16 Still Life

       Phoebe first unwraps the fryers. She opens and reaches in drawer next to the sink. She pulls a pair of disposable plastic gloves, snapping at the wrist she puts each one on her long slender hands. She lays the fryers on their backs on a sheet of wax paper on the countertop next to the sink. She turns around to the stove behind her, opens the storage drawer at the bottom, and pulls out a large foil roasting pan and a cookie sheet. She sets them down on the countertop on the other side of the sink. Phoebe picks up the first carcass and inspects it flipping it over and over in her hands. She pulls a disposable lighter out of her apron, strikes it, and carefully burns away any remaining hairs and feathers off the wings, joints, and tail. She pulls out the giblet sack and sets it aside. She turns on the sink, runs cold water over the carcass, and puts it in the pan. Phoebe picks up the next one and repeats until all the fryers are ready for spice and to be cut.

 

       Ethan replaces his aunt's journal under the bed, and heads to the bathroom. He has a couple of hours, but wants to get something to eat for brunch. Patel usually has some good breakfast tacos with potato, ground lamp, egg, and pepper. Cold or warm, they are good.

       I'll shower later. I'd bail on the party, but i don't think Joel is going to let me; Ethan thinks to himself. He really wants me to meet Bridget, but I am not sure why? Every woman he has introduced to me has been someone he couldn't date. I hope she is not a total freak. The '68 Buick is cool, interesting, but who maintains a car like that? A nerd? A freak? I am hungry.

 

       Phoebe turns around again and reaches up above the stove to an open cabinet full of spices. She stands on her tiptoes and reaches for a pint size, plastic jar with a handle and shaker lid. It is her mom's paprika dry rub. She sits it next to the sink. She pulls a white plastic cutting board from a cabinet under the area she is working and lays it on the counter top. She sits one of the chickens on it face up and reaches around it to the left, hanging behind a knife block, several large knives cling to back splash with magnets. She pulls off a large cleaver, and with one full arm stroke from the top of her reach to center of the carcass, she splits the chicken in two. Phoebe also learned this from her mother. Her grandfather was a small-town butcher.

       Comma says it makes him nervous every time and prefers to be somewhere else when she is prepping any meat for the fire. What could she do if she got really angry with him? She's killed live chickens with her bare hands, swinging them like a jumping rope with one quick stop, jerk, and snap.

 

       Patel's wife, Aarushi, is working the bodega this morning. She works mornings, he works nights, and they trade the kids off between the two of them. Patel's uncle and cousin will help out from time to time, if either of them is unavailable or both need a break. Ethan is a regular. They know him by face.

       Aarushi smiles as he approaches the register. If they have any tacos, they are usually in a hot warming box behind the counter. The infrared lights are on, a good sign.

       “I have samosas. Lamb, potato, curry or pannier, curry, and spinach, what would you like?” she asks as Ethan stares over her shoulder at the case. Samosas are more like a stuffed dumpling. Aarushi is wearing an olive green sari. Silver double earrings jingle as she moves her head. “They're fresh today.”

       “No tacos?” Ethan asks. Lamb kabob, bell pepper, potato, and curry with a mint yogurt wrapped in naan bread is an Indian taco. Not a tortilla and a little thicker, but close to the traditional shape. Grilled meat and vegetables on an indigenous bread are standard folk food.

       Aarushi smiles, “no, no, sorry.” She giggles and adds, “the receptionist from Costa's legal office bought them all a few minutes ago.”

       Ethan sighs. “What's funny?” Is she laughing at me or flirting?

       “Forgive me, sir. The child said the same thing, but we call them wraps.” Aarushi says. “Cultural harmonies are interesting in a good way, don't you think?”

       “Yes. I guess a taco will always be a taco to me.” He proclaims.

 

       Phoebe finishes all the meat with her dry rub and stacks it in the tin roasting pan, in reverse order to add to the grill. She covers the pan with foil and moves it to the bottom of her refrigerator, beside two medium watermelons. It is a commercial size upright with one large door. Next to it is an upright freezer. Comma rebuilt both from a bodega fire. She removes the gloves and throws them in the recycle bin.

       “Com,” she calls out through the window above her sink. “When are you going to pick up the beer?”

       Comma is un-cinching his home made patio sun cover. It's 10' by 10' blue, black, and white sailing canvas that he picked up at boat re-sale shop in liquidation. He unties the poles next, and releasing a trailer winch, he lets the overhead frame fall towards the deck. He drags each of the side poles out the edge of the deck and shoves each of them down into an old galvanized wire fence posthole in a concrete anchor. When he took the fence down some time ago, he sawed the corner post off and left the anchors just for this purpose.

       “IN A FEW,” he wipes his brow and looks up from the task. Comma returns to the winch and tightens the sail.

       “Do you have enough wood and charcoal for the grill?”

       “YES. NO.” Comma shouts back to an empty window. He'll pick up a couple of bags when he makes the alcohol run. The hardware store next to the package store has a special on 25 lb. bags.

       Phoebe pulls out a wooden stepladder from beside the stove, and opens it next to the cabinets at the corner of the kitchen. She climbs up and steadies herself with the doors. She rummages through the bin pulling out several 1950’s, Anchor Hocking, serving dishes that she found at flea markets, rummage sales, and resale shops. Pink, light blue, Amish pattern, green, yellow, a purple flower, and even black are a part of her collection. It's a mad hatters mix of color. She checks the cabinets next door for paper plates. “Comma,” no answer. “COMMA,” she yells at the top of her lungs.

       “What the hell,” he says as he enters the kitchen through the back door. “Are you okay?”

       Standing at the top of the ladder, she turns; her face is red. “I'm good, but we need paper plates.”

       “Plastic glasses, forks, spoons?” he asks.

       Phoebe steps down off the ladder, “no, C.” She only calls him C when she is tying to get him to focus. “You know I can stand plastic silverware.” She has a huge collection of old place settings; some match complete and others are random orphans.

       “Okay. You better make a list, Phibby.” Comma says, picks up and folds the stepladder. When he first met her, between working on her roommates plumbing and sipping their home made olallieberry wine, he called her Phibby for an entire week, until Seven corrected him. “You know I'll forget.” He puts the ladder away.

 

       “I'll take two pannier and one lamb.” Ethan tells Aarushi. He looks back toward the cooler, “do you have any cold, RC cola?”

       “I don't know,” Aarushi answers. She turns her back, plucks out a wax paper server's tissue and opens the food cabinet. “You will have to look for yourself.”

       Ethan turns and walks back to the drink refrigerator. He opens the door and hunts around in the case. He sees two 12-ounce cans of RC Cola and takes them. Do I need anything for the barbecue later? He thinks to himself as the first door closes and leaves a fog in the glass. He steps over to the wine. It's a decent selection for the context, but nothing really extra-ordinary. He stairs in the case for a moment, and in the back, he sees the bottleneck and screw top of a familiar high school giggle. It can't be, he thinks to himself. “It can't be?” He recalls at the glass and presses his nose against the door.

       “What is the needful?” Aarushi asks again, patiently waiting.

       He turns an looks up. “Huh?” He turns back to the case and opens the door.

 

       “Don’t dawdle,” Phoebe hands Comma a list of last minute items, “it’s already noon.”

       “Don’t worry. Can I stop at the electronic resale; I need a patch cable in case someone brings an iPod and wants to DJ.” Comma pauses.

       “NO.” Phoebe emphasizes. “Don’t you have something you can use in your treasure room?

       “Probably, but its not where I usually keep it. Did you borrow it?” Comma asks.

       “WHAT?”

       Comma takes the list and slowly reads it over to her, “Number

1. Pony keg of Trumer

2. Case of 2-Buck-Chuck

3. Sturdy, compostable paper plates

4. Recyclable party drink cups

5. 40lbs of ice…”

       “Our ice machine isn’t working?” He interrupts himself to ask. He rescued a small restaurant size ice making from a bankruptcy. I little rewiring and it works perfect, but is old enough not to be energy compliant. Probably why the taco shop gave up the Trickle-Down/On ghost.

       “We forgot to plug it in last night. It’s going to take a while to catch up.” She answers

       “Number

6. 2, large purple onions

7. 4, heirloom tomatoes…”

       “I thought you’d already made a market run?” Comma stops again.

       “I forgot some things, OKAY?” Phoebe growls.

       “Sorry.” Comma knows he is pushing his luck, but at least the chickens are cut. “I'll add the charcoal.” He grabs a pen off the counter and scribbles on the bottom of the note, using his hand as a writing surface.

       “Okay.” Phoebe sighs loudly, “You can stop for the cable, but no longer than 5 minutes. We are running out of time.”

       “Number

8. Toilet paper

9. 1 large jar of mayonnaise.

10. Box of condoms…”

       “Condoms, mayonnaise, what kind of party is this?” He laughs.

       Phoebe does not laugh; she sighs again with a little more force, but can’t hold the cold stare. “Silly. They’re for our guests after the party. Discretely available in the bathroom, it’s hospitality.”

       “Anything else? Batteries? Olive oil?” Comma smirks.

       She shakes her head and sighs for the third time. Comma knows that the third sigh is the last before unhappiness begins. He carefully folds the list and puts it in his front pants pocket.

       “Be back as fast as the slip slide can fap me,” He giggles, but Phoebe, still not amused, manages a smirk and rolls her eyes.

 

       Ethan stretches on his tiptoes and reaches deep into the back of the refrigerator case. it is unusually deep. He strains to keep his balance as he wraps his fingers around a light green neck with a screw-top, shaped like a Wild West whisky bottle. He lifts it up and pulls it out. Covered in thick, white dust, can it still be good, Ethan wonders? The label is faded and torn on one corner. He turns it to face him, and an emotional rush of memory comes over him as he reads the label. It is a Boone's Farm Wild Strawberry Hill Wine, something only teenagers or brash uneducated first timers would ever drink. He smiles to himself, and wonders if teenagers in The City ever drank it? It’ll be the hit of the party, he laughs to himself, and only $4.99.

 

 

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