Thursday, December 19, 2013

"She wasn't soaring far"

While the poor embarrassed man complained Linnea made little soothing noises and surveyed the kitchen. She had to take stock before she knew which way to enter the fray. There seemed to be great numbers of pots and pans that had been put to soak and stood here, there and everywhere half-full of discolored water. Linnea was glad Inegborg didn’t have a chance to see the cupboard. She would have fainted dead away. The tumbled oilcloth-covered table had on it not only unwashed dishes marked prominently with hardened egg yolk, but beads of honey strung in a row like a necklace, half-emptied jam bottles and a frying pan a third full of cold bacon grease. A stack of newspapers, a small gaiter, Demorest’s Monthly, a green book entitled The Bride of Llewellyn or, Cruel as the Grave, and a clean but unironed corset cover also decorated the table. There was, however, a roaring fire in the capacious stove. That made up for a lot of things. So did the sight of various buckets, baskets and sacks, on pantry shelves, warming oven, kitchen dresser and even on the floor, full of sweet potatoes, cranberries, parsnips, Idaho potatoes, two monstrous fresh cabbages, flour, sugar, butter and apples—the makings of a Christmas dinner fit for the President of the United States. Not only that, there was a huge pork roast in the oven. Linnea looked at it. Its thick coating of fat was unmelted except for a transparent layer the thickness of tissue paper and it was not warmed through, but when it was done it was going to be a pork roast of pure white and golden brown, full of juices and flavor (plenty of salt, plenty of black pepper), that started the saliva running at full blast even to think of it! Linnea beamed happily, rolling up her sleeves and tying a small plaid tablecloth found hanging over the back of a chair, around her waist for an apron.
     Shyly Mr. Orbit, much comforted by her words and manner, twitched back a fringed paisley couch cover and revealed, on the foot of the lounge on a large platter under a dishtowel, a huge cake sparkling with hard white frosting. “She went to work and made it this last week. Receipt Ma had.” He tried to say it like it didn’t amount to much but his eyes gave him away. “Dark fruit cake. Like we always had a saying about hash, Everything in it but the kitchen stove. Don’t look like she made much of a bobble of it, either, does it?”
     “Bobble!” Linnea said, “I should think not! Why, I never seen a prettier sight in my life!”
     “Receipt Ma had,” he repeated.
     “You see!” Linnea said triumphantly. “What she can do when she puts her mind to it! Anybody that can clean up and doll up a parlor like that, and anybody that can bake such a cake, why, I tell you something, Mr. Orbit, if she’d take a notion, why, there wouldn’t be a woman alive that could outdo her!”
     He beamed. “Ma used to say to me, Alvin, she’d say, Izola’s all right,” he said, “the only trouble with Izola is, she ain’t just anchored like she should be, she kind of wants to soar off into space. You keep her from soaring off into space, Alvin, she used to say to me, and you got something.”
     “You have, too.” Linnea said. “She wasn’t soaring far when she baked that cake.”

     --From The Peaceable Kingdom

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