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May 13, 2024

Going Hungry 45

By Sand Pilarski

Chapter Forty-five: Turkey Talk

And that would be Lolo's car, Gloria observed, eyeing the immaculate white Honda Accord parked at the curb in front of the house. I could just sneak in the outside garage door like Will does and slip straight into my room. Think Mommy would even notice? She turned off the engine, suddenly noticing that Will's car was not in the driveway. Had he come home and left again, or had he still not come home, at nine-thirty? Of course she'd notice. And then she could find me home in my room, acting like a sore-headed little teeny-bopper. I'll take the front door like an adult.

With a deep breath, she opened the front door and entered the house. Philli was soundly asleep in the recliner. That was a relief. Then Gloria turned to go into the kitchen for a glass of water, and there the dirty whore was, talking softly on a cell phone. Lolo smiled weakly, put one polished finger to her glossy red lips, then pointed at Philli. Gloria nodded noncommittally, put a little bag of groceries on the back of the counter, got a glass and some ice, and took the water back the hallway to her room. She stopped by Ben's door, listened, heard Saruman the Wizard deep in monologue, and tapped on the door lightly.

"Yeah? Come in."

"Ben, where's Will?"

"Still at Salvi's, didn't Mom tell you? He's staying there tonight." He paused the movie on the laptop.

"She's asleep."

"Okay. Will called and said he and Salvi and Salvi's dad were working on a project in Salvi's barn, and they wanted to get it done before the rain hits on Monday. He didn't say what the project was, but he sounded happy. Who'd you go to Foodtown with?"

"Steve, from work. Ran into him at the hospital."

"The Steve you refused to go out with when he called. Maria's Idiot, I recall. Something happened to make you change your mind."

"Maria talked about him a little. She calls him an idiot, but she thinks he's a nice idiot. I think that's the highest accolade I've ever heard for a man."

"I always heard that employees aren't supposed to date each other," Ben said, eyebrows furrowing.

"Yeah, I asked Steve about that. He said the Bakers don't mind, in fact their house manager Thomas is married to the woman who runs their warehouse. As long as the employees are professional at work, and don't let the relationships screw up the business, it's fine. Get all drama and trauma, though, and out they go."

"I'm waiting to hear how Steve was ... and the food. Come on, Sis, cough up the goods."

"Steve's very nice," Gloria smiled. "And the food was wonderful. We went to Little Danny Angel downtown, and had mountains of french fries. Mountains. They were so good I almost forgot Steve was there."

"Okay, then. For my birthday, we are going to go there."

"Can't. It's a bar."

"I'm going to stand outside on the sidewalk and you are going to go in and get me an order of fries to go."

"That'll be a cheap birthday present. Speaking of which, Will's comes up next week. What can we get him?"

"Been thinking about that. Maybe some decent work gloves -- he's been cleaning out some of Van Duyken's sheds, and I saw his left hand all scratched up."

"Ben, you're good. Is Van Duyken making work so he can keep giving Will money, do you think?"

"Dunno. But a lot of the crap Will is doing is stuff Pete wouldn't do. I guess Pete didn't think much of farm work, from what Will says. But Will loves it, which I would never have believed in a million years."

Gloria shook her head. "Me, either. It used to be a major mouth battle just to get him to take out the trash when it was his turn. Apparently you and I didn't pay him enough. Listen, there's a bag on the counter with mayo and ranch dip mix. I'm going to do some experimental cookery tomorrow, so don't snort it or use it for hair treatments or anything."

"The extra turkey, I'll bet."

"You got it. I'm going to cut it up and brine it tonight."

"Brine it?"

"Yeah, salt water bath over night. Supposedly it tenderizes the turkey."

"Just what we need, more turkey. I'm ready for some pork chops, or some chili."

"Not a bad idea, chili. But even if all I do is freeze the stuff, I've got to cook up the extra turkey."

She left him to his DVD and changed clothes, thoughts turning to her dinner with Steve.

He'd been surprisingly easy to talk to, him asking questions about her life (what there was of it) and telling her about himself, and the places he'd been. They talked about the Baker household, and what the future would bring, the spring vine trimming, the fungicides, the big spring barbecue at Easter, the outdoor dinners of summer. When he asked her what she liked to do in summer, she'd snorted in sudden disgust. "But you know, that's just it. I didn't do much of anything, just took a few classes and hung around with my girlfriends, shopping and poking around down town. It was just -- get out of the house as soon as chores were done and find someone, something to entertain me until I had to do homework or more chores. Sometimes we'd sit out at someone's backyard pool, but even then, we got bored because there were always younger kids splashing and shouting. So I don't know what I'm going to do with summer, and you know, I don't care. As long as I still have a job, nothing else matters."

He'd nodded, frowning a little. "I understand. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, Thomas and Gracie -- they live on the Baker farm -- have drinks and noshes on their patio for whoever wants to come over and hang out in the evenings. That's kind of pleasant. Maybe you'll join us now and then."

It was an infusion of hope for Gloria, the idea of planning ahead in comfort instead of worrying about what disaster was going to strike next. In an old t-shirt and shorts (because her mother really was keeping the house uncomfortably warm) she scuffed her way back to the kitchen, slippers making a noise meant to warn of her arrival.

Lolo was still -- or again -- on her cell phone, but she left the kitchen and went down the hallway when Gloria hauled the thirteen-pound cheap turkey out of the refrigerator and plunked it in the sink. Listening to the advice of Maria in her head, she laid out her tools. Cookie sheet for cut up parts. Chef's knife, kitchen scissors, heavy cleaver, a big wad of paper toweling, cutting board.

Using the kitchen scissors, she cut away the plastic wrapping around the bird and threw it (and the included "gravy" packet) into the other bowl of the sink. The bag of giblets and the neck followed them. With the back of one hand, Gloria turned on the cold water; she rinsed the turkey inside and out. Ben showed up to turn off the water for her. She patted the meat dry with the paper towels and began to liberate the wings.

"What are you going to brine it in?" Ben asked.

"I don't know. I want to see what the pile of turkey looks like before I get containers out. I've never done this before, I just read about it in a magazine." Wings off, drumsticks separated, thighs' turn.

"That was fast."

Gloria chuckled. "Maria watched me cut up a chicken and told me to have confidence in my knife. 'Don' piss around with your chickens,' she said."

He lowered his voice. "See, this is what bugs me about staying home and being the good little school boy. You and Will are both happier than I am, happier than I've ever seen either of you, even when Dad gave you your cars. I want to have that kind of happy, not have to put on this cute face all the time to cover up the freakin' boredom."

The cleaver made short work of splitting the breast, but she had to alternate between it and the kitchen scissors to remove the backbone. "I'm not bothering to brine this," she said. "Just roast it for the drippings. Ben, I don't know what to say. You're earning money with your computer business, just hang tight. Frankly, you don't have a choice just yet."

"Yeah, yeah, go to school, clean your room, speak politely to your elders --"

"I'm your elder, Will's your elder, when do you speak politely to us?"

"You're not my elder, you're my older, you hag. There's room for the chili pot, that should do for your brining machinations."

She washed her hands again. "Thank you, Ben, for the definitive answer. So, hog, what's 3/4 divided by four?"

"A little less than 1/4, or do you need decimals?"

"Well, duh. I should have figured that out right away myself. I hate math, I don't even know why I thought I could become an accountant. I'm going to make the brine; the recipe I read said to use 3/4 cup salt to a gallon of water, but I want to make it by the quart to start, because I don't know how much I'll need and I don't want to waste the salt."

"Quart measure coming up."

"My god, you knew where it was."

He stared at her in exasperation, putting the glass measuring cup on the counter. "I know where every damn thing in this house is now. When I started making our shopping lists, I realized I was living in a shell, letting everyone else find things for me. So when I was alone in the house, I opened every cabinet door and drawer and looked at all of what was in them. That reminds me, Dad had a bunch of duplicate tools -- I got to ask Will if he or Salvi wants the extras."

"If they don't, we can donate them." With all her cooking and bill-paying and learning Maria's kitchen, she hadn't really given as much thought to Ben's state of mind as she might have. She was guilty as charged of thinking that his taking care of his homework and making his bed was all he needed to do, other than him taking over the laundry and a few other household chores. Treating him like a kid, they way she and Will used to treat themselves like kids. But what could he do, more than what he was doing? Not-yet-sixteen is still not-yet-sixteen.

They mixed the salt with water and some lemon juice from lemons a neighbor had given them, poured it over the turkey. When the pot was in the refrigerator, Gloria began the clean up, rinsing the giblets and washing up the sink. "Want to eat a turkey heart?" she asked her brother.

"Hell, no, you pulled that one on me before."

"That was before I encountered the sage and savvy Maria, who assures me that pretty much anything breaded and fried tastes good. I want to find out if she was right, or if she was just punking me.

"Little bit of flour, some salt, pepper, cumin. Heat up the teeny pan with some olive oil and butter ... slice em up, dredge them in the flour ..."

"How's Maria doing, by the way, I should have asked that when you came home."

"She was stoned out of her mind with painkillers, really funny, but everything went well, she said. Steve said he and Thomas talked to her nurses and they said the same thing. The doctors did some kind of key-hole surgery, so she'll be heading home Sunday night or Monday morning, most likely Monday. There, that's all we need to fry it before we try it."

Gloria took a bite of the sliced turkey heart and popped it in her mouth. "Holy shit, that's not bad at all."

Ben squinted at her suspiciously, but took a slice for himself. He laughed out loud. "Wow, that's a long cry from the rubber bands you made before." He reached for a bit of gizzard.

"Something smells good out here," Philli said, coming into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-03-07
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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