh cup of tea steaming to the right of her laptop, she is typing with one hand and dialing with the other. Google feeds her information about oncology in general and facts about the specific doctor her father had been referred to, as the phone in her left hand rings through to the automated call center. She punches a three digit extension and waits.
“Hey, Bonnie it’s Kat. I need a little help, could you call me?” She presses the button disconnecting the call and sets the phone down.
Her attention brought fully to the screen by the doctor’s listed specialty “Pancreatic Cancer.” Words, words that make her nervous and explain nothing. She knows people have a pancreas, but no function comes to mind, no understanding. Is it important? Can he get it removed? The word cancer is just something bad that happens, somehow making people sick in every imaginable way. Bones, blood, breast, lung… it seems every one has it or is in recovery. Like that bike racing guy and Christina Applegate. Is it an Oh My God You’re Dying thing? Or a Hey You’ll Be Running Marathons In Two Months kinda thing? She knows she’s about to find out, and decides to hit the pipe first. She fetches the pink and gold swirled glass piece, a small jar of fresh outdoor and a lighter. Back at the table she opens the little jar and removes a dense pungent little chunk of plant, breaking into small pieces she evenly packs the bowl. Lips pursed as though for a lover, she puts the pipe to them and watches the little flame as it’s pulled through the weed, first toasting then burning. She inhales slowly, evenly. The taste is herbal and fruity. Her eyes drift closed as she holds the smoke until she feels that fade around the edges. That little smoothing of life’s corners. She exhales opening her eyes to watch the smoke curl illuminated by the morning sun.
Centering her attention once again on the little laptop, she googles.
Two hours pass by click after click filling her head with new information. She keeps extra tabs open so she can look up words and acronyms. drowning in a sea of terminology she was learning to swim the hard way. All too soon she found that it wasn’t a ‘You’ll Run A Marathon’ kind, that a pancreas could not be removed, that three year survival rate was %30 and the five year rate was a walloping %5. She continued on the information binge because the continued forcing of new information didn’t allow for dwelling on what had been found.
When the phone rings it startles her and she snatches it up and gives it a dirty look. Then laughs a little at herself as she pushes the button to answer. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s Bonnie” She and Bonnie had grown up together, but Bonnie had moved here with her family when she was in the fourth grade. Since Bonnie’s family was new and her father worked for the State a lot of kids couldn’t invite Bonnie to their homes, but Kat’s parents didn’t grow weed so they didn’t mind if Bonnie stayed over. They became best friends. Her mother had often accused them of living in each other’s back pocket.
That friendship had faded. Bonnie became a nurse in one of the local clinics and married a CHP officer. Kat knew that regardless of her friendship with his wife he was a true danger. So she had backed away, forgetting to return phone calls, letting the friendship fall aside.
Bonnie acted as though they had just spoken yesterday.
She went over the recent visits and tests. Her mother had made it sound like he just been to the doctor the one time. This had been going on for weeks. There had been CTs & blood work, ERCP, MRI, an alphabet soup leading up to last night.
Bonnie explained the results and conclusions.
“Kat, I’m sorry, he’s really sick. If you or your Mom need anything, you know, you can always call me.” The sincerity and kindness was real and palpable “And you need to have your dad tell them to put a note in his chart saying that his doctor can share all of his info with you, because I just totally broke the law.”
“O.K. Can I just have him write a note or something?” She knows there’s no way her father is going to call the doctor and tell them to share all of his private medical stuff with her. A note on the other hand… she’d had years of experience.
“We have a release of information form that I could email you.”
“Would you? Then I’ll just have him sign it and email it back to you?”
“Thanks, Bon,” Then a little sheepishly “I miss you.”
“I know. It’s Ryan… I knew it would happen.”
“Me, too, Kat. Me too. Bye.”
The topic she’d been so reluctant to share with her husband became the only topic. From that day on the disease was a steam roller pressing everyone and everything flat. There were appointments, treatments, biopsies, medications and always… more tests. Nothing was exciting. Nothing was fun. Her Father didn’t have Cancer. Cancer had her family.
Then one day he said “No.” No more would he let them take pieces. No more tests. No more treatments. He finally did agree to keep taking the medications, when he saw the deep sorrow in his wife’s eyes. He was not willing to stay here like this, even for her and after spending so much of his life shielding her from pain, to be the cause of so much was suffocating. “Fine, I’ll take the damn pills.”
She trained with home health and learned to give him his daily injection, and then she watched as her hero started shrinking. He lost his sense of taste and smell. He suffered from unending nausea. Her mother cooked all his favorites–offering up succulent roasts, fresh warm breads, his favorite pie, he’d try to humor her and try a bite, but he didn’t really eat. He was becoming a skeleton and it was making her mother come apart around the edges. As a Wife and Mother she had always fed her family, and not being able to keep him from starving was causing a frantic desperation.
He started to have brief lapses, glimmers of dementia. He would become confused about where he was, or fail to recognize people he’d known forever.
As she was preparing to give him his shot he looked at her, his eyes watery. “Please don’t do that, lady. Please don’t hurt me again.”
Her eyes burn and her throat is tight as she whispers “I’m sorry Daddy. I’m so sorry.”
That night she had an idea. She knew her father wouldn’t agree, but the desperation in her mother’s eyes made her think she may have an ally there. So she began to make the butter.
She filled the bottom pan with water and placed four cubes of butter in the top pan. Placing the double boiler on the stove she went to fetch some weed.
The jars where like those you might find in any kitchen, clear glass with locking lids. They didn’t hold beans or pasta though. They contained the best of the best. Her head stash was a collection of outdoor strains grown organically in real sun. Some were hers, some she had traded for, or even outright purchased from friends and neighbors assuring that she would have a variety of Humboldt’s finest to enjoy until next fall. They weren’t labeled. They didn’t need to be. The buds varied in color, shape and density, and if you opened the jars their distinct odors made identifying the different strains easy.
She contemplated the choices, wanting something mild in flavor and odor. She pushed aside the Headband and Sour Diesel. And she pulled out the Blue Dream and Peach Mist. They both had a mild aroma with each bearing hints of the fruits they were named for. She decided on the Blue Dream. Peach Mist was sweet and delightful but had a tendency to be a little cerebral. She wasn’t going for an intellectual high. The Blue Dream had more of a “Eat a bag of Cheetos and watch a comedy” effect, so she pulled out a handful and threw it in the little bullet shaped coffee grinder.
Three quick pulses and the grinder had turned the plant to a near powder. She unplugged the grinder and upended it into the pan of melted butter. Tapping the bottom and running a finger around the inside to make sure she got it all, she set aside the grinder, retrieved a whisk from the drawer and stirred the ingredients. That done she fetched a Pyrex bowl. The cheesecloth was a bit of a frustrating hunt. She knew she had some, but it had been a long time since she had used it. She opened every drawer and cupboard before remembering that it was it the utility closet with her canning supplies and other infrequently used kitchen items. By the time she had trimmed a piece and lined the bowl the butter was nearly done. It had taken on a greenish tinge and the kitchen was filled with its herbal blueberry smell.
She stood there whisking it gently while in her head she doubted her plan and her motives. Would her mother be willing to try it? Was it a betrayal to feed him a drug whose use he had vehemently opposed? Was she really just hoping to ease his symptoms, or is she trying to in some way validate her own choices? Was she willing to risk a final rift if he were to discover the deception? Finally it was the thought of her Mother, the worry carving lines into her face every time he turned away from a plate or waved off yet another offered treat.
She decided that the only thing that mattered was if it could help. If it could make anything better, if there was a chance at all, she had to try.
She poured the butter into the cheesecloth lined bowl and let it cool slightly before picking up the edges of the cloth and beginning to gently squeeze the contents down, milking the liquid from the cloth while separating out the green solids. The end result being a glass bowl of greenish fluid on which she placed a lid, before sticking it in the fridge to cool.
The next morning as she carried the butter to the car she was wracked with another attack of self-doubt. Was she really going to suggest that her mom dose her father?
These two people who’d raised her to follow the rules, be a productive member of society and a decent person, they didn’t understand her choices. They’d believed the propaganda about pot. When she’d given up the lies and began being honest about what she did for a living, how she lived her life, they were positive that if she hadn’t already begun to shoot heroin, she soon would.
Her father, in one of the many, many, fights about it had begged her not to “rot your brain with that crap”.
When she was little he’d been so proud of her quick mind.
Fearfully, he’d pictured the frying pan and egg that he’d seen on T.V. The sunken eyes and track marked arms of junkies on police shows. Never in his life had he tried an illegal substance. Her insistence that it was no more mind altering than a glass of white wine, were the words of an addict. She was in the grip of a drug that was going to at the very least get her put in jail and could likely kill her. He told her as much, and she’d laughed. The laugh, her startled response to his dramatic ideas, to him was a sign of the drugs making her blind to reality. There had been no middle ground.
Over time those battles had waned. They had seen her smoke pot at various social gatherings. They were embarrassed that she did it in public, but over time they saw that there was no dramatic change in her. The focus of their fear had drifted away from her spiraling into a life of addiction, and settled on the undeniable fact that she may end up in prison for what she did.
It was an improvement.
She stood on the little stone path facing the street holding her bowl of contraband butter trying to work out the words she would use to explain this idea. Everything sounded bad. If she couldn’t get it right in her head how could she possibly expect to convince her Mother?
A neighbor drove by with a wave and friendly smile making her aware that she was standing in the yard holding a bowl like some kind of idiot. Irritated with her weak resolve she did what always solved her problems. She moved forward. Life is a series of steps, little ones, big ones… these steps only had to get her to the car. So she shut off her mental debate and took the next step.
At her parents’ home she kept it simple. She found her mother in the kitchen standing at the stove frying an egg. She kissed the older woman on the cheek in greeting.
Her mom smiled. “You’re here early.”
Then she said it “I wanted to bring you this butter. If you use it when you make his cookies, I think it might help his appetite.”
Her mom deftly slid the perfect egg onto a plate and set it aside. Turning she looked at the glass bowl with its green contents. The younger woman fearful of her mothers reaction wasn’t even breathing. She just stood, holding out the bowl, eyes full of worry.
“You think it will help?”
She can only nod.
“Will he taste it? Oh….. he can’t taste anything. What am I talking about?”
She realizes her mother has her hands on the bowl and she releases her grip.
She stands awkwardly, watching as her mother takes the bowl to the counter. Placing it there she goes to the fridge and begins to gather the ingredients. “Honey, could you grab the flour for me?”
The house filled with the sweet warm scent and when they were finished the kitchen table was covered with cooling cookies.
Her mother took two, placed them on a paper towel and filled a glass with milk. She carried them to the living room and put them on the little table beside his chair. “Why thank you, dear,” he said giving her a little pat on the behind. She leaned down for a kiss and smiled into his faded blue eyes.
“What are you two hens up to in there?”
“We’re just visiting and thought we’d make you some cookies.”
“Well, aren’t I lucky?” To reward her efforts he picked one up and dutifully bit into it. He smiled and nodded to her while chewing and she returned to the kitchen.
The women quietly put everything away. Wiping down counters and loading the dishwasher, the nervous conspirators kept their hands busy till there was nothing left to clean. They then began to clear the table, storing the cookies in a large Tupperware tub.
That done, they sat at either end of the table, her mother engrossed herself in a word search puzzle book, while she read the paper.
The sound of him getting out of the chair had them looking at each other like guilty school children. He came into the kitchen with an empty milk glass and the paper towel. He put the paper towel in the garbage and refilled the milk glass.
“Darlin’ if you wouldn’t mind, I think I’d like a sandwich and maybe another one of those cookies.”
The reply was automatic, “Of course.”
As he returned to his chair, the women sat for a moment staring at each other. Tears began rolling down the two sets of smiling cheeks.
“You heard your Father. Let’s get the man a sandwich!”
“More cookies” by Spiralz from England – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:More_cookies.jpg#/media/File:More_cookies.jpg