Sunday, February 6, 2011

"The Rotisserie"

“François was right; I do have these tips that come down from my ass.”

I frowned at her, politely confused.

“It’s probably your panty-line.”

“No it’s my fucking ass... Do you think I would look better in a skirt?”

“Well, I think you do have really nice legs; so yeah.” This wasn’t me being honest either, but in comparison to her arms and torso, those legs were pretty amazing.

“You’re such a sweet my black skirt with this shirt would look nice right?”


I was a puppet and Maria was the master; tromping me back and forth with my arms full of kitchenware, nodding my head approvingly after her every voiced idea. Of course she hadn’t asked me for a real opinion; I could never have told her, “No, those jeans don’t look good on you. They emphasize the sag in your bum too much.” But François could. François – who had spent 30 years in prison for robbing banks and now supported a medley of drug addictions – his conscience never stood a chance against cold, easy cash. When I walked into the take-out area he had been cupping the portions of Maria’s buttocks that pointed conspicuously towards the ground.

“There, right there. It’s no good. You see the tips? Ok – give me the money.” Maria opened the cash and handed him a twenty-dollar bill. Dumbfounded, I quickly returned to the safety of the giant espresso machine. Obviously someone who pays an employee an extra twenty dollars for an honest opinion about her ass can be considered insecure. But she was so inept that these occasional bouts of self-doubt tempered my distaste for her. It showed that she did have a vague grasp of reality. Most of the time she did no wrong, and every problem came as a complete surprise – like the sag in her ass.

The Hen was a Portuguese grilled chicken restaurant and take-out counter where I worked. Maria, an Italian Montrealer, owned and ran it with her lover, Farid. Lou, her husband, worked the barbeque. It was a bad soap opera – the kind where passion results in nothing but incessant bad-mouthing and all of the main characters have grandchildren. Complicated, no. Uncomfortable, yes. Though most uncomfortable, for me, was serving breakfast.

“What the hell’s the matter with me? I’m breaking all of the yokes,” Maria would say while pushing another pair of hemorrhaged eggs out of the pan and into the trash.

“Calm down. Take a deep breath,” I suggested once, helplessly, and decided that it wasn’t a good time to warn her against using a metal spatula on teflon.

“They wanted white toast right?”

“No, I wrote it down; she asked for brown.”

“Fuck. Well it’s too late now. Just bring it anyway.” And I did, keeping my eyes averted as I set the plate down in front of a friendly woman who had come alone and would therefore notice the mistake.

“Et voilà.”

“I asked for brown toast,” she reminded me perfunctorily.

“I know. I’m sorry, the cook...I’ll go make some brown ones.”

Maria was rummaging through the freezer. I made straight for the bag of whole wheat bread.

“Did they say something?” she asked with a quick guilty glance.

“Yeah, she wanted brown toast.”


I dropped two slices into the toaster and stood waiting for the ding, vulnerable.

“Bridget, you know that note that I was writing to Farid yesterday? Well, he told me that he ripped it up without reading it and left it in a cup in his car. Except his wife found it and put it back together.” This was Farid’s wife who, according to Maria, had attempted suicide on multiple occasions. I watched her remove a clear plastic bag of something from the freezer. “And it was all about how I know he doesn’t love her anymore and how he stays with her out of guilt and all of this stuff. Farid said to me this morning that if she dies, he’s going to kill me.”

She opened the bag and I realized with horror that what I would be serving was a plate of toaster waffles (you know, Eggos) sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. It was dreadful. For the low, low cost of $9.95, we inserted frozen waffles into a toaster and took them out after the ding.

Most people learned after one ill-fated visit that The Hen could not provide a comfortable dining experience. The only time it was busy was during the World Cup final. Twenty minutes before the game was scheduled to start, Maria told François, the delivery guy, and a few other randos that she wanted a television put on the terrace. They quickly carried one down from her apartment above the restaurant, and before long dozens of fans came, took tables, and ordered iced coffees. Later they kicked themselves for giving The Hen this vote of confidence. We were never able to get the sound to work.

But I felt bad for Maria. The business was a last miserable attempt to survive. She had debts – big ones, to dangerous collectors – and she sold cheap food because she didn’t give a shit. And the ambiance was poor because she didn’t give a shit. Nightmarish paintings of roosters wearing aprons and carrying platters of cooked chicken and an inexplicable collection of knee-high ceramic elephants furnished the inside. On the outdoor terrace large parasols advertised beers we weren’t licensed to sell and an unpainted trellis was all that separated the tables from the trash and recycling keep. On especially hot days the area was inundated with thick wafts of rotting chicken carcasses. Luckily for Maria, there were enough tourists, optimists, and general passivity in the world to create a steady trickle of business.

Still, why anyone would come was a mystery to me. When Maria wasn’t “cooking,” she would hover around yelling in her deep gruff voice at Lou (who, as far as I could tell, was good humoured and a hard worker) or she’d sit on the patio complaining to her friends and bewildered customers about how terrible her husband was, how she needed to get laid, how she thought she was dying.

One morning after four blissful days at my leisure I walked into work to find Maria splitting chickens in the back and throwing them onto the coal grill. This was not normally her job.

“Good Morning,” I offered. Then, “Where’s Lou?”

“I kicked his ass out. If he wants to stay out to four in the morning gambling and fucking that whore, then he can find his own place to sleep.”

I wished I hadn’t asked. I also wished Maria would just accept that she and her husband were in an open relationship. Apparently Lou had a girlfriend with whom he periodically escaped to Martinique on vacations. But if Lou was no longer going to cook at The Hen, I didn’t know how I would cope. He was the last affable worker left. A few weeks earlier François had managed to get an advance from Maria for sixty bucks and was never seen again. I missed him. He had made me laugh with his mischievous winks and giddy whistling as he poured himself the day’s first paper cup of beer somewhere around nine a.m. He had also shared his life dream with me, namely “to get a money truck.” The thought of François sticking up a bank van with nothing but a taser (he swore he never wanted to hurt anybody) was one I returned to with a smile on many occasions, wishing wholeheartedly for his success.

But Lou, he was almost fatherly (in spite of calling me Brigitte Bardot); when I felt exhausted or angry or bored, he would sit at the bar with his cappuccino, listen, shrug, and say comforting things like “All men are dogs” or “Yeah, life’s a bitch, and then you die.”

I stood there looking at Maria’s heavily-lined, tearing eyes – mute. She continued, couldn’t help it; I was that good a listener.

“He’s been out since the beginning of the week. And you’d think that he would have spent some time thinking about things, about our marriage. But, no. You know what the asshole’s been doing?” She stormed over to the wall where photographs of Lou with his kids and a recent Father’s Day card were taped. “He’s been skinny-dipping with that ugly bitch in my son’s pool. The fuck!” She clawed at the mementos, ripped them from the wall, and shredded them maniacally into the garbage.

“I’m sorry, Maria.” I was sorry – sorry for her, for myself, and for her son, for whom skinny dipping in his pool would probably never be the same.

That night I drank with my friend Skylar and let her talk me into quitting. Then I talked her into quitting for me because I was too chicken. She added a bit of throatiness to her voice. We practiced saying “Hi Maria, It’s Bridget” a couple of times in unison. I was delighted and nervous and amused. She called.

“Bonjour, The Hen,” Maria answered in a weirdly sexual voice. I stood listening next to Skylar’s ear.

“Hi Maria, it’s Bridget,” Skylar said.

“Oh. Hi Bridget,” The voice lost its mellifluous character immediately, obviously disappointed. I was terrified but could barely keep from laughing.

“I just called to say that I can’t come in anymore,” Skylar said, painfully.

“That’s fine, Bridget.” Skylar hung up. Her worried expression softened to a smile. My smile sunk into a frown. Once again, I was unemployed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pidgie T's


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Surprising Oneself and Making Friends!

On my way to a friend's for a surprise visit I smelled coals burning. Down the block on one of the side streets the origin of this irresistible perfume revealed itself. A "Smokey Joe" bar-B-Q on a stoop. A boy and girl sitting on the steps by the flaming coal-pot.
I had to get in on this.
I asked if it was a "public bar-b-q" and then gently wove myself into the fabric of their evening. They were admirably open to my introduction. I shared my rasberries. They shared their grilled asparagus. A couple of them would be officially graduating in a week from university. A couple were older like me. One was from Oregon. One would be working in Cape May for the Summer. One was a freelance photographer. One was a theater major at BU. One was a history buff. It was neat to get a flavor of these people's lives in such an unrehearsed, informal way. I'm grateful for the friendly reception and also proud of my own unintimidated instigation of an acquaintanceship. Why doesn't this happen more often? Anyone?
Something neat is that one of the party works at REI, which is a type of outdoor/ adventure equipment co-op. I told him that I had been there the other day to buy a few specific things. He wasn't working that day but had he been I would have asked him questions and talked with him about my plans rather than this other fellow who is apparently called "Abel" and works the same position. The point is, last Sunday I had a helpful chat with one employee (Abel), and a few days later I met someone who knows the former personally and works the same exact position.....I love it when places shrink like that! It makes the world seem less like a mountain range and more like a large garden...People as the plants (native, exotic, cultivated)- traceable, recognizable, and worthy of observation.......

All I did was decide to take a walk!

Rant, rant, rant....time for bed.

Springtime scribble at the trainstation.

The solar noon angle is high.

To paint, to write, to blow a dandelion's orb of seeds; the sun's caresses and glances are invitations to creativity, to exploration, and trust in the mythical.

It is always in Spring that these expectations exist to feel beauty and meaning continuously, everywhere.

As the world tends to disappoint, it is also a season of violent polarizations in mood where Melancholy presides over a court of glees and glums.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sixteen Years Earlier,....

"Race you to the hedges," shouted one eight-year-old to the other. And they were off, Edith's dress flapping against her little legs as she ran across the lawn. Tailing her was Robin. As he overtook her, Edith tried blocking him with her right arm. He thrust it down and sped ahead with a joyful shout. A moment later, just as he reached the hedge and would have slowed himself, a cat ran out, and with another yell, though not the victorious kind, he lurched head-long into the bushy wall. Edith collapsed in a heap of shrieking laughter. Robin extracted himself from the hedge with some effort and sat next to her, grumpily plucking tiny twigs and leaves from his clothes and hair. The hedge showed a fresh, boy-sized cavity which Edith could not lay her eyes on without crowing and flopping back onto the grass in hysterics. 
Once recovered, she quickly wiped the tears from her cheeks and said,
"Do not worry, Mama won't be mad. Oh, you're hurt! Let's get you to Mrs. Hornby. She'll treat those scratches!" Robin had a few lights cuts on his face from the collision. They walked back to house, Edith's arm wrapped around his shoulders. He was smiling again.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chapter 3

In keeping with his promise to interview the gentlefolk of the area on the subject of the mysterious gem, Robin had commenced his efforts by paying a visit to Edith. After he had gone, she convened with her mother in the parlor from which, for the last five years, Mrs. Ockley had scarsley ventured but to dine and sleep.
Edith's mother was a very slight, elderly woman. Recently, her eyes had clouded over with cataracts. For this reason, Edith could often be found reading aloud or practicing the piano forte for her mother's amusement (most reliably when there was some social event taking place which her mother would otherwise have happily attended). Mrs. Ockley greatly appreciated this entertainment as before her eyes went out, she had been in the habit of paying frequent visits around the neighborhood and walking through the garden. Though her sister, who lived only three miles down the road, would call weekly and other neighbors also paid regular visits, there was now a great deal of time in which Mrs. Ockley had to be contented with those impressions that reached her in the parlor by the window. The maid often recounted the village gossip for her keen ears. Birds sometimes sat on the window sill and recited for her their honest poetry. Edith's company and personal reflection, however, were the most highly valued comforts.
Edith spoke of the extraordinary event of the previous evening.
"I wonder, my girl, why your cousin was given leave to traipse all around the county with it. The whole area must now be aware of his carrying it. Any miscreant would think himself foolish not to seize such an opportunity."
"You're right." Edith sat considering these notions. What else could be done to discover the gem's backround? If the inquiry became less intimate- say, an advertisement in the Times- a large number of individuals claiming to have lost an identical ruby could be expected to surge into the village with grandiose tales and performances intended to evince rightful ownership. That was not an option. Should it be sent to London to be investigated by the police? Perhaps, if Robin was unsuccessful, it could be handed over to the authorities, or a private investigator employed. However, the stone could not have suddenly trans-located from a vault or jewelry case. It had been either intentionally or accidentally left in the Engles' kitchen; intentionally or accidentally tucked by someone into the pastry. Seeing that the entire batch of fiddlehead tortes had been overdone save the one containing the ruby, it also seemed plausible to Edith that the certain torte could have been removed from the oven and "fiddled with" while the rest continued to bake.
What worried her mother also began to worry Edith, and she decided to send Robin a letter advising him to cache the ruby in a safe place whilst occupied by the business of uncovering its origins. He would have to change his approach and thoroughly describe the gem to those he queried. A giant ruby, after all, was a rare enough thing not to be mistaken or forgotten. It could not be safe for him or the stone to travel around as such an unguarded pair. She penned Robin her thoughts as Mrs. Ockley listened intently to the meaningful scribble.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chapter 2.5

He collapsed onto the bed, an induced bleariness softening the threats of his unsure future. What's done is done, he told himself. Sensitivity had been temporarily shed through swills of liquor, but his mind was still trapped in the undertow of a certain subject. It was now by habit that he dwelt upon the problem. Day and night, thinking.
He had been there for weeks before identifying an opportunity, an innocent, public occasion for the task to move into its next phase. It could have been easier, too. His jaw clenched as he remembered how simple the plan was meant to be. Go to the county, find the family, and bring back the son of twenty-four years. But the surname of this family, the title disguising one's true identity, and the only clue for such an undertaking was permanently gone from his head. When it had been told to him, there were bottles being passed and loot being divided. He remembered the evening well. A mean fire with meat roasting, the sky spread over with orange and pink. Worth had patted his shoulder and motioned with his head as if to say "come with me", so he had followed along the shore a few yards, and there the business was laid out .
"You're the only one I would consider asking to go. You, unlike the rest of the crew, have wits as well as guts. I can imagine you leading your own expedition one day, commanding a crew, securing a real fortune... If you accept my offer and carry through, you'll possess all you need, except for that bit of luck, to become just as rich and feared a captain as I."
He was garuanteed two shares of whatever was taken while he was away. In addition to this, once returned, if successful, he would be given command of the Sapphire, a recently captured sloop.
"Ughf, three sheets, I was," grumbled Jasper as he kicked off his boots and pulled the blankets around himself. Many nights since had he spent with his head in his rough hands, cursing the surname he could no longer remember. He had located the nearest town, gone through the registry, but the space in his skull once occupied by the single, crucial word had collapsed. There was only a horrific blank.
"Take this," his Captain had said, holding out the large ruby, "and when you find the right man, give it to him. Tell him it's time to join Captain Adam Worth. But, don't let him out of your sight. You'll bring him regardless of what he thinks he wants. If you fail to return with him or with the stone, I'll find you and you'll die- squealing like a pig. " Captain Worth fixed him with a stare, grave and deadly, as the the ruby was passed between them, the offer accepted.
"Damn you, Worth," Jasper whispered in the dark. His familiarity with the Captain gave little reason to doubt that vengeance would be madly sought should Jasper break with his end of the bargain. Worth's threats, when unheeded, were always brought about- usually with more extravagant brutality than promised. No, Jasper would have to stay and wait. The ruby had already attracted someone he could easily suspect. He had heard the young man's keen interest expressed in tones of a most familiar rapture, and if he failed to locate the right man, any one near his twenty-fourth year would need do. Zeal for pretty prizes could only serve to convince his master, and if his master was convinced, his fate was secure.

The bottom dweller

My photo
A highly civilized and refined animal limited mostly to the bottom of the atmosphere and prone to over analyzing what it's worth.