Archive for April, 2010

Erie Journal, 4/25

Posted in Erie Journal with tags , , , on April 26, 2010 by sethdellinger

Spending, perhaps, the last few hours on this couch in this apartment with my BFF Mary.  Oh, the great times we’ve had in this living room!  Am sad for maybe the first time.  Though I won’t miss her making me watch “Medium” and Cartoon Network.  It’s dawning on me that someday soon, this will actually be someone else’s apartment.  That’s effed up.

Erie Journal, 4/22

Posted in Erie Journal with tags , on April 22, 2010 by sethdellinger

Despite the fact that I’ve still not been to Erie or looked at any apartments (I go to look 5/3 and 5/4), I have begun packing my apartment.  I figure I should get a head start so that as actual moving day approaches, I can worry more about details like address changing, cable and electric bullshit, security deposits, etc.  Well.  Packing an apartment while not moving a single thing out is a bizarre and complicated maneuver.

Firstly, very little space is gained by doing this.  Space seems to actually be lost.  For instance, I packed all my books.  Well guess what?  Now they’re not on a shelf, they’re in boxes, while the shelf still sits there, empty, taking up as much space as it did before.  Here’s the empty bookcase:

Then, all the books ended up in my kitchen in boxes.  Now, the kitchen was actually the first room I had “packed”, and it had been completely empty.  Now it looks like this:

Then last night I ‘cleaned out’ my closet, meaning I sorted all my clothes.  Anytime I move, there are some clothes that just need to go.  I can’t wear them anymore (this morning I took a trip to the Salvation Army and dropped a bunch of bags off).  After sorting through all the clothes and then packing and throwing out various non-clothes miscellany that I found in there, this is what the closet now looks like:

(I’m waiting for room in the dumpster to throw out that big piece of styrofoam.)

Then there’s the random clutter that has been created by the virtue of my attempted uncluttering!  Instead of a barren, more-empty-than-before living room, I am somehow left with (not sure why) this chair, ironing board, jumper cables and huge tupperware box in the middle of my living room floor:

I won’t bore you (yet) with some transcendental musings on the nature of packing.  We’ve all moved and packed our stuff up and saw the rooms that had housed our lives become slowly barren, blank, and bereft of the personalities we’ve given them.  Yep, it’s sad.  But you know that.  After you move enough times, the quiet sadness of moving becomes a familiar inner dirge.

I’m watching “Jennifer’s Body”.  So far I actually like it!

Erie Journal, 4/19

Posted in Erie Journal with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by sethdellinger

As many of you know, I’ll soon be moving from my home in lovely Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to the further-away-but-still-in-Pennsylvania city of Erie.  I will, of course, be documenting the process right here on the ‘ol blog.  The process hasn’t really begun yet, but I thought I should start out with some preliminaries.

First, although Erie is in the same state I’m in, you should know it is just about as far away from Carlisle as you can get while remaining in PA.  Here are the mapquest directions from my apartment to Erie.  As you can see, it’s over 5 hours away, so really, truly, I am moving away.

Another point of interest:  if you’re not from PA, chances are you’ve never heard of Erie, not any more than you’ve heard of Carlisle.  But the fact is, I’m moving to a much, much larger city.  In fact, Erie is the fourth largest city in the state of Pennsylvania.  Have a look at this chart here.  Erie is only behind Philly, Pittsburgh, and Allentown.  And you’ve at least heard of Allentown from the Billy Joel song.  So this may just be a new kind of experience for me.  Sure, I’ve spent plenty of time in and around cities, but I’ve never lived in one.  Is it possible I may get to go to concerts without a road trip?  Or see the coolest indie movies the week they come out?  Or get food delivered after midnight?  The possibilities excite me.

However, I will sincerely miss Carlisle.  At the risk of sounding hokey, a big piece of my heart belongs to Carlisle.  I really really love this town.  I shall try to list reasons Carlisle rules (perhaps to be continued in future entries as I think of more):

Reasons Carlisle Rules

1.  A Civil War battle took place here (it’s even called The Battle of Carlisle.)

2.  Carlisle is home to the Army War College.  This is a kind of badass thing.

3.  It is perfectly positioned for day trips to Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, Pittsburgh, and parts of Jersey and Maryland.

4.  There are two used book stores and one independent new bookseller that are walkable in town.

5.  One of the best American poets, Marianne Moore, spent many years here, and most Moore scholars believe she actually began writing poetry while she lived here.  Badass!

6.  Although its first-run indie films are usually a few months behind, we boast a beautiful, architecturally stunning, and frankly, enormous independent movie theater—walkable from my apartment.

7.  There’s also an 8 theater Regal within city limits.

8.  We have a quaint but useful, economically sound downtown shopping district.

9.  There are 13 parks within the borough.

10.  There are more street fairs than there are streets.

I feel as though there are many more points like this to come as these blogs progress.  I’ll keep everyone updated as events related to my move unfold.  In the meantime…someone find me some golden ginger ale.  I’ve just recently found out about it.  Turns out all I’ve ever had is “dry” ginger ale.  Anyone know where I can find some golden?

Posted in Snippet with tags , , , on April 20, 2010 by sethdellinger

Strange side-effect of the social media age:  it is way too easy—all alone at one AM— for me to watch videos of my ex-girlfriends playing with their infants while their husbands whom I loathe ask for directions from the front seat of their SUV.

Seth’s Favorite Poems

Posted in Seth's Favorite Poems (by other people) with tags , on April 19, 2010 by sethdellinger

I’ve avoided doing it for years, but I can avoid it no longer.  I just want to do it so badly.  From time to time, I’m going to post one of my favorite poems (by another author) here.  I am not posting them in any particular order, and I’ll provide no commentary.  I’m just putting them out there.  Because it seems fun.  So here’s the first one:

Grass

by Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.

When They Decide Not to Wait For You (fiction)

Posted in Prose with tags on April 13, 2010 by sethdellinger

Miller returned to southern Ohio in time to offer some help and kindness to his failing parents.  After their deaths he found a place in the woods to live and a job as chef in the dining facilities of a state park.  Often in the morning he drove an hour or more to the markets in the city, there to determine the day’s special at the state park cafeteria.  With the crates of fresh selections snuggled into his station wagon, his thoughts on the ride back confronted the culinary equivalent of the writer’s blank page.  Sometimes his head swirled with exciting ideas; other mornings he was in a panic upon returning with the same old eggplant and squash and zucchini and nothing but the dullness of the word ratatouille standing by to mock him.

He lived right on the grounds of the state park, preferring it’s protected forest to the reality of the nearby Ohio hamlet, and Ohio coal town left for dead years before.  Each evening he retired to his cabin where he savored a bottle of good wine and watched TV and sometimes wrote in his journal.  The wine he drank never affected him.  He had studied under some of the best chefs in Paris for many years before getting his own restaurant in Lyons–he had never been the least conscious of his wine consumption until moving back to the States, where any repeated tropism passed for addiction.  Now, like an alcoholic, he drank in secret exactly so people wouldn’t think he was an alcoholic.  He always woke up early, thirsty for water and orange juice.

On this day he was up before dawn.  On his porch, he dipped pieces of a stale baguette into his bowl of coffee and watched the sunrise turn the fog into a magician’s trick.

He was happy to see Parlon Dieter’s truck turning up the dirt path toward his cabin.  He went inside and poured a second bowl of coffee, tore off half a baguette, and carried out a tub of butter.

Parlon Dieter was around sixty, big and strong, with a full head of barely greying hair matted down by his hunting cap.  In the back of his pickup were six rabbits, a deer already dressed, and a single duck.  Miller knew without asking that the deer was two weeks dead.  They both agreed the extra week took out the gaminess.  The other hunters could barely wait the seven days, and the deer tasted of their brutish rush.  Dieter’s patience paid off, and now Miller bought his venison only from him.  He briefly checked over the kill and gave a buyer’s nod even though he would be lucky to move a single rabbit.  He wished he could serve venison to the crowd of salesmen coming to the small convention at the park this weekend, but they were suburbanites working for Ameritech, and he had already ordered dozens of Cornish hens, pre-stuffed, all of them in a row exactly alike.

Parlon Dieter accepted the bread and bowl of coffee with a polite thanks.  His bare hands, sealed thick with callouses, acted as their own set of protective gloves.  Dieter’s wife June had the same kind of hands.  She worked for Miller in the lodge, chopping and cooking in the kitchen, and often Dieter stood by and watched her, the admiration on his face.  He was a shy man whose natural good manners overcame a mountain-man taciturnity.  With each visit to the cabin stuttered out a tiny chapter from his life as if this were the payment required for the coffee and bread Miller had waiting for him.

The two of them stared into the distance as they slurped up their bowls.  They were up on a crest and they could see the length of rising and falling woods extending to the horizon.  Miller’s cabin was hidden and alone, away from the ones rented on a weekly basis by budget-minded families, Ohioans for the most part who had grown up without an ocean and contentedly boated on a man-made lake.  These were the people he cooked for in the summer, vacationers who wanted a tuna melt for lunch and breaded chicken for dinner.  As for his chef specials, venison in traditional brown sauce, duck quenelles and shiitake mushrooms, or stuffed rabbit with cream sauce, it was only because he bought the meat cheap from hunters that his budget could allow it.

The sunrise had burned off most of the fog except in the hallows.  Down there Parlon Dieter hunted ruffled grouse, rabbit, wild turkey, deer, and squirrel.  Dieter confirmed the rumors of bobcat returning, and he told Miller that in recent weeks bald eagles had been spotted on the high rocky knobs to the north.  “Seen a couple bald eagles tumbling in the air as a boy,” Dieter said, “lovebirds spinning themselves into a wheel.”

Then Dieter fell silent.  He held his bowl of coffee with both hands, as a potter might, and stared down into the dark liquid.

“That was a sight,” Miller finally said.

“It was,” Dieter agreed.  “My dad was with me.  Wanted ever after to see it again.”

Miller enjoyed listening to Parlon Dieter talk.  He enjoyed the way the words had to push through his big-man shyness.  He liked the way Parlon Dieter accepted his coffee French style and drank it like a Frenchman.

After another long silence during which Miller considered sharing something from his own life, perhaps his wild boar anecdote, Parlon Dieter said, “Haven’t told you much about my dad.  Save that for later I guess.”

Dieter noticeably relaxed.  He seemed relieved to know what chapter he would be required to narrate next visit.  Maybe then Miller would tell him about the wild boar splayed across the sidewalk.  The boar lay across the sidewalk in the village of Ardennes, a chocolate swirl of blood issuing from it’s mouth.  Had Miller not been a young chef’s apprentice at the time with a still rudimentary grasp of the French language, he would have marched in and asked for the honor of designing a recipe for this beast at their doorstep.

He had traveled to the village with a companion of his, a struggling fellow apprentice from Yugoslavia.  The dead boar sparked their hike the next day with an unknown excitement.  Immersed as he and Goran were in culinary techniques, the tangled black magnificence of the Ardennes woods seemed another version of the dark forces and grand complications at work in a several-course French meal.  The trees, dramatically bullet-scarred from World War II, were known to jam the teeth of buzz saws with all their ingested metal.  His struggling, bewildered friend from Yugoslavia reminded Miller of those fatal childhood tales woven in forests like these.  Goran’s talent was not strong enough to lead him out of the thicket, although for Miller the forest, as well as cuisine, easily parted into it’s separate ingredients.  It was Miller’s temperament to know all the trees, to recognize with as much effort as two plus two equals four, the birch, beech, oaks and aspen.  As soon as he realized that Goran could barely distinguish a contrast between and pine and hardwood, an obtuseness which in the kitchen would translate to likening cumin to cinnamon, his throat tightened with foreboding.  With three years’ passing, Goran was more than ever the lame boy trying to keep up with the piper’s song.  He suffered a nervous collapse and fled back to his home in Sarajevo.  That had happened over twenty years ago; perhaps Goran was dead now.

For a moment Miller forgot about Parlon Dieter standing next to him.  The fog in the dark hallows of the Ohio woods, evaporating as he watched, captured the sensation breathing on him late nights, a feeling growing ever-vaguer that visited sometimes when he was writing in his journal and found himself addressing an entry to an old friend.

Parlon Dieter put down his bowl on a tree stump.  He stabbed the rest of the baguette into his shirt pocket and drove off in his truck to deliver the meat.  The baguette poked out of the shirt pocket like an oversize fountain pen.  Miller knew the big man would need the bread for later, something to munch on to keep his shyness busy.

He took the bowls inside and laid them in the sink.  He caught his own eyes distorted in the metal band as he rinsed out the coffee beaker, and was encouraged to check his reflection in the glass of the Civil War photograph he had framed.  Young soldiers in Civil War uniforms disappeared in the glare, and he could see only himself.  Then he gave in and went into the bedroom and stood in front of the full-length mirror.  He still admired himself but without the pleasure he once felt, a pleasure like too many calories.  He was glad Parlon Dieter had never asked to use his bathroom, where he would have spied his shelf of skin creams, and his layered presentation of towels, over-the-hill divas in their preposterous colors and staginess.

He got in his station wagon and drove to the lodge.  The restaurant, the Wren’s Room as it was called, was in the corner of the lower floor, the one spot where the lodge extended into the mulchy beginning of forest.  Because of the trees, the natural lighting usually felt dreary, and everything seemed damp.

The large dining area was empty except for William, a local boy around seventeen or eighteen.  Promoted to head waiter, he was trying out another new arrangement of tables.  The dull lighting coated the windows with silver so that the boy could watch himself while he worked.  The boy’s enjoyment was clear—he was tasting himself, his appetite growing.  The first few restaurant tricks Miller had shown him had made the boy downright giddy.  About once a week William’s father showed up and sat alone, letting his son wait on him.  The father was a foundry worker who made historical markers for the whole country.  He took a stated pride in the fact that the molds came from West Virginia dirt.  He seemed to take equal pride in his boy and the way each week William might have a little improvement to show him, a linen napkin draped over his forearm, something that told the father the son was prospering in the job.

Miller smiled.  The boy turned around, then came over to take Miller’s garment bag off his hands.  Miller had brought a suit and tie for later, should he decide to play host to the visiting salesmen.  Probably not.  Since sunrise, when that feeling had surprised him and a scrap of his lost companion had floated home, he had begun thinking of how to arrange his evening.  Wine, to be sure, a Bordeaux; perhaps the duck Dieter had killed.  His books would be arranged around him, the journal in his hand, but he would turn on the TV.

In the kitchen, June Dieter was already at work on the rabbits, and there was Parlon Dieter beside her.  She chatted to her husband amiably about one of her old-fashioned topics as she brought the cleaver down six times and deposited the heads in the plastic bag he held out for her.  She was in her late fifties.  Her hair was corded with grey.  She wore it long, tied back in a thick mane.

The baguette was still poking out of Dieter’s pocket.  As soon as Miller walked through the door, Dieter reached for it.

“Want these heads?” June Dieter yelled over.

“No.  Take them.”

“Brought you some thyme and basil and cilantro from my garden.”

“Good,” Miller said.

“What are you going to do with these rabbits?”  She didn’t mind asking questions one after another if there were answers to be had.  Her voice was always on the loud side, and smartened with the whipcrack of Christian cheer.  She was the best there was at dressing and butchering game.

She asked, “You doing the special with the white sauce?  Parlon sure likes it.”

“I don’t know yet.”

She wiped her hands on her apron and turned to face him.  “Samson Meats’ll be here at ten with the Cornish Hens.”

Miller said, “Will they bring them to us frozen or defrosted?”

“Good question.”  June Dieter strode to the kitchen door and pushed it open.  The door swung back and forth.  “William!” she called through the swish, the cleaver slapping against her thigh.

The boy rushed in as if June Dieter had blasted her coach’s whistle.  Miller moved over to his counter, the counter where he created, and studied the row of herbs and oils.  He picked up the thyme Dieter’s wife had laid there and pressed it against his nose and face.  He pulled down the garlic.  Already he was finding his way.  He almost knew what to do with the rabbit.  He would know in a little while.

He glanced over at William, stuttering out a response to June Dieter.  He felt a surge of unwanted power over the boy.  He would have to school him in the intangibles.  First was to remove nervousness from the body language.  Nervousness made people feel their control over you and that was deadly for a chef.  The diner should feel privileged, delightedly helpless, and always a little afraid.

He knew William had grand plans, plans to escape this town, this state, plans to be a European chef.  He didn’t even have to ask.  It was there in the boy’s looks, the suppressed yearning of his slenderness, the quivering elfin miserableness of his features upon making any mistake.  Now William couldn’t answer June Dieter’s question, and his terror showed.  He didn’t know if the Cornish Hens would arrive defrosted or frozen, even though he had taken the message.  Two blooms of red fired up his cheeks.  Miller heard the adhesive in June Dieter’s voice.  Ripping.  It was this ability to summon fervor that made her a leader.  He had discovered her making beds in the lodge, and, oh, what a find: her rough face had discharged an energy commanding Miller to put a butcher knife in her hand.

“Somebody just came in and ordered pancakes,” William added, blanching behind his bright flush.  Under June Dieter’s stare, William’s face ebbed and throbbed with discoloration.  It was June Dieter, not Parlon, who had told Miller about the son they had lost to leukemia and how the six grandchildren their two daughters had given them made her confront her one great hell-bound sin:  an inability to love those six enough to make up for the one she’d lost.

“We’re not making pancakes,” she told William.  “We’re too busy, and where’s Ada?”  She moved to the kitchen door and looked out.  “Oh, it’s just Henry and Lorraine out there.  Parlon, crack a few eggs on the grill.  They’re getting eggs and toast this morning.”

William’s face twisted.  “You tell them,” he said.

“Out!  before this cleaver finds your head!”

It was cartoonish the way the kitchen door fanned the wind in their faces, so quickly did William depart.  Miller knew the son June Dieter had lost had been about William’s age.  He could see her fighting against the kind of calculations a God-fearing person should not make.

Parlon Dieter began cracking eggs into a bowl.  The big, strong man tapped the shell ever-so timidly, turning the egg with each tap to check for a break, then using both hands to pry the halves apart.  He did that six times, and the clumsy innocence of the sight was as pleasurable to Miller as watching the finest chef at work.

June Dieter moved in to help her husband.  Her hand swelled atop the spatula Parlon was holding.  Together they stabbed at the eggs, then shoved them onto a plate.  She flung her iron-colored pony tail over her shoulder with what appeared to be flirtatiousness—for Dieter was watching her closely—and she kicked open the door, and delivered the breakfast plates herself..  She left no doubt about whose hands had guided whose when they had first learned to love each other—and now, lesson given and lesson received, it was easy to picture them pawing each other in bed, something unbearably forceful in their tussling.

After delivering the eggs to Henry and Lorraine, June Dieter sat down to chat with them.  The boy, William, jerked with some confusion at the sight and went back to arranging chairs.

Miller took a handful of thyme and began wandering.  He went into the dining room and walked its far length, away from the two diners.  The floor to ceiling windows returned his reflection.  Outdoors and indoors merged so he appeared to be impaling himself on branches as he paced.  He paused for a moment at the large stone fireplace.  He was standing in the Hansel and Gretel corner, or so he called it.  The trees created the illusion of living deep in the forest, when in fact twenty feet away in the other direction the mowed grass and masonried landscaping began.  An all-cement porch with some umbrellas overlooking a wedge of man-made Ohio lake.

Yesterday or the day before, June Dieter had brought in some corn fritters, and they were good, though he had limited himself to one, and now he was thinking of having her fry up the same batter but as a type of burrito, and upright sheath to hold and display the rabbit stuffing he would create.

He pressed the herb to his nose.  Thyme.  He loved the name and the smell.  He looked out the window at the illusion of deep woods.  His face, too, was out there, hung on a tree and returning his gaze.  He drew close to the glass to lose the mirror effect.  Outside, the forest panted its beefy halitus; the soil held the breaths of gloom in its dampness.  Fifteen thousand years ago a glacier had sliced through this park he was living in, bringing with it the nutrients from all its travels.  Fifteen thousand years ago human beings were the fable that frightened the dark woods.

“June”, Miller said, a soft declarative sentence, hardly meant to be overheard, but in a second June Dieter was up from the table and there by his side.  He didn’t understand how it was that people became so important to you.  His parents, too late, were important to him.  They had brought their peculiar boy into the world and had tried their best, though he had taken too long to understand this, and the love he had for them at the end was in fact a nostalgia for the love he should have had all along.  Then there was Goran, their relationship literally forged word by word as they learned a common language together.  And now in a different way was this woman June Dieter, whom he had found making beds in her white uniform, the frilly short-sleeve cuffs absurdly girlish against her bread-kneading forearms.  And her grey pony tail—ridiculous, of course, except when it worked and became not ridiculous at all.  June Diter had taken a youthful braid, an aging face, and confidently served it up with Appalachian zest.  It was what he had tried to do in cuisine, elevating the unlikely and demeaned into an artful collaboration.  It was where he had once succeeded, but not for awhile—not for a long time.

The say a great chef is great for only eight to ten years, and he had lasted eleven, and no one was sorry to see him go.

And so for the people who would never ask why such a man as he was here, the vacationers with their beers and hoagies, mostly avoiding the restaurant and eating out of coolers or cooking in their own cabins, to those Ohioans or Ameritech salesmen who would never ask why a once nearly famous chef had come to a place that made a joke of who he really was, he could answer them:  he was washed up.

Later, the Ameritech salesmen sat in two rows at the banquet tables and they looked alike, every one of them. The occasional female head or Asian black crewcut or latte skin was an illustrator’s trick to hide the exactly repeated pen strokes.  The people were drawn all the same.

“This puts the death in death row,” Miller said to June Dieter.  They watched from the kitchen.  June Dieter had stayed late to do the cooking, and Miller was padding her timecard to make sure she was well rewarded.  He hoped she didn’t notice that the signs of life she had tried to breathe into the pre-fab meal were completely lost on the samey salesmen.

He put on his coat to leave.  He didn’t care if they were satisfied diners.  They didn’t have the dimension to like or dislike his food.  Rubbery baby carrots and a baked potato were just their speed, a dead and buried geometry to go with the Cornish hens.  Yet June Dieter had tried for more: she’d whipped up bowls of garlic mashed potatoes and carefully seared fresh asparagus.  William served each salesman individually, exhilarated by the stylish gestures he could employ to spoon out gobs of starch.  Then he poured them wine Miller would’ve used for mouthwash.

“I’m leaving,” Miller said.

June Dieter’s eyes roamed over him a but roughly.  “All right,” she said.

Although the dining hall had been closed for the banquet, a man had slipped in and now sat alone at a table by the fireplace.  He seemed patiently entertained by the banquet’s doings and especially by the pomp and flitting-about of William.  The man’s presence had lit the boy’s panic flares.  Geri and Willa—the two night servers—coped with the man’s presence by pretending he wasn’t there.

The man wore an Ohio parks sweatshirt—Ohio, the heart of it all!—the same design as the one on display in the gift shop.  A ruse, Miller spotted instantly.  The man’s smile was too close to an ironic sneer.  The haircut revealed a knowledge of style.  His skin had been looked after.  Then the man brought out a book, and Miller knew.  He was vain, arranging his image even when no one was looking, playing his own little jokes with the sweatshirt.  A man of the world, or at least not of this little Wren’s Room world.

Drawing closer, Miller glimpsed the manicured hands, the clipped and cleaned nails, and on his wrist the expensive diver’s watch masquerading as a budget Timex.  His hair had been colored, expertly so, but colored.

“You’re being ignored.  I apologize,” Miller said.

“Excuse me!” the man called to William.  “What’s the chef’s special?”

Miller allowed him this.  They had looked each other in the eye, but the man still held Miller as a functionary.

“He must be a local boy.”  The man shook his head.

“I’m sorry, technically we’re closed for a business banquet, but yes, yes of course, we don’t get our help from summering gentry.”

“That explains the manners, or lack thereof.  You, excuse me!” he called again.  He feigned (quite well) condescension, but clearly the man was taken aback by William’s slender good looks, a prettiness that went completely unnoticed against the burly, rifle-rack aesthetic favored in this region.  Clearly the man was aware that Miller understood the subtle arching of eyebrows.  It appeared almost staged for his benefit.

To a scurrying, nearly distraught William the man said “Can you find your way clear to wait on me this evening?”

William stood at the edge of the man’s table, gulping breaths.  The man watched him, loving it.

“I’m your waiter, sir.  My name is William.”

“William, I’m struck by your accent.  What town are you from?  I’m getting a strong feeling you’re from Homer or Gomer or Claysville.”

The man had posed one of those silly, unfair questions meant to ridicule.  Miller’s annoyance swelled into anger, but he knew the expression on his face remained calm, even serene.  He was glad the boy was wise enough not to answer, to retreat into polite bewilderment.

“So what’s the chef’s special?” the man asked.

“Rabbit,” Miller told him.

“I’ll try it,” the man said.  He opened his book, Dante’s Inferno.

“An appetizer?”

“You have appetizers here?”

“I can make one, if you like.”

The man went back to his book.  “No thank you.  I’ll settle for terza rima as my prologue.”

Miller went back into the kitchen.  He opened the refrigerator.    In a bowl was the corn-fritter batter June had stirred up and he had thinned out.  Next to it was the rabbit marinading in a puddle of lemon juice, garlic, and the fresh thyme from her garden.  Too obvious, he thought.  Such predictable seasonings.  Already he saw the man’s amused sneer.

“You’re back,” June Dieter said.

“Yes.” He pressed his palms against the counter.  He tried to muscle the shaking from his hands.  He pressed harder.  Obvious seasonings, perhaps, but no more obvious than Dante’s Inferno. God no.

“Are you all right?”  June Dieter had come up behind him.  Her hands dug into his shoulders.  Such strength, Miller thought.  For a moment he leaned back into her care.

“Just tell me what you want me to do,” she said.

William burst in, panicking over the salesmen’s desserts.

“We’re busy!” June Dieter yelled.  “Do it yourself!”

The pieces of cake were already Saran-wrapped on individual plates.  William grabbed at them and began stacking them up his arm.

“Just put them on a tray!” June Dieter yelled.

William’s arm bent and sent three plates to the floor.  His features struggled to remain composed.  June Dieter heaved a sigh and turned her back on the boy.

Miller looked at the boy’s crumbling face.  Goran, he thought.  He was surprised he hadn’t seen it before.  Miller pulled shallots and cilantro and garlic onto the counter.  Where was Goran now?  The carrots were fresh and tangy; he pulled them down.  Dead?  He asked June Dieter to mince shallots and cut the carrots into cubes.  The wine he needed, Bordeaux, a 1989 Talbot, was in his private, locked stock.  As he fished out his keys, he asked June Dieter to go outside and break him off a juniper sprig.  As he had hoped, Parlon got up to do it for her.  He still needed June to help him.

He was working like a short-order cook, and he liked the way that felt.  He poured a dipperful of corn-fritter batter on the flat grill and proceeded to create the most exotic rabbit crepe in the world.  It had sprung into his mind in the moment of necessity.

Miller’s shoulders rumbled with the train running through his body, but inside his head it was quiet.  He looked up to find June Dieter and William, standing as two soldiers, attentive to his next command.  “Do it right,” he said, pushing the bottle of Bordeaux to William.  “You understand he’s trying to disrupt you?”

William swallowed hard.

“You understand you must stay composed?”

“Do you understand that if you don’t stay composed I’m going to slap you upside your head!” June Dieter warned.

Miller drew close to William, lips to ear.  His whisper was close to a hiss.  “You goddamn hillbilly, how are you going to get out of here if you can’t conquer one smart-ass diner?”

William compressed his mouth, his nose, his rapidly blinking eyes.  Perhaps there was hope for him after all, as there never was, really, for Goran.

After William left, Miller went over to the sink and washed his shaking hands.  June Dieter came over.

“Don’t do it,” he asked.  “Don’t assure me.”

Most of the salesmen were gone now, causing a sudden pressure drop into stillness.  A few remained, chatting over coffee and wine.  The last straggles of tinkling cups settled over Miller.

Sitting on a stool, his dinner plate on a wooden chopping block, Parlon Dieter hunched over the braised rabbits.  “Parlon, tell the man how much you like those rabbits,” June Dieter instructed.

Parlon didn’t say anything, but he nodded.  Sometimes Miller conjured pictures—he couldn’t help it, it was Parlon Dieter’s own stoicism that made him do it—of what that face would look like disfigured in love making.  The spread of pounded features—soft broken nose, a razor slice of eyes, cinder lips—he saw June Dieter taking him further, to the point that pain and pleasure broke apart his poker face.  Miller himself sometimes wanted to love June Dieter, that young hair, that old face, he wanted to grab and smother those two worlds.

William rushed back in.  “That guy wants a word with you,” he said, pulling down another wine glass.

“How can you be out of breath running ten feet?” June Dieter demanded.

“And I think he’s rich,” William said.

Miller glanced toward the wine glass.  “What’s that for?” he asked.

“He wants you to join him.”

“Please tell him I’ve left.”

“But he saw you,” William said.  “He knows you’re here.”

“You heard him,” June Dieter snapped.  “Elvis has left the building, boy!  Do I have to go out there and tell him myself?”

“You join him,” Miller said to June Dieter.  “Why don’t you.  The meal is half yours.”

June narrowed her eyes at him.  He saw her frisky defiance.  God, he thought, if only she’d gotten out of here at an earlier age.

“And what exactly should I say?” June Dieter asked.

“Say, Monsieur is disappointed?

“Well, I’ll just say Monsieur,” she said.  “I’ll say I hope Monsieur is enjoying the meal.  I will,” she said.  “I’ll say it.”

Parlon got up from his stool and, still chewing, watched out the window of the swinging door.  “Sitting down,” he reported.  “And she ain’t being asked to leave.”

************************************************************

“Did he mind his manners?” Parlon Dieter asked in his sincere, wooden fashion after his wife showed up very late at Miller’s cabin.  The two of them were sitting outside, encircled by mosquito torches.

June Dieter pulled a chair into their protected circle.  “Oh, Parlon, honey, that man wants a woman about as much as I want a fly in my soup.”

Miller went inside his cabin to retrieve another bottle of wine.  When he returned, June Dieter was telling her husband, “Good gracious, Parlon, where’s your eyes?  Honey, it wasn’t me he was after.  I was nothing but a bodyguard for that poor little boy.”

“Who are we talking about?” Miller asked, though he knew.

“Parlon, you’re a hunter, and you know about predators and their prey, and by God I’m not explaining it further to you.”

“What happened?” Miller asked.

“Nothing happened.  I didn’t leave until that boy was safe and sound inside his car, I made sure of that.”

“It wouldn’t take nothing to follow him.”

“My lord, Parlon,” she said.  “I can only do so much.”

Miller opened the wine with a corkscrew.  He found himself mimicking William’s theatrical nervousness and flair, and was glad the torch flames distorted everything.

“That boy’s too young to know his own secrets,” June Dieter said.

“He’s young, he’s got time,” Miller said, and got only silence in return.  He poured Dieter another glass, then asked, “So, you seen any bobcat yet?”

“Oh yeah, I seen ’em.”

There was a long pause, long enough for the woods to grow noisy around the hollow of their silence, and Miller could feel June Dieter’s muscles ready themselves to jump in and save the conversation.

Then Parlon Dieter said, “When I’m hunting I picture my son stepping out from behind a tree.  I pick out the tree then sit down and wait for him.”

Even June Dieter met these words with a startled shiver.

Miller thought, I should say something.  I should make a move.  And he thought, I can’t.

Goran had struggled three years before giving up—as giving up he should.  He had no talent.  Miller should have told him.  He should have helped to redirect him instead of helping to foster a dream he knew would be broken.  But then Goran might have left, and he wanted Goran there for him as he rose to success, not that he could give Goran much attention during the ascent.  But for the best people in love, love had to wait for them to become the best—how easy to believe that when you were young.  How easy to say goodbye when they decide not to wait for you.

The blood was striking his temples.  Beat, beat, beat.

“A barred owl,” Parlon said, and got up from his chair.  He walked over to the edge of the woods.

June reached down for the wine.  Miller took the bottle and poured it for her.  “Your husband needs you,” he told her.

“Parlon works things out in his own way.”  She reached over in the dark and took hold of his hand.  “He’ll be alright.”


When They Decide Not to Wait For You, part three

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 12, 2010 by sethdellinger

This is the third and final part of my new short story, “When They Decide Not to Wait For You”.  The previous two parts are the entries below this one.  if you’re the type of person who likes to read things all together, I’ll be posting the story in one whole piece in a day or two.  Thanks for reading!

The man wore an Ohio parks sweatshirt—Ohio, the heart of it all!—the same design as the one on display in the gift shop.  A ruse, Miller spotted instantly.  The man’s smile was too close to an ironic sneer.  The haircut revealed a knowledge of style.  His skin had been looked after.  Then the man brought out a book, and Miller knew.  He was vain, arranging his image even when no one was looking, playing his own little jokes with the sweatshirt.  A man of the world, or at least not of this little Wren’s Room world.

Drawing closer, Miller glimpsed the manicured hands, the clipped and cleaned nails, and on his wrist the expensive diver’s watch masquerading as a budget Timex.  His hair had been colored, expertly so, but colored.

“You’re being ignored.  I apologize,” Miller said.

“Excuse me!” the man called to William.  “What’s the chef’s special?”

Miller allowed him this.  They had looked each other in the eye, but the man still held Miller as a functionary.

“He must be a local boy.”  The man shook his head.

“I’m sorry, technically we’re closed for a business banquet, but yes, yes of course, we don’t get our help from summering gentry.”

“That explains the manners, or lack thereof.  You, excuse me!” he called again.  He feigned (quite well) condescension, but clearly the man was taken aback by William’s slender good looks, a prettiness that went completely unnoticed against the burly, rifle-rack aesthetic favored in this region.  Clearly the man was aware that Miller understood the subtle arching of eyebrows.  It appeared almost staged for his benefit.

To a scurrying, nearly distraught William the man said “Can you find your way clear to wait on me this evening?”

William stood at the edge of the man’s table, gulping breaths.  The man watched him, loving it.

“I’m your waiter, sir.  My name is William.”

“William, I’m struck by your accent.  What town are you from?  I’m getting a strong feeling you’re from Homer or Gomer or Claysville.”

The man had posed one of those silly, unfair questions meant to ridicule.  Miller’s annoyance swelled into anger, but he knew the expression on his face remained calm, even serene.  He was glad the boy was wise enough not to answer, to retreat into polite bewilderment.

“So what’s the chef’s special?” the man asked.

“Rabbit,” Miller told him.

“I’ll try it,” the man said.  He opened his book, Dante’s Inferno.

“An appetizer?”

“You have appetizers here?”

“I can make one, if you like.”

The man went back to his book.  “No thank you.  I’ll settle for terza rima as my prologue.”

Miller went back into the kitchen.  He opened the refrigerator.    In a bowl was the corn-fritter batter June had stirred up and he had thinned out.  Next to it was the rabbit marinading in a puddle of lemon juice, garlic, and the fresh thyme from her garden.  Too obvious, he thought.  Such predictable seasonings.  Already he saw the man’s amused sneer.

“You’re back,” June Dieter said.

“Yes.” He pressed his palms against the counter.  He tried to muscle the shaking from his hands.  He pressed harder.  Obvious seasonings, perhaps, but no more obvious than Dante’s Inferno. God no.

“Are you all right?”  June Dieter had come up behind him.  Her hands dug into his shoulders.  Such strength, Miller thought.  For a moment he leaned back into her care.

“Just tell me what you want me to do,” she said.

William burst in, panicking over the salesmen’s desserts.

“We’re busy!” June Dieter yelled.  “Do it yourself!”

The pieces of cake were already Saran-wrapped on individual plates.  William grabbed at them and began stacking them up his arm.

“Just put them on a tray!” June Dieter yelled.

William’s arm bent and sent three plates to the floor.  His features struggled to remain composed.  June Dieter heaved a sigh and turned her back on the boy.

Miller looked at the boy’s crumbling face.  Goran, he thought.  He was surprised he hadn’t seen it before.  Miller pulled shallots and cilantro and garlic onto the counter.  Where was Goran now?  The carrots were fresh and tangy; he pulled them down.  Dead?  He asked June Dieter to mince shallots and cut the carrots into cubes.  The wine he needed, Bordeaux, a 1989 Talbot, was in his private, locked stock.  As he fished out his keys, he asked June Dieter to go outside and break him off a juniper sprig.  As he had hoped, Parlon got up to do it for her.  He still needed June to help him.

He was working like a short-order cook, and he liked the way that felt.  He poured a dipperful of corn-fritter batter on the flat grill and proceeded to create the most exotic rabbit crepe in the world.  It had sprung into his mind in the moment of necessity.

Miller’s shoulders rumbled with the train running through his body, but inside his head it was quiet.  He looked up to find June Dieter and William, standing as two soldiers, attentive to his next command.  “Do it right,” he said, pushing the bottle of Bordeaux to William.  “You understand he’s trying to disrupt you?”

William swallowed hard.

“You understand you must stay composed?”

“Do you understand that if you don’t stay composed I’m going to slap you upside your head!” June Dieter warned.

Miller drew close to William, lips to ear.  His whisper was close to a hiss.  “You goddamn hillbilly, how are you going to get out of here if you can’t conquer one smart-ass diner?”

William compressed his mouth, his nose, his rapidly blinking eyes.  Perhaps there was hope for him after all, as there never was, really, for Goran.

After William left, Miller went over to the sink and washed his shaking hands.  June Dieter came over.

“Don’t do it,” he asked.  “Don’t assure me.”

Most of the salesmen were gone now, causing a sudden pressure drop into stillness.  A few remained, chatting over coffee and wine.  The last straggles of tinkling cups settled over Miller.

Sitting on a stool, his dinner plate on a wooden chopping block, Parlon Dieter hunched over the braised rabbits.  “Parlon, tell the man how much you like those rabbits,” June Dieter instructed.

Parlon didn’t say anything, but he nodded.  Sometimes Miller conjured pictures—he couldn’t help it, it was Parlon Dieter’s own stoicism that made him do it—of what that face would look like disfigured in love making.  The spread of pounded features—soft broken nose, a razor slice of eyes, cinder lips—he saw June Dieter taking him further, to the point that pain and pleasure broke apart his poker face.  Miller himself sometimes wanted to love June Dieter, that young hair, that old face, he wanted to grab and smother those two worlds.

William rushed back in.  “That guy wants a word with you,” he said, pulling down another wine glass.

“How can you be out of breath running ten feet?” June Dieter demanded.

“And I think he’s rich,” William said.

Miller glanced toward the wine glass.  “What’s that for?” he asked.

“He wants you to join him.”

“Please tell him I’ve left.”

“But he saw you,” William said.  “He knows you’re here.”

“You heard him,” June Dieter snapped.  “Elvis has left the building, boy!  Do I have to go out there and tell him myself?”

“You join him,” Miller said to June Dieter.  “Why don’t you.  The meal is half yours.”

June narrowed her eyes at him.  He saw her frisky defiance.  God, he thought, if only she’d gotten out of here at an earlier age.

“And what exactly should I say?” June Dieter asked.

“Say, Monsieur is disappointed?

“Well, I’ll just say Monsieur,” she said.  “I’ll say I hope Monsieur is enjoying the meal.  I will,” she said.  “I’ll say it.”

Parlon got up from his stool and, still chewing, watched out the window of the swinging door.  “Sitting down,” he reported.  “And she ain’t being asked to leave.”

************************************************************

“Did he mind his manners?” Parlon Dieter asked in his sincere, wooden fashion after his wife showed up very late at Miller’s cabin.  The two of them were sitting outside, encircled by mosquito torches.

June Dieter pulled a chair into their protected circle.  “Oh, Parlon, honey, that man wants a woman about as much as I want a fly in my soup.”

Miller went inside his cabin to retrieve another bottle of wine.  When he returned, June Dieter was telling her husband, “Good gracious, Parlon, where’s your eyes?  Honey, it wasn’t me he was after.  I was nothing but a bodyguard for that poor little boy.”

“Who are we talking about?” Miller asked, though he knew.

“Parlon, you’re a hunter, and you know about predators and their prey, and by God I’m not explaining it further to you.”

“What happened?” Miller asked.

“Nothing happened.  I didn’t leave until that boy was safe and sound inside his car, I made sure of that.”

“It wouldn’t take nothing to follow him.”

“My lord, Parlon,” she said.  “I can only do so much.”

Miller opened the wine with a corkscrew.  He found himself mimicking William’s theatrical nervousness and flair, and was glad the torch flames distorted everything.

“That boy’s too young to know his own secrets,” June Dieter said.

“He’s young, he’s got time,” Miller said, and got only silence in return.  He poured Dieter another glass, then asked, “So, you seen any bobcat yet?”

“Oh yeah, I seen ’em.”

There was a long pause, long enough for the woods to grow noisy around the hollow of their silence, and Miller could feel June Dieter’s muscles ready themselves to jump in and save the conversation.

Then Parlon Dieter said, “When I’m hunting I picture my son stepping out from behind a tree.  I pick out the tree then sit down and wait for him.”

Even June Dieter met these words with a startled shiver.

Miller thought, I should say something.  I should make a move.  And he thought, I can’t.

Goran had struggled three years before giving up—as giving up he should.  He had no talent.  Miller should have told him.  He should have helped to redirect him instead of helping to foster a dream he knew would be broken.  But then Goran might have left, and he wanted Goran there for him as he rose to success, not that he could give Goran much attention during the ascent.  But for the best people in love, love had to wait for them to become the best—how easy to believe that when you were young.  How easy to say goodbye when they decide not to wait for you.

The blood was striking his temples.  Beat, beat, beat.

“A barred owl,” Parlon said, and got up from his chair.  He walked over to the edge of the woods.

June reached down for the wine.  Miller took the bottle and poured it for her.  “Your husband needs you,” he told her.

“Parlon works things out in his own way.”  She reached over in the dark and took hold of his hand.  “He’ll be alright.”


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