Friday, June 19, 2009

Author Intrusion

I need to break in here for a moment to let you know that The Shape of Mercy blog will go quiet next week while I am away from "the office." I don't think I will be anywhere near a computer so I hope you will hang tight and come back the week after next to see what The Girlz are up to.

I can tell you that in the coming weeks Clarissa will have another run-in with John Beckett - and another date with Cole. Raul will rekindle an old friendship with someone from his past while he's in Guadalajara which will through Lauren off balance a bit, Abigail will get some disturbing news, and Esperanza will try sushi for the first time. Don't stay a stranger.

And for fun, here's a picture of my good friend, Susan May Warren, who's in Holland at the moment. She came across a Dutch version of The Shape of Mercy. Pretty cool, huh? Thanks, Suz!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ask Clarissa

So I am in the coffee shop this morning and this guy comes in during a much-needed lull. He’s got his Bluetooth thingy in his ear and a laptop and the morning paper under his arm. He’s drenched in cologne, is wearing a gray suit that looks and smells like he just picked it up from the dry cleaners, and he’s chattering away to someone he is obviously trying to impress. On his phone.

So he gets to the counter. He’s looking right at me while he’s telling Prospective Client how wonderful his company is. He holds up a finger like he might need another minute before he can reenter the real world where I and the coffee shop exist.

I smile nice and say loud enough to make his pointed head jerk a teensy bit, “No prob!”

It is delicious turning away from him and busying myself with the pastry shelves. I get the attention of Mindy who’s building the drinks this morning and I tell her the guy at the counter is mine. She smirks and gets a big bag of beans to grind for the next onslaught of caffeine addicts.

Mr. Cell Phone is pacing a little. He wants his coffee. He wants the deal. He wants everything. He leans over the counter to get my attention. He snaps his fingers. Dear Mindy grinds the beans next to me. Clever girl. I pretend I don’t hear him. Mr. Cell Phone grabs a napkin from the counter and a pen out of his pocket and scribbles something. I am thinking it is his coffee order. I begin to hum a happy tune. Mindy grinds a few beans.

A man comes in the store and smiles at me. I cheerfully ask the new guy what I can get for him. He happily tells me he wants a dark roast with room for cream and a blueberry scone. We complete our transaction with lots of cheerful small talk and the whole time Mr. Cell Phone is jockeying for position so that he can wave that napkin in front of my face, all the while chattering way on his Bluetooth. I give the new guy his change, wish him a fantastic day and immediately turn back to the pastry case to straighten th
e straight doilies.

At long last Mr. Cell Phone says goodbye and the moment he does I look up at him. “All set?” I say oh-so-sweet. He huffs, with a little smile of his own on his face, like I am a cute, dumb blonde who needs a lesson or two on napkin-waving. “I was trying to get your attention!” he says, shaking his head in just about the most patronizing way he could.

“I was trying to get yours,” I say, just as cool as you please.

His mouth drop opens a bit. His glassy, I-need-my-coffee eyes widen. Have I just said what he thinks I have just said?

Oh.yes. I have. I detect the slightest snickering from Mindy.

Mr. Cell Phone simp
ly doesn’t know what to say. I can tell he wants to turn on his fancy heels and go get his coffee elsewhere. But he needs his coffee and he’s got an incoming call.

“Tall cinnamon latte, no cream,” he says flatly.

“You got it,” I respond and I take his five dollar bill. I hand him his change and ask for his name so that I can write it on his cup. He says, “This is John Beckett,” but he is saying it into his Bluetooth, while looking straight at me. He tips his head, as he continues his phone conversation, like he’s saying, “There, smart aleck. You have my name.”

I write “This is John Beckett’s latte” on his cup and wish him an exuberant nice day and I hand the cup to Mindy.

He walks away, and looks back once, and I can tell he’s wondering if he should report me to the manager.

“I am the manager!” I call out to him, with a smile and a wink.

After John Beckett finds the farthest corner of the shop to finish his phone call, Mindy turns to me.

“You know that

“That’s John Beckett,” and I pick up the napkin he left on the counter. It is scribbled with
T Cin lat no w c.

I crumple it and toss it in the trash.

I gotta text Cole. He’s gonna love this. . . Oh, yeah. We went on a date Saturday night. But there’s nothing to tell. Yet.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Love, Lauren

Hey, Raul:

You’ve only been in Guadalajara a week and it already feels like months since you left. Tell your mama and hermanas hello from me.

Plans for the arts center are coming along. Abigail and I have hired a female architect to draft the first set of blueprints. This gal is someone my dad knows and really likes. She has designed a beautiful art gallery in New York and a stunning museum of modern art in Miami. The rest of her portfolio is impressive.

I also have to admit I like it that she’s a woman. It just seems appropriate somehow. I don’t mean for that to sound bad. I just think of all the women in Mercy’s life – and in mine – that have had such a pivotal effect in this journey, and it just seems right. For Mercy, there is the memory of her mother, and the women who were accused before her, and the Goody Trumball who tried to help her. And Prudence, of course. And then John Peter’s sister who gave the diary back to Mercy’s family – to Mercy's cousin’s wife. Then there is me. And Abigail. And Esperanza. And even Clarissa.

I mentioned all this to Cole and he told me I was being sexist. Cole also thinks I should re-write the ending of the diary so that Mercy comes back from the dead to haunt the people who falsely accused her. Since you know Cole, you know he’s only half-kidding.

Did he tell you he’s coming up to Santa Barbara this next weekend to see Clarissa? Like, a date . . .I am not sure what to think. I don’t want to see either one of them get hurt. Sure, Cole seems like a self-assured lady’s man, and Clarissa is a street-smart chick who won’t take crap from anybody. But inside they are as fragile as the rest of us.

We shall see . . .Miss you,
Love, Lauren

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mercy's Quill

From Mercy Hayworth's book of poems and stories

September 1, 1691

Morning breaks across the hill
Flood of sun, a steady spill
Sings the dawn, a heady trill
Be gone, night! Be gone, chill!

Birds take flight, across the mist
Into velvet blueness kissed
All around, above, amidst
Light now reigns and will persist

Until the hours fade to gray
Begins the end of this new day
It soars without me to heav’n – away!
The morrow waits and I must stay

Monday, June 1, 2009

In the Kitchen with Esperanza

Today I share with you my version of Baja Fish Tacos. When people come to the West Coast for the first time and they hear "fish" and "tacos" in the same sentence, they get a little worried that if they order one at a restaurant they will get a taco made of cat food. I have served these to countless reluctant Easterners who always want the recipe afterward. They judged before they tasted. Never a good idea:

Esperanza's Grilled Baja Fish Tacos

1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tblsp vinegar
Juice of one lime
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
Dash of red pepper flakes

You can use cod or tilapia. This is enough to coat 1 lb of fillets. Let them sit in this for 30 mins before you grill them. It’s good to use a mesh grilling basket because tilapia especially becomes very delicate as it grills and flakes easily. You will lose it all in the grill. You can grill them in foil packages, but then you give up texture and visual appeal. A grilled piece of white fish looks better than one cooked in foil. The fillets will grill quickly. No more then 8 to 9 minutes total cooking time. Yes, it's true that some fish tacos feature fillets that have been battered and fried. Yes, they are yummy. They are also bad for you.

White sauce
½ cup mayo
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ chopped fresh cilantro
Lime juice
Couple dashes of tobasco
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Serve the grilled fillets in warmed corn tortillas with the white sauce and shredded white cabbage. You simply cannot use lettuce. Cannot. Must be white cabbage. Chopped tomatoes are good on top. Baja fish tacos are never served with grated cheese. So don’t even go there.