Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Diet - deadline is 8-9-12 9:59 am NY time. (08/02/12)
TITLE: Marmaduke and Mackerel
By Addie Pleasance
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I say probably, because Ray is a few hundred miles away. I’ve been at a seaside cottage for a few weeks, a living illustration of what Ray’s pastor meant six years ago when he used the phrase unequally yoked. I prickled at his words back then, angry at the imagery; I’m no one’s ox. In a rare departure from orthodoxy, Ray married me anyway. To me, his faith was an endearing quirk, something to smile at when my friends asked What do you see in him?
Do opposites attract? Oh yes, they do.
Six years . . . until our differences finally collided when after months of testing, the doctors determined that our odds of ever conceiving a child were infinitesimal to none. Ray was uncharacteristically quiet for a day or so, then resumed his usual morning whistling. Unable to bear it, with a stone lodged in my throat, I fled.
Once here, I immersed myself in a diet of local foods, a sort of obsession that crowded out the memory of Ray’s whistling, the shadow of the empty crib. I shopped every morning at the village markets for fresh produce: scallions, radicchio, and plump red tomatoes at one booth, fresh peaches and blueberries from the buxom grinning lass at the next.
A short walk took me to the docks, where fishermen sold the morning’s catch. Inside their tattered coolers I’d find indignant crabs, beautiful scallops and mussels hiding in their shells, fresh mackerel, haddock, and bass.
Every morning I filled two canvas bags with this delicious fare and took it back to my cottage, thinking of nothing but how I would prepare the day’s meals. I kept a few items in the tiny kitchen and used them to create my simple dishes. Butter and cream from a dairy in the nearby countryside. Salt, pepper, lemon. Green herbs in little clay pots.
This fresh local diet served my purposes well enough. Shopping took the better part of the morning, and I could stretch meal preparation and cleanup into several hours during the day. Any spare moments I spent on the deck, looking out at the waves and thinking of the next day’s shopping excursion. I came to the cottage without any technology, so I wrote out my recipes by hand, thinking that I might try to sell a pamphlet at the produce booths.
If there were hours to fill in the evening, perhaps you’ll not be surprised that I found a nearby vintner who was happy to sell me any number of bottles of fine red wine.
The farmers’ wives in their little booths learned to know my preferences, and sometimes they set aside a particularly delectable tidbit for me. We have some lovely new potatoes today. There’s rhubarb, it’ll make a wonderful chutney. Have you ever tried cloudberries? They grow wild near here. At the docks, too, the weathered and leathery fellows would beckon me over for my pick of the morning’s choicest shrimp.
It was that very shrimp, in fact, that led me to where I am at this moment. I was preparing it this evening (in a simple sauce of white wine, butter, oregano and garlic) when it seemed to me that I was craving not this fresh and healthy fare but a fatty hamburger, dripping with melted cheese. Deep-fried onion rings. A few of those yellow sponge cakes with creamy white filling. You know the ones I mean. In short, I wanted the sort of food that Ray was certainly eating at that very second.
I wanted Ray.
I left the shrimp and got in my car. I’ll settle up with the cottage’s owner by mail, with a generous bonus. This little motel has all I need for tonight, and tomorrow morning I’ll drive the last few hours to Ray, to that annoyingly cheerful whistling, even to the room that was to have been a nursery. We have some things to talk about, Ray and I: blueberries and bluegrass, Marmaduke and mackerel. And yokes. I need to know more about yokes.
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