Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Kitchen with Esperanza

The last of the turkey has been eaten - today I made enchiladas with the last of it - and, pardon me for saying so, I am glad the leftovers are out of my refrigerator. Leftovers are not my favorite thing. They do not taste like the day they were made, I don't care what anybody says.

Tonight I am making sopapillas for Miss Abigail. She has liked them since she was a little girl - back when my mother made them for her. Here is my mother's recipe:


4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbls sugar
1 1/4 cup scalded milk, cooled
1 Tbls shortening
1 pkg yeast
1/4 cup warm water

Combine all the dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to cooled milk. Add to dry ingredients. Knead dough 15 to 20 times. Set aside for ten minutes. Roll dough into 1/4-inch thickness and cut into squares. Fry in melted, hot shortening, a few at a time. Dust with cinnamon sugar and serve with honey.

Save none for leftovers. They are only yummy the day you make them . . .

Monday, November 16, 2009

Abigail on the Classics

I am starting to feel my mortality.

I can sense within me that there is an intruder and that my own body has surrendered to it. Have you seen how an animal who has no will to fight lies down in front of its competitor and exposes its tender belly? Inviting its own defeat? This is how I see it, almost like a spectator watching from the last row in the arena. I am not in a war with the cancer. I am its spoils.

Lauren has stopped asking me to at least consider treatment. The treatment is not a cure, my dear Lauren, I told her, more than once. It will only delay the inevitable and fill those extra days with nauseating frustration. Besides. We are all appointed a time to exit. Most of us don't have the odd gift of knowing when it is. It is odd. And it is a gift.

Mercy's diary will probably be published after I am gone. I am quite fine with this. I won't have to wonder if Lauren and I did the right thing and not being able to do a thing about it. Even now
I still wonder.

The gallery is under construction and despite my money, influence and daily badgering, I may well be in my grave when it is finally finished, too. I am not quite so fine about that. Lauren took me to see the progress made so far. It is a great scraping of the earth and a huge slab of cement at the moment. Hard to believe it will be beautiful one day - a great white edifice of art and music and literature.

I am re-reading my favorite books while I still have the time. Today I am reliving the melancholy magic of Wuthering Heights. I can almost smell the heather . . .

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ask Clarissa

It was bound to happen. I knew there would come a point in our budding relationship when John Beckett would ask the "If There's A Good God Then Why" question.

Everybody has to ask themselves that question at some point, you know? They either come up with an answer they like or they don't. If they don't, they ask other people that question - many times over - 'cause they simply have to have an answer for it. It's the question of the ages.

We got into it, like John and I usually do, at the coffee shop, on my break. Some little kid who lived in the neighborhood where he grew up was kidnapped, abused and then killed. He knows the parents. It's horribly tragic. So right now John Beckett's pretty ticked at God. I mean, if there's a good God and he can do anything, then why the heck didn't he stop it?

I told him I agree that the situation is horrendous. Tragic. The person who did this is a monster. But I asked John if he was ready to take his question all the way to its logical conclusion? Which is what? he said.

Which bad things do you want God to stop? I asked him. All bad things? Just some of them? Which ones? Where do you draw the line? On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is cataclysmic natural disaster, and 9 is mass murder, and 8 is the killing of an innocent kid, and 7 is the car accident that leaves you paralyzed, and 6 is your spouse leaving you for another person . . . well, you get my drift. Where do you draw the line? You want God to intervene all the way to 1? All the way to you getting a flat tire or breaking your ankle playing tennis? No? Then where do you want him stop? At 5? At 8? Where do you want him to intrude on the natural outworking of our moral choice? Do you realize if you want him to intervene all the way to 1 you have just eliminated the need for doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, policemen, the military, hospitals, prisons and courthouses? Where do you want him to stop, John?

There's no reason he couldn't have stopped this, John said, pointing to the article in the paper about the kid.

Well, how many reasons have you thought of? I asked. Do you really think mere mortals are capable of thinking of ALL the reasons there could be?

He started to get mad. Whose side are you on? he growled.

I laughed, but not in a funny way. I said, Who said anything about sides? This is just the way it is. It's a matter that is too big for sides. I am just telling you if you are going to stick with your argument, you need to consider how it shakes out when you take it all the way to where it stops.

John stood up. You want to tell that to this little boy's parents? he said coolly.

They didn't ask me, John. You did.

Well, what if they did ask you? What if they did ask you why God let this happen?

That's a different question, John. I don't know why. I don't think anyone has the answer to that one.

John stood up to leave. I didn't think you were such a big fan of God, he said.

I didn't think I was either, I told him. I am however a fan of keeping it real. If you're going to believe in something, believe in it all the way. If you're going to believe God should stop bad things from happening, then believe in it all the way. Keep it real, if you're going to bother to keep it at all.

John said, If this kid was your little brother, I doubt you'd feel the same way. Then he left without saying goodbye.

Everyone's convictions about what they believe are tested when they lose something - or someone - they love. Maybe John is right. Maybe I would feel differently if that little boy had been my brother.

But this isn't about how any of us feel. It's about what is and what is not. . .

I don't want to think about it anymore, it's making my head spin. And I have to get back to work. The afternoon crowd is coming in for their hits of caffeine. I'll ask Lauren about it tonight. She's a fan, as John would say. . .

Monday, November 2, 2009

Love, Lauren

Dear Raul:

The diary is as good as printed. The last changes I could make to it, I have made, not that there was truly anything to change. A word here and there that I had to guess at because Mercy's ink had faded were the only words I seriously thought about changing. And it's done. The galleys for Mercy's diary have been sent back to the publisher.

In a couple weeks, those pages will go to the printer. The publisher has decided to expedite the first printing and have them available by Easter. Today, they sent me a PDF of the cover. I honestly wasn't sure if I liked it, Raul. It was so simple, so unpretentious. Ryan thought it was perfect. So did Clarissa. But Abigail and I kept gaping at it, wondering, I suppose, for the umpteenth time if we're ready for Mercy's heart and soul to be laid bare. The cover image looks like softened leather, brown and warm like a saddle in the sun. And across it is the image a of quill, a bit of ink, and the cap of colonial woman, folded loosely. It evokes the strangest feelings in me.

The publisher has decided on a title and I am learning to like it. Diary of Innocence. There is nothing outwardly wrong with it of course, but it has always just been Mercy's diary to me. It is awkward to think of it having a name other than just that. Abigail asked me if I liked the title and the cover and I told her it's not as if I like them, it's as if they must be what they must be. That makes no sense, I know. And yet she knew exactly what I meant.

For now, I can let the diary go. There is nothing I need to do between now and April. Clarissa said she will get a website up and running for me and Ryan said she'd design the look for it. The foundation has been laid for the Mercy Hawyworth Arts Center and construction will begin as soon as the cement is dry. In southern California, you can build whenever you want. . .

I feel a little useless at the moment. Midterms kept me busy the last couple weeks, as I am sure they did for you, too. But they are done. I feel untethered.

Like I don't know how to prepare for what comes next. . .

Miss you,

Love, Lauren