Monday, August 31, 2020

A Little Tour

Nothing new is blooming these days.  I thought I'd spare you the daily Stella d'Oro lily

in favor of shots of random flowers in the yard.  First off is this echinacea or Purple Coneflower with really short petals and a bee on top.


The perennial aster is starting to bloom.  It's a big, fuzzy looking plant with tiny white flowers.  Here's one of the first ones to open.


The zinnias are still making flowers.  I don't know where the thing gets the energy, most of the leaves are dry and crunchy but I guess enough of them are green to support the flowers.


Being the slowest knitter on the planet means that I only managed to add a few rounds to the cowl all afternoon.  I don't know why I'm so slow at it but it's a good thing I'm stubborn too so I don't give up easy.  Except on that rib lace scarf that I didn't like the way the colors were laying down and it was too boring.


 31 August--Barbara Malcolm, Better Than Mom's. 

Officer Bates scrubbed a hand over his face and looked at Brady framed in the doorway.  “Probably later today.  I need to spend some time sifting through that mess out there looking for clues, if there are any to find, but that should not take too long.” 

Brady nodded and went back to his chopping.  Naomi had kept working while he was talking to the policeman, figuring she would be next to talk to Officer Bates, and wondering if she would have a job the next day.  She hoped she would; she liked her job.  She liked standing at the counter, knife in hand, mounds of chopped vegetables heaped before her gleaming like polished gems ready to be turned into delicious things to eat.  Most of the recipes she and Brady made were good, old fashioned home cooking like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings, hot beef and gravy, or ham with sweet potatoes.   

She had convinced him to let her make her personal recipe for fried chicken one weekend about a month ago and it had been a big hit with the customers.  She had made her Grandmama’s fresh butterbeans and Great Aunt Gigi’s coleslaw to go with it.  Oh, and of course she made biscuits for on the side.  By the time they were done serving, there was not so much as a whiff of it left and Brady was considering making Naomi’s fried chicken a regular menu item.  That made her proud.  She could not stop telling everyone she met about how if they wanted to eat real fried chicken, instead of that fast food kind that came in a bucket, they should come on down to Better Than Mom’s on a Saturday and discover what was really meant by their motto.   

And what was Better Than Mom’s motto?  Why, it was painted right there on the sign under the name in little bitty letters.  It said:  Where You Don’t Have to be Told to Clean Your Plate.  It was printed on the menus too, and she was sure Brady was trying to figure out a way to afford to have it embroidered on the back of the knit polo shirts he had made up for his employees.  A couple of the people she had told about how good her chicken was had actually come in and tried it.  They had even called her out of the kitchen to tell her how delicious it was.  She had washed her hands and wiped the sweat off her face before she went out to their table to collect her compliments.  Her eyes widened when she recognized two of the hookers from the end building with their pimp boyfriends hunkered down in a booth just like regular people, sopping up the last of the gravy with the end of a biscuit.  It occurred to her that maybe, just maybe, that foursome was not exactly the kind of clientele Brady hoped to get in his diner, but when she mentioned it to him he brushed the idea aside. 

“I figure everybody has to eat, solid citizens, hookers and pimps, and everyone in between.  I would be just as glad if they all came in here.  As long as they behave.”  He winked at her, a very un-Brady-like gesture.  “Their money is just as good as the preacher’s is,” nodding his head at the Lutheran minister and his wife sitting primly in the table just across from the hookers and their pimps, trying very hard not to stare at the women’s short skirts, plunging necklines, and the men’s flashy jewelry. 

Little by little more of the residents of Fay and Naomi’s apartment complex started coming to Better Than Mom’s for a cup of coffee or a sandwich.  They were on their best behavior, not calling attention to themselves, but quietly enjoying the atmosphere and the reasonably priced food alongside the regulars. 

“Money is money, that is my new motto,” said Brady, chortling as he totaled up his deposit one Friday afternoon.  He noticed that his daily deposits were gradually getting larger since he had hired Naomi.  When he walked out into the kitchen past Naomi, he stopped and leaned on his hand next to her at the counter.  “You are good for business, did you know that?” 

She smiled at him, a small shy smile that peeked out at him, ready to dart back into hiding at the first sign of trouble.  “What do you mean?” 

He rolled off his hand and rested his back on the counter’s edge, arms folded across his chest.  “Well, since I hired Fay the morning business has picked up.  Everyone knows you need a sassy waitress working in the morning to perk people up for the day.  But since I hired you, our all-around business has nearly doubled.  I can not decide if it is because of your biscuits, your fried chicken, your peanut butter chocolate cake, or the after church singing you do when you are fixing brunch.”  He reached out and patted her on the shoulder.  “What ever it is, just keep doing it, please.  Oh, and I am giving you a fifty cent an hour raise.” 

Naomi’s hands stopped working and she stared after him.  A raise?  “Thank you, Brady,” she squeaked out.  

           That had been last week, and now this.

Today's toss was two different sets of ice pop molds.  I was never very good at getting them out of the molds, the stick would come out leaving the pop in the molds.  Maybe I just wasn't patient enough to let them freeze solid or maybe I put too much fruit into them.  Whatever I did, they wouldn't hold together and that made me crazy.  Perhaps someone else will have better luck.

Today is the last day of August already.  Can you believe it?  Time sure is flying by despite the drag-i-ness of the days.  Or maybe it's just me that's draggy.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Lazy Sunday

 It was a beautiful day today.  I went over to DS's this morning to spend a little time with the family and to deliver a bunch of canning jars to my wonderful DIL1.  Evidently jars are scarce this year so instead of donating them to Goodwill I got to give them to them for homemade pickles, applesauce, and tomato sauce.  It felt good and was a great way to start the day.  The rest of the day I goofed off.

It wasn't until after dark that I realized that I'd neglected to take any pictures of fruit or flower to put on here so I went out with my camera and snapped a few.  But first, there was the moon shining in the clear sky.  I know it looks like it's a full moon but it isn't, only about three-quarters, still bright and beautiful.

Here's today's token lily.

And the ripening tomato.  In the dark.

30 August--Barbara Malcolm, Better Than Mom's. 

Brady felt a bit awkward sitting in the chair in front of his desk in his office.  He was usually the one lolling in the ratty padded desk chair he had gotten on close-out at Big Lots because it was missing a caster.  He had bought a replacement caster at the hardware store that was just a teensy bit bigger so sitting down in his chair was an adventure.  Depending on where the just too big wheel ended up, the chair either tried to throw you face down on the desk or toss you over backwards.  He smiled when he watched Officer Bates gingerly settle his bony behind in the chair.  Ah, Brady thought, he has already learned.  This is one smart cop.  Officer Bates leafed through his notebook, eyes down, in what Brady interpreted, correctly as it turned out, as a ploy to put him off balance. 

After about five minutes that Brady spent calmly sipping his coffee watching the policeman play his part, Officer Bates cleared his throat, and squinted at him.  “Having financial problems, Mr. Gallagher?” 

Brady nearly burst out laughing.  How clich├ęd can you get?  “No, I am not.  Are you?” 

Officer Bates wondered what made the people in this place think that his interrogation was a two-way conversation.  “Did you hire someone to come in and trash the place, Mr. Gallagher?” 

“No, Officer Bates, I did not.  I love this place and my customers.  I have every intention of cleaning up the mess and getting open again as soon as possible.  Tomorrow if I can.”

Officer Norman Bates scribbled furiously in his notebook.  He wished he were like the British police officers he read about in his favorite mysteries.  They always had a convenient underling to sit quietly in a corner taking notes, while the Superintendent strode about barking questions and intimidating the suspect.    But no, here he sat hunched over this too small desk in the cramped office of a diner in a town the world was passing by, investigating a crime probably done by some illiterate high school dropout with no job, a pregnant girlfriend, and a street name like Metal Head who he would never find or, if he did find him, the guy would be too stupid to think of a believable lie but the evidence would be too thin and some slick tongued court appointed attorney who was not even old enough to shave would get him off on a technicality and he would have to look at young Metal Head hanging with his gang as he cruised the neighborhood in his patrol car and know that the little creep was laughing. 

God, he hated his job.  Even though he had passed the sergeant’s test years ago, old Wendell was grimly holding on to the only sergeant position in the small force and Norman was sure Wendell would die in harness.  Wendell sat and snoozed behind the Property Department desk four days a week, bleary-eyed and confused.  Every time he tried to organize the crap hole that he had let Property become things got lost and the mess got bigger.  Twice a year the captain drafted a couple of the younger officers to go in on a Saturday to clean up.  The next Monday Wendell would come in, survey his neat and shiny domain, and complain to anyone who would listen that he could not find anything since some comedian had messed up his filing system.  More like a piling system, Officer Bates thought. 

But he had this particular crime to investigate today and he was absolutely certain that Frick and Frack, or Robinson and Davies, would inadvertently destroy any tiny bits of evidence there might be in that unholy mess out front.  He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that they would find the fingerprints of every resident of Stinson on the door handle overlaid with the prints of various truckers and vagrants.  His vacant gaze fixed on Brady. 

Brady sat calmly waiting for Officer Bates’ next question.  Brady could wait forever.  He had spent nearly twenty-five years in the navy.  Everyone knew that the real motto of the military, whatever branch you had the misfortune to experience, was hurry up and wait.  So he could wait with the best of them.  He was an Olympic class waiter, patient and happy to be sitting indoors and in a semi-comfortable chair.  Not that he was not totally upset that his pride and joy had been invaded, but he was not about to let anyone see it.  Oh, maybe he would ask Naomi out tonight and bend her ear for an hour or so over a few drinks and a bowl of bar pretzels.  He felt so easy with Naomi and he had been so reluctant to hire her.  Not only because she was Fay’s friend but also because he’d only ever worked with men in galleys, never women.

Today's toss was a bag of tins.  You know, those decorative boxes that your granny or great-aunt put butter cookies in at Christmas time or your mother-in-law used for a sewing box.  Those.  I found about a half-dozen of them downstairs, bagged 'em, and put them in the car.  What will I find tomorrow?  Wait and see.

Today would have been Mom's 92nd birthday.  Happy Birthday, Mom!


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Today's Toss

 Today's toss gets top billing because I had such fun with it.  The other day when I

was sorting out wide-mouth pints for DIL1, I came across a wooden tray with 24 Coke bottles in it.  (well, 21 Cokes, 2 Sprite, and 1 Fanta actually) Three of them had ancient homemade ketchup in them which I poured down the disposal.  My grandma made ketchup, Dad made it every once in a while, and I made it once.  This was the last of that attempt.  It's less all-tomato and more spice-y than store bought, good but I won't make it again.  The fun part was that the bottles are old enough that the city and state of origin is pressed into the bottom.  I looked through a few and found Providence, RI, Toledo, OH, Charlotte, NC, and Indianapolis, IN.  I remember being a kid and once you finished your Coke you looked at the bottom to see whose bottle was from the farthest away.  Simpler times.

I finished Cast Sock 6 this morning.  I told you that I only had six rounds to go and they were the shortest ones so it didn't take long.

Next I cast on a Seamen's Church Institute cowl.  It seems so huge after knitting

up six cast socks in a row but it's exactly double the stitches so it's like making two socks at once.  I keep telling myself that when I feel like the round is endless.

Another of the Stella d'Oro lilies bloomed today and you can see that there's a bud next to it ready for tomorrow.



29 August--Barbara Malcolm, Better Than Mom's. 

She heard Raymond arguing with one of the policemen that Officer Bates had left outside to keep gawkers away and keep people from stealing things.  “I come here every morning for coffee, young man,” Raymond said.  “I do not understand why I can not just go around to the back if the front door is locked.  I have done it in the past when they were tardy in opening.” 

It was easy to distinguish Raymond’s confident footsteps from the skittering shuffle of the young policeman trying to uphold his superior officer’s commands and still not offend this older gentleman with the commanding presence.  Fay was not surprised to see Raymond appear in the open door looking mulish and out of sorts. 

“Fay, what is going on here?” he said, marching into the kitchen like he must have entered a boardroom when he was running the paper mill.  “Why is this child telling me that the diner is closed?” 

Fay looked at him as if he was speaking a foreign tongue.  “I do not know, Raymond.  Do you think it could be because some jackass tossed the planters through the windows and then came into the diner and wrecked everything?  Maybe because the whole room is filled with dirt and coffee grounds and sour milk so there is not a clean place to sit or an unbroken mug or plate?  It might be because there is broken glass mixed in with all of that mess and the cash register is sitting behind the counter in about sixteen pieces.  What do you think, Raymond?  We are closed just to piss you off?” 

Raymond looked at Fay as if he could not believe what he had just heard from the woman who had flirted with him and teased him and sometimes chastised him, but never been anything but polite to him. 

“Well, there is no cause to be sarcastic, Fay.  I just want a cup of coffee.”  He looked around the kitchen as if expecting someone to walk up to him with a mug on a tray.  

Naomi, who had not looked up from her chopping, kept on chopping.  The only other person in the room was the young policeman he had steamrollered past to get in there.  

“There is no coffee, Raymond,” Fay said.  “At the moment, I am not sure if Better Than Mom’s will be open anytime soon.  There is a lot of cleaning up to be done.  A lot of expensive equipment will need to be replaced.  And to be honest with you, I am not at all sure Brady can afford to start over from scratch.  My guess would be that if the place had caught fire, he would have been covered, but I do not know if you can buy insurance against vandalism.”

 She shook her head. 

“Go home, Raymond.  Learn to make your own coffee for a day or two.  Come back by at the end of the week and maybe we will know more.” 

She bent her head back to neatly lettering her sign, dismissing him. 

“Well, I guess I will go on home if you will not even give a man a cup of coffee.” 

“Try the drive-through at Mickey D’s, sir,” the young officer tried to help. 

“Have you ever tasted that vile brew, young man?” Raymond looked at him as if he had suggested he drink poison. 

“Yes, sir, I drink it every morning.” 

“Then you have never had real coffee.  I pity you.”  Raymond turned away and marched out of the kitchen door. 

The young policeman hesitated at the doorway.  He cleared his throat.  “Is the coffee you make here really better than at the drive-thru?” 

Naomi looked at him.  “Honey, if that is the only coffee you drink, you are in for a treat.”  She wiped her hands on her apron, crossed the room, pulled a mug down from the shelf, and poured him a cup from the pot always on.  “Cream and sugar?” she asked him.

 “No, thank you, ma’am.  I drink it black.”  She handed him the mug.  He dipped his nose into the fragrant steam and took a tentative sip.  Fay and Naomi watched his face as he tasted and swallowed his first taste of real coffee.  

Naomi could not stand the suspense.  “Well?” 

He smiled at her.  “You are right.  That is not real coffee at the drive-thru.  Not if this is what coffee is supposed to taste like.”

It was a lovely day, temps in the 70s and breezy, so nice and not humid that I took a walk.  The only bad thing was that I had the windows open (still do) and the breeze blew from Burger King my way so the tempting aroma of grilling burgers filled my house but I did not cave in.  I had a garden-fresh cucumber and tomato salad for supper.  Mm.