Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Dirty Trick

Yeah, Mother Nature played another dirty trick on us overnight.  We woke up to almost 3" of snow.  Again.  Most of it melted during the day but not as much melted as the other day because it barely got above freezing today and wasn't often sunny.  Ugh.  It's Halloween, for god's sake, it isn't supposed to be in the 30s on Halloween.  Not snowy either.  Double ugh.  See how dark that picture is? That was 8am.  Talk about a slow start to the day.  Triple ugh.


I was washing a sink of dishes this morning after my trainer session and saw something bright out in the snow.  There's still a little bloom on the honeysuckle.  How it survived the snow and freezing cold, I'll never know, but it sure gave me a smile.


I had a good half-hour with T the Trainer this morning.  I complained about being tired today so he prescribed a day off working out tomorrow.  Which works out since I won't have a car  tomorrow because it's in for front brakes and transmission fluid.  Cars.  If it isn't one thing, it's two others.  But I'm glad to get this all done before my trip to Indy and Lexington next week.


I didn't sew, didn't knit today.  I spent the afternoon and trick or treat hours reading my novel manuscript to see where to tuck in all of the scenes I've been writing lately.  I've read almost half of the manuscript and have a couple more scenes to slot in, then I'll send it to my Kindle and read it through again looking for places that need fluffing up or elaboration.


Speaking of trick-or-treaters, I had a grand total of four.  Four!  That's hardly worth filling the candy bowl and turning on the light.  I miss having droves of costumed kids all amped up on sugar and being out ringing doorbells coming to the door.

31 October--Barbara Malcolm, Spies Don't Retire. 

Both of them drove to their respective homes feeling like they had solved all the problems they had faced, and imagined, since they met the night before.  Each of them felt smug and in control of his fate.
Dimitri took the leeward shore back down the island to his small duplex home.  He felt soothed by the waving palms and lapping waves; he felt more at home on this tiny speck in the Caribbean than ever before, waving to everyone he saw.  He even stopped at the market in the middle of town and bought a fillet of grouper for dinner and a small bouquet for Irina, just as a little surprise.
George, on the other hand, took the windward road home.  He reveled in the power of the waves crashing on the ironshore and shooting in white plumes into the sun drenched morning sky.  He took the curves like a racecar driver, swooping down into the shallow valleys and sailing over the rises, enjoying the lifting feeling in his stomach as he did.  Feeling like he had both feet on the ground for the first time in months, he stopped at a liquor store and splurged on a bottle of champagne to surprise Sonia with.
Both couples lived in the same general area on the island: the Clemments in a two story house by the sea with views of the sunset and a narrow beach just steps from the patio, the Roskovas lived a few blocks inland where the rents were much lower, they had a view of the surrounding houses, but Dimitri was working with their landlord to make a garden around their tiny porch to attract the birds Dimitri loved to watch and give them a little privacy from their neighbors.
Each man arrived home at about the same time, each ready to brag to his respective wife how masterfully he had managed a sensitive meeting and to reassure “the little woman” she had nothing more to fret about.  How wrong they both were.  Each entered his home bearing his returning hero’s gifts, but neither fish and flowers nor champagne had the desired effect on the waiting women.

            How can men be such idiots?  I sent him off with strong words and he comes home like a whipped puppy talking about new friends and swapping retirement stories.  I can’t believe how gullible he has become.  The sun had addled his brain evidently.  How foolish must that English major think we are to be lulled into incautious speech by a smiling face and a slap on the back?  And he comes in carrying a packet of fish, fish for God’s sake, like he’s gotten the Lenin Medal and a handful of drooping flowers and thinks it makes it all better.
I saw the look in their eyes as Billie led them toward us; he like a graying lion and her, an ice fury.  I saw the whiteness of her knuckles as she clutched his arm.  Does she think I was ever fooled by her silly woman act?  I knew all the time how scheming and false she was.
She flits around with her new best friend, Billie, pretending to be an artist and then when she discovers that I am a poet, she shares that she is a poet too.  When I ask her what books she has published she has the gall to blush and say she’s only had a few verses published in women’s magazines.  Women’s magazines!  As if the printing of a few lines of doggerel or some simpering rhyme about love or trees or, God help us, grandchildren counts as real poetry.
I have given up sharing my poems with anyone who asks.  Real connoisseurs of poetry don’t have to ask, they have read my work and understand it.  The few times I allowed flattery to get the better of me and shared my work with women who asked, they would read it and get that confused look on their faces like it is my fault they are too obtuse to understand, hand it back to me and say, very nice.  One or two would pretend to understand the depth of my words and pressing their lips together, hand it back in silence as if they were too moved to speak.  Please.  Good poetry should birth discussion.  I would rather they had told me I was full of shit and flung my words back to me, at least then I would know that I have touched their emotions.
Now, Dimitri sits here at our rented table looking more like an old man than I have ever seen him look, and tells me he is ready to make friends with the English couple.  Has he forgotten the years that he gave to the Soviet Union?  The times that the British stole our secrets, subverted our agents, sent whores to seduce our people into selling the heart of our country for a few rubles?  It is disgraceful to think that just because new lines were drawn on a map that we will all forget what came before and lie down like beaten dogs.  I will not allow my Dimitri to become a lap dog for that conniving Major Clemment.  What could he want from us after all these years?  What secret could Dimitri still be carrying that would earn him the attention of a man like Clemment?  I will be vigilant to make certain that they are never alone again; that the fiend is not able to pry from Dimitri’s lips whatever it is that he seeks.
“Dushka, thank you so much for the lovely fish and the bouquet.”  I kissed him; he expected it.  “Why don’t you see if we have any mail while I put the flowers in a vase?  Maybe we can have a walk before lunch.”
Dimitri had sat and watched emotions play across Irina’s face, happy that she did not say what she was thinking.  His life was easier that way.  It seemed like a long walk to the mailbox.


My car guy, JR, stopped over this evening with his truck and a young, strong helper and loaded up Durwood's broken table saw and never-assembled-in-42-years radial arm saw.  It just isn't worth it to me to advertise these old power tools and endure calls and visits from guys that want something for nothing.  It's easier to just give them away to a good home.  That took the place of my "box of the day" today.
--Barbara

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

When It Gets Cold...

I cook.  This morning I whipped up a batch of Burrito Bowls.  It's a recipe I found on The Pound Dropper website that counts zero points for this huge serving.  It's cilantro-lime cauliflower rice, corn, black beans, and chicken breast with lots of spices.  At serving time it gets a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt and a couple glugs of fat-free salsa.  Lately I've been sprinkling it with 1/4 cup of Sargento low fat Mexican blend shredded cheese for 3 points when reheating it.  Yum.



Yesterday I made a pot of Fire-Roasted Tomato-Basil soup and remembered to take its picture this evening.  I used the white meat from a rotisserie chicken for the Burrito Bowls so I chopped up the dark meat from the same chicken, weighed it (6 oz), and added it to the tomato soup which added 1 point to the single point of the soup.  Alongside I have 8 sesame crackers with a tablespoon of Philly low-fat chive and onion cream cheese for a grand total of  6 points for supper.  Good stuff.


This morning I cleared a path from the workshop to the bottom of the basement stairs so that JR can haul away the broken table saw and radial arm saw tomorrow evening.  I'm sure there's more for me to move tomorrow but I ran out of steam.  Today's toss was a computer backpack, a wind-up alarm clock, and a stack of desk trays that I'll never use.  That filled the back of my car (along with the stuff from the last couple days) so I stopped and unloaded it to a very stone-faced guy at Goodwill.  Usually they're friendly but this guy was having a BAD day.  Grumpy to the max.  Ah well, I'd probably be grumpy if I worked there too.


This afternoon ACJ and I met at The Attic to write for a couple hours because I'll be gone next Wednesday.  I got another little scene written up.  Now it's definitely time to get all these little pieces in the manuscript and start a read-through to see where, or if, more is needed.



The Bluejays found the corn cobs and figured out how to get the kernels off.  It's fun to see them flap and balance, then fly away to give the next bird a chance.  Eventually  a squirrel will come to chase them away.




I think that this little chipmunk is the last one.  It's very skittish but works hard stuffing its cheeks with seeds and cracked corn.  It has a cache in the tray of the hose holder with seeds and rat poison pellets.  I can't imagine that it can eat those pellets and survive.  Tasty.







30 October--Barbara Malcolm, Spies Don't Retire. 

Dimitri elbowed George.  “I think we are trying her patience.  We should order before her grandmother comes out and starts smacking us around.”
The delighted look on the girl’s face at the idea that someone other than herself was leery of her grandmother momentarily lit the dark corner of the restaurant.
Dimitri went first.  “I will have two eggs over medium, sausages, you have sausages?”  The girl nodded.  “Good.  Toast with real butter, no margarine, and some fried potatoes.”  He slid his menu into the holder in the center of the table and grinned sheepishly at George.  “What Irina doesn’t know can’t hurt me.”
“I’ll never tell, old boy.”  He smiled up at the girl.  “I believe I’ll have the banana pancakes, real butter also, with a side of bacon, and make sure it’s cooked crisp.  I detest flabby bacon, reminds me of field survival training, all that raw meat.  I’d like a big glass of orange juice first.”  He smiled and closed his menu, then caught himself admiring the sway of a too young behind as the waitress went to put in their order.
“George, how are we going to do this?”
“Do what?”
Dimitri began to pleat his napkin, caught himself in the nervous gesture, and stopped.  “Both of us live on this tiny island now, when we spent so much of our lives on opposite sides?”
George looked at his old enemy with a steady gaze.  “I don’t see that it will be much of a problem.  Who, besides Sonia and Irina, knows the truth?”
“I think anyone at that party last night is talking about nothing else.  I think Billie Holland-Smythe knows more than we think.”
“What makes you say that?”
Dimitri half-turned toward George and draped his elbow over the chair back.  “You could not see her face when she was dragging you and your wife toward us.  There was an unholy glee in her eyes, a nasty mischievous knowledge that she knew exactly what she was up to.”
“Hmm, you might be right.  I seem to recall that Billie’s brother Bertie, a pompous ass of the first water, worked in Intelligence for years.  I wonder if he inadvertently let a few things slip.”
“Or maybe not so accidentally,” said Dimitri.
George nodded at him.  “Too right.  I’ll have to have a few words with Sonia when I get home.  She and Billie have become fast friends in the last few months.  God forbid she’s been doing a bit of her own blabbing in the wrong ears.”
Both men were silent as their young waitress brought their orders to the table.  They thanked her and spread napkins in their laps.  She asked if they wanted more coffee and both said, “After.”  She admonished them to enjoy their meal and left to tend to the other customers who had just arrived.
For the next few minutes’ conversation ceased between the old enemies as they did justice to the excellent food.  As the last bite was savored, the old woman refilled their mugs fresh brewed coffee.  George looked at his mug ruefully.  “I’ll pay for all of this caffeine later.”
Dimitri sighed.  “Da.  I am not used to all this rich food either.  I can see I will have antacids for lunch.  But it will be worth it.  That was an excellent meal.”
George reached out and snagged the check from the top of the napkin dispenser where their waitress had placed it.  “My treat today, Dimitri,” George said, figuring that the Russian’s pension didn’t stretch as far as it once had.  “You can catch the next one.”
Dimitri pulled out his wallet too.  “Thank you, George.  Allow me to leave the tip.”
The two old enemies walked back out into the sun baked parking lot, both of them picking remnants of breakfast out of their teeth with a complimentary toothpick.
“We should do this again,” George said.  “Get to know each other outside of work.”
Dimitri smiled.  “I’d like that, George.”  


Tomorrow's trick or treat and I've got a trainer session so I figured out that I can wear my spiderweb overshirt over a tank top with my workout pants and be in costume.  I should go down to see if I can't dig out my Halloween socks...  Boo!
--Barbara

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

S-s-s-s-s-snow!


 





Guess what I saw when I looked out the window when I got up around 6am.  Snow. A good three inches of heavy, wet snow.  October isn't over and we had snow.  Ugh.






I noticed when I was yog-ing that the snow had melted on the patio but had stuck to most of the leaves on there.  I thought it looked kinda neat.





The other day when I went to Fleet Farm for weatherstripping and birdseed I also bought a bag of assorted gourds to put into a basket on the front porch.  It's not a very big display but a couple of them are very contorted, ridged, and cool looking.  Every day I expect to see a bite taken out of one by a squirrel but so far nothing--although they've only been out there a couple days.  Time will tell.




I had an eye doc appointment at 10:45am and didn't get home until just before 2pm.  !!!!!  Seems the pictures of my retina weren't good enough so he put dilating drops in my eyes, then I had to spend some time looking at frames while my pupils dilated, he reexamined my eyes and pronounced them just fine (except for a small cataract in the right one), then I had to wait my turn to get fitted for new glasses.  I got four pairs.  Wait!  Before you faint, the doc told me that I should get reading glasses and I wanted two pairs of glasses glasses so it was cheaper to get four pairs than to get three pairs at Eyemart Express.  The four pairs were just under $450, not bad.  I was disappointed that they didn't have wilder frames so I did my best--one all red pair, one lime green metal pair, one half black-half red pair, and gold metal framed readers.  Glasses frames are mighty dull this season.

When I finally got home I gulped down some lunch (I was starving), went back to pick up the glasses, then came home, grabbed my gym bag, and went to the Y to workout on the weight machines and walk a ways on the treadmill.  I've gotten out of the habit of going three days a week and need to get back to it.

When I got home for good I made a batch of Fire-Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup.  I had a bowl for supper, m-m-m good, that I added a few cut-up turkey meatballs to for some protein.  It was a snowy day and I'd run out of soup.  I had to make it.  I was too hungry to take its picture when I ladled it out.  I will snap one tomorrow.  I promise.

29 October--Barbara Malcolm, Spies Don't Retire. 

A young woman, a girl really, slid out of the kitchen in the ubiquitous flip-flops, wearing an oversized and antiquated floral apron covering a pair of too-long but skin tight jeans and a t-shirt that looked like pink paint on her thin frame and ended three inches above her waist.  “What can I get you gentlemen?” she asked, pulling an order pad out of her apron pocket and a yellow number two pencil from behind her ear.
“I’ll have coffee to start,” George said.  “Dimitri?”
“Da, coffee for me too, please.”
She wrote it down on her pad, turned and went back into the kitchen.
George looked at the man seated beside him and smiled.  “Did you ever think we’d get this old?”
Dimitri was disarmed by the humor and friendliness of the question.  “No, I never did.”
George waited for him to say something else, when he did not, he tried again.  “Thirty years ago it would have been unthinkable that we meet, not for coffee, not for anything.”
A small smile flitted across Dimitri’s lips, loosening his expression.  “No, if we had met one of us would have surely shot the other, I think.”
“I think so too.”
The teenager came back with two cups of coffee precariously balanced on a tray she held in one hand.  It was with difficulty that she swiveled the tray down to rest on the edge of the table.  Careful not to let it show, George nearly laughed at the serious look of concentration she wore.  He was also careful not to offer to help or to grab his mug.  He had a hunch the old woman he’d met in the lobby was the grandmother of this girl and was watching from the kitchen to make sure she performed her tasks correctly.  Once she had the coffee mugs placed just so in front of each man and pushed the pitcher of cream and the sugar bowl toward them, she retrieved the order pad from her apron pocket, and said, “You ready to order?”
“Not just yet,” Dimitri said, having not even looked at the menu.
“We’re old friends meeting after years of not seeing each other,” said George.  “Can you give us some time, please?”
“Surely.”  She tucked the tray under her arm and retreated to the kitchen.  Both men reached for a menu and laughed when their hands collided over the napkin dispenser.
“Guess we had the same thought,” George said.
Dimitri answered, “Decide what to order so we’ll be ready to fend her off when she comes back too soon.”
“Exactly.”
After they had each drunk about half their coffee, each of them staring around at the empty tables, George cleared his throat and set his mug on the scarred table.  “How did you and Irina end up here?”
Dimitri carefully placed his mug on the paper coaster in front of him.  “When the Soviet Union collapsed, there weren’t many jobs left for people like me.  I wasn’t so active anymore; mostly I had finally become my cover, a university literature professor.  A year after the dissolution, they offered me a pension.  I knew they had in mind that a younger person would need the job more than me, so I took it.”
George picked up his coffee and drank a bit.  “What made you come here?”
Dimitri fiddled with his empty mug.  “Irina and I talked.  We decided we were tired of freezing our (Russian/word/for/butts) off in the Moscow winters.  We looked for someplace warm all year round.”
“Sounds a bit like us,” George said with a chuckle.  “But why this particular island?”
“Because it is Dutch.  We knew the English islands would be no good; the English are too anti-Russian and suspicious even after all this time.  The French islands?  Who but a Frenchman would ever want to live there?  The Americans make too much effort to pretend we are friends now, like those dogs of theirs, uh…Labrador Retrievers, who act so eager and friendly, even if you kick them.  Americans make me tired.”
“Oh, they’re all right for some things.  You can’t beat an American for being willing to help you out of a jam.”
“Da, but then they think you will forgive them any stupid thing they say or do.  They have good intentions and bad manners.”
George burst out laughing, startling his companion into laughing too.  “That’s very perceptive of you.  That’s exactly why they tire me out too.”
Dimitri returned the question.  “Why did you come here?”
“I got edged out of my job too, last year when the government changed and more liberals held the reins.  One of them decided that there were too many old spooks sitting behind desks gathering useless information, so they looked us over and pensioned off the oldest of us.”  He looked up, hoping to see their young waitress coming to refill their mugs.  He could hear a conversation in the kitchen, but no footsteps coming their way.  He put his mug down in disappointment.  “Sonia and I had what I imagine was a very similar conversation to yours with Irina.  Neither of us wanted to spend our dotage shivering in jolly old England so we cast about for a place in the sun, cliché though that is.  I love to scuba dive, we’d been here on holiday a few times and we thought we could afford to live here fairly well.  We came down about six months ago, found a place to buy in Belnem, went home to clear things up and sell the house, and here we are.”  They heard shuffling footsteps and looked up to see their waitress coming their way, a pot of coffee in her hand.  “Ah,” said George, “our salvation.”  He held his mug out for a refill.
The girl shook her head and motioned him to set it down.  “I’m not so good at pouring,” she said. “I would not want to scald you.”
“I would not want that either.”
Her face screwed up in concentration, she filled both mugs and put the heavy pot down with relief.  “You are ready to order now?”


Today's "box a day" turned out to be lots more than a box full.  I had two Mr. Coffees that Durwood used to take out of town that I don't need so those went.  Then I bagged up all of the old costumes and prom dresses and mother of the groom dresses (three armloads) and they went into the back of my car too.  I wish I had a conveyor up the stairs so I could just haul boxes to the bottom and have them ride the conveyor up but climbing stairs is good for me.  I didn't manage my 15 minutes of writing today.  I had to choose between writing and the Y and I chose the Y. I needed to go to the Y.  I'll write more tomorrow.  *sigh*
--Barbara