Monday, October 03, 2011

The Turn

Last week's class went well. It's a good mix of people and everybody seems to have a fair amount of talent and education. I didn't make an ass of myself, either... at least as far as I can tell. I read my assignment and everybody laughed in the right places and not at me. Success!

In class we reviewed a piece by Robert Coover in a recent issue of the New Yorker that was a pretty challenging piece to follow. It was definitely nothing close to a linear narrative... it felt kind of like being between two mirrors facing each other and seeing yourself reflected to infinity, except every third reflection was a stranger.

This week's assignment was even more difficult than last. Rachel gave us the task of writing something that, at some point, turns. There is a flashback, tangent... something... that leads us away from the main narrative, and then comes back again. Or at least, that's how I interpreted her direction. And this was supposed to be in one page, which I failed miserably doing. It's hard enough for me to get a cohesive idea going in one page, much less put some kind of departure in it.

So I did my best... and somehow it involved food again. The last three pieces I've written have featured food prominently. Perhaps I have a problem.

Pecan Pie

    The waitress stopped in front of the booth and whipped out her pen and order pad. “Know what you’d like?” she asked.

    “Just coffee,” said Jeff.

    “And you, sugar?”

    “I’ll have a coffee too, and a slice of pie,” said Andy.

    “Sure. We got apple, cherry, peach, pecan, (she pronounced it PEE-can) blueberry, rhub...”

    “The pecan, (he pronounced it pe-CAHN)” Andy replied, and the waitress squinted at him a second and wrote on her pad. He wasn’t sure if she was irritated at his interruption or the way he pronounced it. She ripped off their order and stuffed the rest of the pad in her apron and the pen behind her ear.

    “I don’t believe she likes you,” said Jeff. “I try not to annoy people with access to my food when I can’t see them.”

    “All the same, it’s pe-CAHN where I’m from.”

    Then Andy found himself sitting at a card table with his two cousins from Michigan and a kid from church that they’d brought home because they were Christians and didn’t like to see people go without on holidays. A plate sat before him with a bit of dry, white meat, (mom had given one leg to the kid from church and the other to Uncle George), a small mound of mashed potatoes and a larger mound of stuffing. Stuck over on the side was a tiny portion of canned cranberries, which he never ate, but was put on his plate anyway. They were on the porch and it was hot. A fan spun noncommittally above them. The unusually warm weather made the typically non-seasonal Florida Thanksgiving even less so.

    The kid from church had already eaten all the meat off the bone and was gnawing at the cartilage on the end. In fact, everything was gone from the plate. Even the cranberries were gone, with only a pink smear to indicate they had ever been there. He didn’t say much, and Andy didn’t want to start a conversation with him.

    Andy ate the stuffing and mashed potatoes and enough turkey that he knew he wouldn’t get hollered at for wasting food while people were starving in Armenia. The cranberries remained. The kid from church kept his head down and tried not to make eye contact with the Andy or his cousins.

    “Mom... I’m done. Can I have some pie?”

    Andy’s mom brought over four plates and set them in front of the kids. There were three slices of pumpkin and one pecan, which she placed in front of the kid from church.
    “There was only one slice of pecan left, so it will go to our guest” she said, smiling. “He told me how much he just loves pecan pie.”

    The kid from church smiled and thanked her. Andy hated him a little for getting the pie, which he’d wanted, and for eating the cranberries, which he didn’t.

    Then Andy picked up his fork and cut off the point of his pecan pie, 1200 miles and thirty years away from that hot Thanksgiving at the kids’ table on Grandma’s porch.

    “How’s the pie, sugar?” said the waitress, pulling her hair back behind her ear.

    “It’s great... just like mom’s,” Andy replied.

    “Get you boys anything else?”

    “No,” they replied in unison.

    “Here’s the check then,” she said, placing the bill on the table with a smiley face and her name, “Pearl”, written in large, looping script.

    A streetlight flicked on low and slowly brightened as it warmed up and illuminated the snow which had just begun falling outside.

    “I think she’s forgiven you,” said Jeff.

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