Do you need to get back to Episode one? Here it is!
Do you need to get to Episode two? Here it is!
Do you need to get back to Episode three? Right This Way!, and of course there is Episode 4. And now there is Episode 6.
The Sand Cage II
Neither Richard nor Silberstein arrived Saturday night. Lorraine kept pushing her nose through the shear, dirty, burlap cloth drapes in our trailer's living room and shaking her head. Bradley imitated her, right down to the shake of his brainless baby noggin. I know women insist their babies are geniuses. They all do. They just say they are taxed with the big task of learning to be human. I say some adults are still learning.
"This is bad," sighed Lorraine as she nervously fumbled in her purse for a cigarette and lit it with trembling hands. "I don't know what I'd do if it was me."
"Put on a record," I suggested. And read a novel, and make a mountain in the ash tray, all the while taking bets with yourself as to when the gray volcano would collapse of its own weight, I thought. Sharon would play games with her babies. Subi would cut up mountains of fresh vegetables.
Now what would I have done? Men aren't supposed to do anything, but you know that is bull. I'd want to read the paper, drink coffee, light a cigarette. After that I might go for a ride, but gasoline here was rationed, the nearest place to get to was fifty miles away, and there were on out of town newspapers.
That night Lorraine asked me what we men would do if Richard and Silberstein vanished. Silberstein's last phone call (Subi and Richcard had a no news is good news policy, so it was just Silberstein) was from Ogalalla Nebraska. That meant they could be anywhere in the western most third of the United States. A search party did not stand good odds of finding them. And just as none of us were mechanics, none of us were bounty hunters, if you needed a bounty hunter to track down two much loved and missing husbands. I did not want to tell my wife that we were useless and clueless.
Six am on Sunday morning, Silberstein called the main house and his wife was rushed by Subi in her bug to the call center. Richard and Silberstein had made it as far as Cheyenne Wyoming. They were on track with an ETA of two more days.
"Monday night," sighed Subi as she cut up yet another mound of carrots, green squash (zucchini), and something with green leaves and thick midribs as well as what I guessed was an entire bunch of parsley. Supermarkets do sell entire bunches of the stuff. Now I knew someone who bought it.
"What happened to the potroast?" I inquired.
"I froze it. It's Richard who wants meat. Why should he see it half eaten. This is for me."
"What is it going to be?"
"Peanut butter soup."
"And your taste is in the toilet bowl, but I'll ignore that."
"My taste is in my mouth. Subi, if I believed certain truisms about men and women, I'd say you are taking this out on your husband."
"Husband is not here yet, and I've always wanted to make peanut butter soup."
"Because I like peanut butter and it is good, vegetable protein. Remember when we used to all eat lunch together."
I remembered that Subi ate grown up style peanut butter sandwiches, and sometimes peanut butter and honey or raisin, always crunchy peanut butter on whole wheat bread.I sighed. "I don't know what I'd do if Lorraine made me peanut butter soup."
"You'd either try it or you wouldn't."
"Why not... and I planned to make it whhen we were back east."
"But you didn't..."
"No... the planning for the trip kind of killed if off."
"But it's back."
"I've got two days to experiment before my darling carnivore arrives. I may as well get something out of it."
OK, that was actually a good explanation, and probably at least half true, "But what if Richard arrives early."
"I'll hug him and kiss him. What do you think?"
"Yes, but the soup. Folks with nothing better to do, and grades not good enough in biology would say that you are just a teensy weensy bit angry."
"OK, it wasn't Richard I was angry at last spring. The peanut butter soup was for the inlaws."
"Ah outlaws.... " I smiled. At least my mother had said some vile things about Lorraine but had kept them behind my wife's back until I read my mother the riot act. Wives take a mother's place and that makes mothers jealous. That's not psychobabble. That's the real deal.
"I hope Richard set his mother straight," I comiserated.
"Not enough..." sighed Subi. "Back in February, the week before I got that phone call that started the trip west, Richard and I had his parents over for Sunday dinner. It was awful weather, gray, cold, wet, brrrr... so I made beef stew over farfelle, but it wasn't just any beef stew. It had two kinds of mushrooms."
"There are two kinds of mushrooms?"
"Probably more, but we mostly get the white buttons. These mushrooms came from Chinatown, straw mushrooms, and there were other vegetables too.
"Well Richard's mother complained. She said my husband was a lawyer and we no longer had to eat every night like we were pinching pennies, even on special occasions. I guess mother-in-law was a special occasion. I pointed to the window. On a cold, gray, day, stew was the thing to eat, and besides, beef mushroom gravy over little bow tie pasta is divine, and the purple, marinated cole slaw made it all pretty and festive. Is a big piece of plain meat really so much better than a good stew? Isn't the whole more than the sum of its parts?"
"Does Richard complain?" This was the $64,000.00 question.
"No, absolutely no," Subi backed it up. "He'll eat meat dishes and be totally happy as long as they have meat. If I cut the meat out or give him fish instead too often... I hear it."
"Compromise is good. Richard probably misses your cooking."
"Richard misses me."
Subi did not have to say she missed her husband or that she worried about him. I watched her put up water to boil and then put the vegetables in. I realized I should have asked about the the green thing with the midrib. "You know there are men that don't like vegetables."
Subi shrugged. She wiped down the kitchen table so we could study. In one corner of the table, I saw a small saucer of flour and a coffee mug. "You forgot that," I commented. "No, it's waiting for the vegetables to cook through. It's for thickening the soup, then you add the peanut butter and the spices or you can add them any time. Come on, we have studying to do."
The peanut butter soup must have been curried because that was what it smelled like when it finally cooked, and before it got consigned to the refrigerator. It was for dinner. Lunch was a peanut butter sandwich. I saw Subi get out the ingredients before heading back to my trailer for the noon meal.
Towards late afternoon clouds the color of smoke gathered on the western horizon. "That is strange," remarked Subi. The clouds also unsettled Lorraine. "I want to break early and get a swim in," Subi announced. She appeared at cocktail hour in her bathing suit along with Sharon both of whom sat in the kiddie pool, that Sharon had bought and inflated with a bicycle pump. Sharon stared at the sky. "I guess there are clouds in the desert," she remarked.
That evening, the clouds obscured the sunset. Doty came out to watch the weather and try to say something intelligent. "Is that dust or rain?" I asked him. He shook his head.
The cloudburst opened up at 10pm, Pacific Daylight Time. The rain sounded like beebees hitting the trailer roof. Lorraine sat with a frightened Bradley in her arms. Douglas complained about the lack of good TV shows. He did not want to go to bed if everyone else was awake. He tucked his thin, shorty-pajama clad legs, under his brown bathrobe that he hated. He made himself a small ball on the living room couch. From somewhere far away, the thunder boomed and lightening crackled.
That night there was no phone call from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The men were missing again.
Pershing County Nevada
The Sand Cage III
The storm knocked down the net on the badminton court. Doty and DelGrasso went out to worry over setting it right. I listened to them curse. I stood with my hands in my pockets pretending to be interested, while the two of them pretended to know what they were doing.
Meanwhile, the little flowers and mosses that bloomed in the wake of the night's storm excited some of the women with a weird sort of spring fever. Constance, Doty's wife, organized a nature walk for all female adults and children who were old enough to appreciate it. That meant Sharon; Subi; Sharon's oldest daughter, Caren; Constance' daughter, Faith, and my son Douglas lest he be considered a baby. That the walk was going to be a girl thing, was not something worth explaining. Lorraine fretted that there might be snakes and scorpions in the desert. I hadn't thought about that.
Snakes and scorpions would actually make the walk even more of a girl thing. Not all women despised small creatures. In fact they totally fascinate a portion of both girls and women as in "oh it's so pretty. Oh it's so cute! Oh beautiful!" It might not be bad, I reasoned for my son to learn about this now, before he dated his first woman who insists that spiders be put out rather than killed or who keeps a salt water aquarium in a tiny apartment. Of course I also hoped he returned home totally "cootie infested," but experience is sometimes the best teacher for this kind of thing.
"Why don't you just stand the poles up," I finally suggested to my bewildered colleagues.
"The ground's too soft!" barked Doty.
"Then prop up the poles until it hardens."
"You mean like cement?" DelGrasso asked.
I nodded. "We don't have any saw horses," Doty complained. "It would also be good to have a vise."
"Take some extra kitchen chairs," I replied. "It's not like it's going to rain again any time soon." That it actually rained at all in the desert was new to me, but it couldn't rain that often or this place wouldn't be a desert.
I helped DelGrasso and Doty move dining room, living room, and kitchen chairs out of their trailers. I even volunteered one of my kitchen chairs. I knew enough not to touch Lorraine's hidden mechanism rocker because she was sitting in it smoking and reading.
"Who got you roped into that stupid construction project?" she minced no words.
"Why? I mean I understand being a good neighbor but..." Lorraine blew a smoke ring for spite. She blew three more just for fun. The ash tray was full again.
"I'm as bored as you."
"Then why not study for the exam."
"Subi's out in the flowers."
"Those are hardly flowers."
"The women think they are."
"Not this woman. I mean just think of the rhododendrons and azaleas back in Scarsdale."
"I don't know what a rhod-oh-den-dron or an az-al-i-a is."
Lorraine blinked. Then she shook her head.
"You know Bradley copies you."
Lorraine blew another smoke ring. A half hour after we got the Badminton court standing and looking like a used furniture store, the women returned from their nature walk. Constance complained of the hot sun and possible sunburn. Sharon said she didn't mind getting a tan.
"Dad we saw frogs and tadpoles!" Douglass greeted me.
"Really.... are you sure..."
"Yes, they only come up from underground when it rains. They lay eggs in puddles, mature, and go back underground to hibernate until it rains again."
"It's not hibernate," Subi corrected my son. "It's estivate. That's hibernating cause it's too hot and dry." Now it was my turn to shake my head.
It was also my turn to study with Subi.
Pershing County Nevada