Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General – Chapter 14-15

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 14

Weekend in the suburbs – relaxing Sunday

– Andrew McCarthy

The dawn of the day caught John already awake. He couldn’t sleep past seven thirty, in spite of the fact that it was weekend. That particular October Sunday morning announced itself to be beautiful, a bit chilly though as per Weather Network.  He headed for the bathroom and the same morning routine followed. “Time for a coffee now” and John headed downstairs happy again that he was going to repeat the coffee routine. He was like a kid into a candy store: grinder, beans, coffee pot, brewing ritual and finally a coffee that would definitely leave a mark on the beginning of one’s day.

After finishing his coffee, John turned the TV on again and started looking for a decent channel in which he would be interested: Politics, Business, Sports…all of them had nothing new to say so he decided to grab the Sunday’s newspaper delivered to the door.

The morning was crisp and chilly, so he tightened up the robe above the hips and headed for the front door.

The newspaper was there, wrapped into a plastic bag alongside with a bunch of store fliers. On his way back to the kitchen, he spotted a new article into the Business section which captured his attention immediately. It was written by Robert J. F. Moore – an authority into the field of financials and trading. He pulled a chair and eagerly started reading. It was a brand new approach to the relations between US and China given the new dynamics of the World Economy. He was emphasizing China’s strategy of becoming a nation of consumers rather than a nation which just saves and exports. His arguments were backed up by studies done by research and marketing companies which showed that the trend is clearly moving that direction. John was a bit surprised – he never thought at this strategy and his mind already started building scenarios which Glenworth Financials could take to be one step ahead of everybody: using the Shanghai Office as a spear head of tapping into the huge Chinese Market. “But we are already there. What else do we need to do? Looks like we are already ahead of the game…what else is needed?” He continued reading the article and he realized that John John took a calculated risk when opened up the Shanghai Office. But right now, he – the Company – had a little problem on its hands. Funds are somehow drained to another direction and this was his job, to figure out what’s going on there.

His eyes got smaller and took the shape of a blade, the shape of the cat’s eye when sees a mouse. The line of his shoulders opened up, his lungs started drawing air much faster and his whole body was now under a fair amount of tension: “I gotta’ get to the bottom of this thing!”

-You gotta’ get to the bottom of what? John startled…he was so absorbed by the lecture that he didn’t even realize Linda was standing by his side and that he actually said that last phrase out loud.

-My assignment, Linda! I have to figure out what’s going on there!

-You will. Linda showed two rows of impeccable white teeth which were complimenting so well that angelic smile which flooded her face.

You have the knowledge, the experience, the desire to succeed and you are smart too.

-This means a lot, honey! Thank you. John took his wife into his arms and passionately kissed her on the lips.

-You are breaking my back! Take it easy big guy! John didn’t realize that he put into that hug all the power his upper body was capable of releasing.

-Sorry! Didn’t realize that I hugged you so tight…

-Yes you did, big boy! But this doesn’t necessary mean that I disliked it! Her voice was persuasive and mysterious, which made John weigh his options.

-Do I have to understand that you are open for dialogue?

-This is entirely up to you, master! Her voice was ironic but he realized that it was also enticing, inviting, alluring. John didn’t know what to do…the Saturday’s endeavor drained him from all his resources. He just wished he was twenty five again!

-Unfortunately I do need a little more time, you know what I mean?

-Of course I know! How about we take a walk? How is your eye? Are you ok? Do you feel any pain? It doesn’t look that bad anymore.

-My eye is just fine. Let’s have breakfast and then we head out for a walk. How is that?

-Sounds perfect! What are we going to have for breakfast?

-Omelet á la Tuscany.

-Wow! Never had that before.

-That’s because I just made it up! John’s upper body started shaking from the big laugh he was having, while Linda simply joined the party with a clear and crystalline laugh that was making her chest tremble like a leaf in an early autumn wind.

-OK. I am heading upstairs to brush my teeth and freshen up. You take care of the breakfast.

-Of course I will take care of it! John’s voice was betraying a deep satisfaction for the fact that he was in charge of preparing their meal again and an un-simulated love for the art of cooking.

He pulled the egg tray of the fridge, grabbed a fork and in less than twenty seconds six eggs were already transformed into a nice, yellow liquid. He was never using the mixer as in his opinion the taste was not the same. Quite few cubes of light feta made it into the egg mix alongside with black pepper and cayenne pepper. Both he and Linda liked their omelet to have a little kick into it.

John tossed in some Italian herbs as well. The pot bearing this nice mixture of spices, eggs and feta was set aside.

From the fridge he grabbed some fresh portabella mushrooms and using his professional razor sharp knife, sliced them into medium size pieces and then soaked them into lots of lemon juice. Next operation was similar, only this time was the turn of a large red onion. Then a large red pepper had the same fate.

The oil in the skillet was already hot and waiting for the ingredients. First the onion was tossed in (alongside with few clovers of crushed garlic) then the lid was placed back on the skillet. In a couple of minutes the red onion and garlic turned light brownish…this was the time when John threw in the nicely sliced mushrooms and orange pepper. The lid covered the skillet again; the heat was turned down to medium-low and for four-five minutes John just watched through the glass lid how the mushrooms and the yellow pepper are turning brownish too. It was just the right moment for John to dump in a large spoon of sour creme and constantly stir through the mixture for a minute. He turned the heat back up for thirty seconds and then poured the eggs in. The lid covered the skillet again and John turned the heat back to low. Now he had enough time to chop some fresh parsley to finish up the food. Opened the fridge once again, pulled a bunch of fresh parsley from the bottom drawer, washed it and wrapped it into few sheets of towel paper to dry out. Then carefully took the wide blade butcher knife from its place and skillfully chopped the parsley leafs.

Five minutes passed by and John decided to toss in the parsley by sprinkling it on top of the omelet. He covered the frying pan and for another two minutes he let the food cook, until the natural yellow color of the eggs turned light brownish. Now the dish was ready!

John removed the pan from the stove and placed it on a towel on the kitchen counter. The lid was still on. He removed it just to take a sniff of the “Omelet á la Tuscany”. The smell was making one’s bud tastes dilate while the colors of the dish were absolutely inviting the viewer to dig in.

-Linda! Linda! Linda, the breakfast is ready!

-Coming! Linda was in the bathroom, but when she heard John calling the breakfast cards, finished in a hurry her morning routine. Tightened up the robe around her waist and stormed downstairs…she knew that only delicious things could come out of John’s imagination. She lifted the lid and that very moment she felt like the ground is running off her feet…the smell was truly divine.

John dumped the omelet on a large plateau and placed it in the middle of the dinner table on a large cotton towel. Opened up the cabinet and pulled a baguette out of it. Quickly cut it in thick pieces and placed them into a bread basket which was also placed in the middle of the table. Now it was the turn of picking the right pickles…without hesitation, John pulled a jar of pickled red baby beets and split the content into two nice small light ceramic bowls. Then, on two large plates he placed the two halves of the dish he just made. Everything was almost ready. John never liked to only have one choice on the table, so he opened up one of the cabinets and pulled a small jar of cheese stuffed baby red peppers and a jar of pickled baby eggplants stuffed with walnuts and small pieces of red roasted pepper, both of them preserved into olive oil. He was buying the latter item from an ethnic store in Downtown and it was a product both him and his wife were absolutely loving. Linda pulled another two light ceramic plates from the cabinet and opened up the two jars. She quickly placed few stuffed baby red peppers and eggplants on the plates. The visual effect of the breakfast table was enticing and both of them felt like their mouths were watering. One would say that the light red color of the stuffed peppers (in conjunction with the white color of the cheese) and the light brown color of the eggplants (in conjunction with the darker brown of the walnuts) were giving a sensation of contrast in the first place, but at a closer look, one would’ve realized that the two items were nicely getting along sitting on the same plate. The yellow color of the omelet (topped with the light green chopped parsley) was contrasting beautifully with the baby red beets from the bowls while the thick baguette slices from the bread basket were inviting the viewer to just sit down and eat.

-Let’s eat now! John’s voice betrayed a hungry man, an individual whose appetite and nose for sophistication and taste was second to none, an individual who was not willing to compromise when cooking and setting a meal.

-I didn’t put salt into the eggs.

-It’s fine the way it is. You put feta into the mixture and I can feel the saltiness. Besides that, the pickled egg plants are pretty salty. It’s perfect!

After Linda said her short “God bless this table”, they both started digging in and soon just the noise of the knives hitting the plates was still audible in the dining room. The smell, the colors, the taste of the food (all together) were making both of them forget that they were planning to get out for a walk and it wasn’t such a good idea to indulge and eat everything that was set on the table. But the omelet was delicious and it was complemented so well by the addition of the pickled red beets and other two side dishes!

-We are missing something! John virtually jumped from the chair and headed to the fridge once again. He pulled a one gallon plastic container out and came back to the table holding it up at the shoulder level, like a trophy gained on the battle field. A large smile uncovered two rows of perfect white teeth and the satisfaction that now their breakfast table had indeed everything that was needed.

-Oh, right! We are missing the liquid yogurt, exclaimed Linda with a voice that was almost sad from the fact that they didn’t have this item from the very beginning. John came back from the kitchen with two large ceramic cups set them on the table and poured in the white liquid. It was cold, it was light, it was refreshing and it was going so well with the fresh bread and the eggs!

For the next fifteen minutes or so, nobody said a word anymore. Both of them were too occupied with the goodies laid in front of them.

A deep sigh of satisfaction came out of John’s chest as a sign that he enjoyed the breakfast at the fullest, as a sign that once again he mastered something quick, good and healthy.

Linda finished too and the smile on her face would make one understand that she too liked their meal and now was just waiting to get into a short siesta.

-This was good! Congratulations, Sir!

-Yes, M’am! Thank you!

Once again, they burst into laughter and the inevitable question popped up:

-Coffee?

-Sure. I had that cup of liquid yogurt, but if you make it, I just cannot say “no”.

The whole coffee making routine kicked in and this time Linda simply watched her husband skillfully handling the manual grinder, the newly discovered coffee making pots and all the other little details that were part of John’s ritual and were religiously followed.

Finally, the heavenly smell of the exquisite coffee filled up the kitchen, the dining area and the living room. He carefully set the pot on the table covered it with the original copper cover and took a seat.

-We will wait now for five minutes; the coffee must settle. His voice was firm and commanding, releasing a sign of trust, a sign that he knew exactly what he was doing. When the five minutes were up, he removed the cover and once again, the whole ground floor of their house got flooded with the scent of those beans John discovered Downtown. Then he carefully handled the pot in an attempt not to stir the ground coffee from the bottom and with a teaspoon made sure that the foam on the top was not making its’ way into the cup. He poured the liquid into the cups only half filling them and took a seat again not before covering the pot, making sure this way that whatever was left into the recipient will stay warm.

A deep silence settled in once again. John slowly started taking small sips from his cup. He wanted to fully enjoy his coffee and four out of his top five senses were in a maximum alert mode: the dark black color of the liquid and the few foam rings on the top were making his eyes stare inside of the recipient in way that one would’ve believed he was hypnotized. The heavenly smell that was now slowly taking over the whole house, made his nostrils dilate in an attempt to capture the whole aroma released into the air while the warmth of the cup he was holding now into his palms was telling his brain that he is so lucky to have such a good home. The taste of the black liquid was simply out of this world: one could still feel berries like aroma, but the overwhelming boldness of the beans were eventually taking over, stating the obvious: “this is a coffee, not a juice!” The blend and the well balanced proportion between the two aromas was something that one’s buds taste would not forget for a long time.

While watching John’s rituals, Linda cracked a smile and she too realized that these little things which were part of their daily or weekly routine are creating so much happiness, so much balance in their life! “How can you not love him?” mutely exclaimed her and for another few minutes a deep silence settled into the kitchen.

John carefully poured another round of coffee into his cup.

-This is it. We are having this one and we head out.

-Good deal! Linda sipped her coffee in less than a minute and then headed for the basement to get dressed for the walk.

“What a waste! She had some time to enjoy this, but she chose to finish it in a hurry and run downstairs to change…what a shame!”

John shook his head and took his cup into the living room where he made himself very comfortable on the couch; turned the TV on and Sports Centre came up along with the summary on the hockey games from the previous night. Highlights flooded the screen and John simply enjoyed the replays of the last night’s games while slowly sipping out of his copper cup and making comments on the goals scored the previous night. The warmth of the cup gave John a feel of coziness, made him feel “at home”, it made him wanting more of this. He stretched his legs, placed a pillow at one end of the couch and laid comfortably into a position which was still allowing him to watch the Sports Center undisturbed. It didn’t take too long for him to nap. When Linda showed up, John was already asleep and a little snoring was coming out of his mouth. She took a seat on the couch and decided to wait. Slowly placed her feet on the solid wooden table in front of them and grabbed the remote. This motion made John startle. He realized that he fell asleep while Linda was waiting for him. With a quick and crisp motion, he jumped on his feet,

-Sorry, I will get ready in a minute.

-Take your time; if you want to sleep, I will go out by myself.

-No. I want to take a walk. I need some fresh air.

-Dress well, it is quite chilly outside.

John disappeared into the basement while Linda took charge of the remote once again.

“I am getting soft, I am getting old…how is this possible? I just had a coffee and fell asleep!” John put on his sweat pants, a thick cotton training shirt and the warm nice sports jacket he had since playing College Football. This was the jacket that he wouldn’t give up for the world. It had the Team’s logo on it and was almost like a part of him.

John grabbed his sneakers and headed upstairs where his wife was also putting her sneakers on in the entrance hallway.

Seeing John in that jacket brought back memories and Linda released a sigh of melancholy, a sigh of a little sadness. Those were the times when they were young and didn’t care much about the world around them. Those were the times when they were crazy in love with each other, were the times when they thought that the time will just stop and they will have those moments forever.

John looked at her and understood right away that the sadness on Linda’s face was related to memories from the past.

-I shouldn’t have put this one on.

-Don’t be silly! You still look good in it and she softly slapped him over the arm in a sign of deep love and admiration.

Once outside of the house, John turned left based on a reflex to always cut through the park and eventually reach a ravine they both loved.

-John, this way please! Puzzled, he stopped and turned around. He didn’t even realize that his wife went the opposite direction. He was so happy to get out of the house that his instincts left the reflexes and the habits take over.

-Why…that way? His voice was betraying a state of wonder and complete surprise. Where are we heading?

-Come with me, I will show you another good trail just perfect for walking. Take my hand. Her hand was still stretched into his direction, which made John hesitant. Whenever they were heading out for a weekend morning walk, they never held hands. And that was probably due to the fact that they were walking at a high pace or running. Holding hands would’ve altered their cadence and timing.

John took her hand and slowly left himself being guided onto the new route. It was exactly the same as Linda’s itinerary from yesterday’s walk. After a while, he realized that they will eventually be in the country side, which made him curious all of a sudden, especially when Linda took a side road that was now running through a wooded area.

-Aa! I know where you are taking me!

-Really? So, tell me “Mister know it all” where exactly are we heading?

-This is the country road you are taking sometimes to work when you want to be with your thoughts only. It relaxes you.

-How do you know? I never told you about this little shortcut I take sometimes.

-Yes you did. Once you told me that you woke up late and you had an inspection from the District coming to your morning English class. You mentioned something about a road that cuts through a forest and saves you a good 10-15 minutes…

-Right! But how did you know this is the one? There are few others to the North, same like this one.

-I didn’t. I remembered what you told me and I gambled…threw a dart into the dark. It worked. Most people are reluctant to change their routine, to reach for the new, to reach for something they don’t know, something they cannot grasp onto.

-I hate you! It was supposed to be a surprise…you ruined it! You could’ve pretended at least that you were surprised!

-Sorry hon! His chest filled up with air, exhibiting a winner like attitude; this gave Linda the chance to throw a look at him, a look which made that big smile freeze right on the spot. John realized that he screwed up by loudly expressing his perspicacity. “Damn it! Now I have to get into damage control gear”

-No, no, no! It’s not what I meant!

-Really? So, what did you actually mean? Her face was glacial and John knew right away that he had to do something really quick to mellow down his wife’s anger.

-Well…

John just couldn’t come up with anything at that moment. His tongue was refusing to move and all the Office politics and numerous situations (where he improvised in situations like this one) didn’t help. He was just mumbling trying to say something nobody understood.

Linda approached him and with a soft and caring move placed her right hand on his left cheek.

-It’s OK, John…I know how competitive you are. Let’s finish our walk. I am getting cold. It was music into John’s ear! He followed his wife (who was already few yards ahead of him) and before he reached her, his mind was already working on a recovery plan. He knew that just apparently Linda was OK with the situation, but knowing his wife throughout so many years of marriage, made him cautious and alert.

They were now silently walking side by side, trying to read each other’s thoughts. Linda was already wondering if she was too harsh on him.

“I think so…it was just another bravado, just another “I know it all”, just another way to relief some of that steam that constantly builds up his ego, his self-esteem, his need to be always first, his need to always win”

On the other hand, John was in a damage control phase: “I screwed up big time! Damn you, stupid idiot! It was such an easy win! Why did I have to emphasize it, why did I have to make such a big deal out of it? It was so obvious, it was her little pleasure and her way of pulling me into her secret world…I’m such a jack ass!”

John’s sentiment of guilt was now taking over his senses and his overall mood changed from excellent to horrible. While walking, he was trying to take a peek at his wife’s face. Linda easily picked up the move and with an imperceptible smile, simulated that she never noticed. John was “boiling” under a sentiment of guilt, under a sentiment of regret that he ruined his wife’s little pleasure.

All of a sudden, Linda grabbed her husband’s hand and squeezed it with a kind of power that made John quickly turn his sight at her.

It was magic…it was something that he never expected. They were standing exactly in the place where Linda stood a day before contemplating the deer herd. They were in the same spot once again…John felt like he would swallow his Adam’s apple. The creatures were quite close to the fence and he could actually hear the heavy breathing of the male deer, breathing that was keeping the whole herd on the alert mode. It was a spectacle he has never seen before. Now he understood how excited Linda was yesterday when she told him the story. It was something that he imagined it would be fancy seeing it, but he never imagined that the scenery would be this spectacular!

They all had the ears pointing up while rotating them in order to pick up any sound that could be dangerous to the herd. The heat that was coming out of their bodies (in contact with the cold air of the early winter) was forming a white cloud of condensation which in turn was falling on their nice thick brown skins thus making the color darker than what it should’ve been. The contrast between their wet dark skins and the dew on the ground, the site of their bodies releasing heat and the heavy breathing of the males turned the scene into a surreal spectacle, into a “show” of light, colors, unknown smells and untapped senses, all together creating a fairy tale like scenery.

The two hands that were squeezing each other in an effort to tell the legs: “don’t you dare moving” were now all sweaty from the effort and Linda slowly and quietly tried to remove hers from the clinch. Without any warning, the herd was on the run and a big cloud of morning dew pulverized the site.

-No, no, no, yelled Linda! No…don’t go, please come back! She stretched her two hands in a sign of bagginess, in a site of: “I am so sorry I disturbed you”! Because of me they ran away. I am sorry, John!

-No, it is not because of you! It’s because of that truck that is approaching. John grabbed her head and brought it to his chest while a huge laughter made his whole body tremble. John was right: a truck was slowly approaching from the opposite direction. Soon Linda recognized the piece of machinery that made her heavily cough yesterday and burst into a nice and crystalline laugh.

-Why are you laughing?

-That’s Mr. McCarthy’s truck! Just wait to get closer. It’s going to get better. Linda giggled and grabbed her husband by the middle section waiting for the car to reach them.

Soon, McCarthy pulled over and stopped the truck by their side.

-Good morning Mrs. Parker! How are you in this beautiful cold morning?

-Good morning Mr. McCarthy, I am doing wonderful. Enjoying the country side as usual!

-Of course you are enjoying it…did you see the deer herd again?

-Yes we did! Today the herd came even closer to the fence!

-Maybe because they knew you would have company and they just wanted to make an impression. His intelligent scouting blue eyes were already checking up on John, almost like trying to read him, to figure out what he was made up of.

-Oh, right! Mr. McCarthy, this is John – my husband.

John approached the truck and stretched his hand: “John Parker, nice to meet you Mr. McCarthy”

-The pleasure is mine, Mr. Parker. You are a very lucky man.

John didn’t really know how to take McCarthy’s statement…“What does he mean: I am a lucky man? Why is he checking me up like this? ”

-Of course he is lucky! He has me, said Linda while grabbing her husband’s arm and giggling! Her remark put a large smile on the old man’s face while she looked into John’s eyes with a newly discovered passion and energy. This little thing couldn’t have been missed by the piercing blue eyes of the farmer and without hesitation he started shaking his head up and down in an affirmative way.

-You are a very lucky man, Mr. Parker…very lucky! I will let you two kids alone now, as I am heading to the Church.

It was the time when Linda realized that McCarthy was wearing nice Sunday Church cloths which really didn’t go well at all with the old beaten up truck he was driving.

-Which Church do you attend, Mr. McCarthy? Linda’s question came out of the blue, came in a moment when she was still debating if she ever saw this gentleman before, or he is just a real reflection of one of the saints painted on the church walls, paintings she saw and admired so many times while visiting Middle East.

-There is a little Church up that hill (McCarthy pointed his arm towards the opposite direction where they came from, across the Freeway). I am not telling you what sort of Church I am attending. You and your husband are welcome to join the mass whenever you want. I am there every Sunday…and during some weekdays as well, fixing things. I am a farmer, but I know a thing or two about carpentry too. His blue eyes dilated like a cat’s eyes into the light. Both John and Linda felt that sharp and profound sight checking them up, as the old man was still looking at them with a high level of curiosity.

A short pause settled in and only the approach of another pickup truck (coming from opposite direction this time) broke it. One could swear that it was a carbon copy of McCarthy’s, same old beaten up clunker which simply refuses to die. Once the vehicle reached them, the driver stopped and both John and Linda grabbed their hands in a sign of being caught completely surprised and unprepared for the sight.

One would’ve said that you were looking at the same person driving the same truck, but in mirror.

Both Linda and John were looking at the two men completely mesmerized! They both wore those long white beards, they both had beautiful crystal blue eyes while their wrinkled sun tanned faces were betraying their occupation; one could figure out right away that both of them were farmers, men who are spending most of their time out there in the sun, looking after the crops and the live stocks. And to confuse things even more, they were driving the same brand truck, beaten up, repaired hundreds of times, never let rest, never let die.

-Mr. Parker, Mrs. Parker, this is my twin brother: Andrew McCarthy.

-How are you, Mr. McCarthy? John shook Andrew’s hand. A rugged hand (like an unfinished cement wall) grabbed John’s hand and held it for a second. It was the shake of a vise, of a machine that was meant to squeeze every ounce of life you have in you. John was impressed again with the power these two men were capable of exhibiting.

It was Linda’s turn to shake hands and once again, her little hand disappeared inside of the huge, rough-hewn hand of Peter’s brother. Again she had the feeling that her hand was grabbed by a tree bark, by something that had nothing to do with a part of a human body.

-Wow! You two, gentlemen are twins! John’s voice was betraying a complete surprise, a surprise which he couldn’t hold onto anymore, a surprise that made him look left and right at the two men still not believing something like this was possible.

-He is older than me, said Peter…only by one hour though. His large smile made that sun tanned face brighten up while Andrew refrained at a slight affirmative shake of the head.

-It was very nice meeting you, Mr. and Mrs. Parker. I am heading that direction (Andrew’s hand pointed towards the direction John and Linda were walking before they stopped to look at the deer herd). I am heading Eastward. Would you like a ride?

-You are very kind, Mr. McCarthy but we are out here for a walk. Thank you very much for offering.

-That’s quite alright. I hope you have a blessed and quiet Sunday. He stepped on the gas pedal and a brownish cloud of fumes was released into the air. One would think the two trucks were brothers too! Linda looked at John and through a short look she mutely asked John a question, a question John picked up on the fly. John slightly tilted his head down signaling a “yes” to Linda. Both of them noticed that when Andrew left, he didn’t even talk to Peter and if it was for a neutral party to have a saying, he barely looked at his brother.

-He’s been through a lot of pain lately, said Peter looking at both Linda and John, in a sign that somehow was meant to answer their unasked question. Anyways, I wish you two kids have a nice and blessed Sunday and remember that if you ever need comforting and need to hear the wisdom of the Gospel, you are more than welcome to join us in a Sunday mass ceremony. I will be heading Westward now said Peter, showing them the direction they came from earlier.

-We will keep this in mind, Mr. McCarthy.

-Peter is my name.

-We will keep this in mind, Peter. Linda’s voice was mellow (as it was when she met Peter for the first time) and for some reason she felt again like a school girl in front of a demanding teacher; she touched her temples with her index fingers in a futile attempt to remember where and when she met Peter McCarthy. Eventually her thought got lost in a myriad of mixed and unspoken sentiments. She simply couldn’t pin point where she met him before! It was a strange and unresistant sentiment, a sentiment of frustration and guilt.

The old man smiled at them again and his whole face brightened at the point of which his long white beard and beautiful blue, piercing eyes were overcoming the tanned skin, thus releasing a complete array of warm and welcoming feelings. At last, he stepped on the gas pedal and once again a large cloud of whitish fumes came out of his exhaust pipe, making both Linda and John burst into laughing.

-God! It is unbelievable how you can run into two situations that are so similar, so close, so related to each other, said John!

-It is something I will remember for the rest of my life, that’s for sure; Linda was still watching the old beaten up truck disappear into the horizon while John kept shaking his head.

-So, what do we do? Do we keep going East or we turn around and head West for our home?

-Let’s keep going Eastward and we will see. Linda felt like she wanted to do more walking into the direction she was usually going to school, so she increased the pace leaving John behind.

-Hey, what’s the rush?

-Tired, Mr. Football?

-Oh, you are going down for this! John increased the pace too and in ten seconds he left wife behind.

-You are kidding, right?

John quickly realized he was getting into the same scenario as before; so, he slowed down, turned around and looked Linda straight into the eyes as she was making it to the point where he was already standing…in one short move, he grabbed his wife by the hips, pulled her closer and started kissing her passionately, with the same intensity they were kissing a day ago, with the same meaning they were letting themselves carried into unforgotten sex circumstances.

It didn’t take too long to realize that they were standing right in the middle of the road and that was due to the fact that Andrew’s truck stopped not far away from them. It was Linda who opened up the eyes first, seeing the old beaten up truck few yards away. John turned around and winced.

Then his face slowly lit up at the sight of Andrew’s ancient transportation vehicle.

-I went back home to bring some more chairs to the Church. We have guests today. I didn’t mean to interrupt.

-Oh, this is quite all right Mr. McCarthy. We shouldn’t have…shouldn’t have….shouldn’t have kissed in the middle of the road. That “kiss” came out of Linda’s mouth so soft that even John barely heard it. Her voice sounded like the voice of a school girl caught kissing for the first time.

Andrew cracked a large smile and his blue eyes were filled in that moment with so much kindness that made Linda drop a tear. John felt like his throat was drying out and looked at his wife. His Adam’s apple barely made it downwards in a sign that he was in a deep emotional distress.

-I let you two kids alone now, said Andrew and with a farewell sign, he stuck his hand out and waved at them while passing by. Same cloud of fumes surrounded them as the first time they met Andrew and the same drilled followed up for John and Linda: coughing, using the hands to disperse off of as much smoke as possible in order to get to a fresh mouthful of clean air and eventually burst again into laughter.

Once they managed to get back into a vertical stance, they looked at each other and for few seconds both were waiting for each other to ask the question.

John couldn’t hold anymore: You had a tear into your eye!

-And you were at least as emotional as you were in the day you said: “I do”!

-Right! I can’t remember if I have ever seen that kind of…that kind of…expression on somebody’s face until now!

-You probably meant: kindness, grace, and understanding of the human soul…

-Yes, all of the above said John in an attempt to put a smile on both his face and his wife’s. Linda was not actually in a mood for laughing. The faces of both Peter and Andrew were now deeply imprinted into her mind and now she wanted to know if she really met them somewhere.

-Let’s go home.

-OK. I am getting cold anyway.

They turned around and headed towards the direction the two McCarthy went. For some reason, they kept quiet almost the whole way back home. Both of them wanted to stay with themselves, wanted to process this unusual situation, wanted to give it a meaning into their minds, into their hearts.

 

Chapter 15

Weekend in the suburbs – relaxing Sunday

– Lunch at home

One could see that even after arriving back home, Linda was still in a kind of distress as she couldn’t comprehend why on both days she went through these unusual situations: first the encounter with the deer heard and then she met Peter and today his brother: Andrew. Why? Is there any significance into this? Is there something that is hidden, something that was trying to guide her towards a direction she should be taking at the spiritual level or day to day life path? Swiftly, she took the stairs to the Upper level and headed for the bathroom. She felt like wanted to think over at all these questions her mind was asking, while taking a long bath. From the second level, Linda called John in an attempt to let him know what her plan was. Nobody answered, so she took the stairs downward now in order to see into the kitchen where she was assuming that John was. She was right: the door of the fridge was opened and John was contemplating the large array of options he was having on hand. He was hungry, but still there was some time before lunch and he just wanted some quick munchies.

-John, I will be in the bathroom upstairs.

Lind realized that it was pointless to insist: John was completely absorbed by the options the fully loaded fridge was offering. So, she headed again for the bathroom, closed the door and started her bathing routine.

John finally made a choice: there were few slices of pizza left over from Saturday night. Quickly he grabbed two of them and tossed them into the microwave on a paper towel. From the opening of the kitchen, he realized that the bathroom door was closed. “OK, she is taking a bath…it’s going to be awhile, so I am just warming up two slices for myself”

When the microwave’s ring signaled that the food was warm enough, John pulled a plate and placed the slices on it. Grabbed a couple of napkins and headed for the Living room. Turned the TV on, as there was College Football playing and prepared himself for a nice Football watching Sunday.

It didn’t take too long to find a game he was keen of looking at. One of his team’s all-time arch enemies was playing. “Let’s see how you guys are doing! Did you get any better, or you remained the same old scrappers, begging for a 15 yard penalty with two minutes left into the game? I am so going to watch this game” said John and in a blink of an eye he headed for kitchen to grab a drink. “It’s too early for a beer…or maybe not”. Last statement made him stick again his head into the fridge and grabbed a cold one. “Now is time to watch these pretenders, who probably believe that in 27 years they learnt how to play this sport”.

With a waggish smile on his face, he opened up the beer, comfortably settled into the couch, brought the plate closer and without hesitation had a decent size bite from one of the slices…”God, this is so good! Probably because there are not too many left into the fridge” and John chuckled by himself at his own joke.

The beer was now “sweating” and John took a long sip…”awesome! Now let’s see some action!”

Soon he realized that the game had no real quality in it. Two weak teams trying to make a first down, two teams with terrible pockets and consequently the Quarter Backs getting pounded.

“I can’t watch this anymore!” exclaimed John and nervously took his plate and the beer to the kitchen where he opened up the Financials again. Maybe this reaction was due to the fact that he was a Quarter Back during his College years and knew exactly what happens when your pocket collapses over and over. You will take a beating from those huge 300 pounder Line Backers, a beating that you will not fill the day of the game, but for sure you will remember it the next day! So many times he couldn’t even get up the next day! From the day he started dating his wife, the pain was actually shared by both of them: he was physically in great pain, while Linda was trying to massage him and help him out every time his body was in agony. “Those are still good memories” chuckled John and a sigh of nostalgia made him crack a smile at the corner of his mouth.

That particular game when he won the Championship for his team, came into his mind, those seven seconds left to the final whistle, the throw, the hit and the black out. When he woke up, the ceiling of the hospital’s room was the first thing he saw, then it was Linda sitting on the side of the bed holding his hand, then him asking himself why did he feel that dizziness? Shortly after, Linda whispered into his ear: “You won the game! You made a throw for a touchdown! You won the Championship!” He was so happy, but he also remembered that a nurse came by and put some more stuff into his perfusion and he blacked out again.

When he woke up, the room was empty and dark; just one pale light by the side of his bed was barely lighting the room. He tried to reach for the buttons to call the nurse. But the pain was unbearable…he realized that the doctors put his knee into a cast. It was that moment when he figured out that his career was about to come to an abrupt end. The excruciating pain he was feeling was not a good sign and his guts were telling him that it is over. A deep frustration encompassed all his feelings, all his senses, all his emotions making him release a roar which made two nurses show up in his room in a blink of an eye.

-Sir, is everything all right?

John felt like he wanted to throw his pillow at the nurse, but his good manners learnt from an early age inside his exceptional family told him to stop. They were just doing their job. In a sign of deep frustration he closed his eyes and again pulled another roar from the bottom of his lungs. The two nurses were terrified and one of them turned around in an attempt to go and ask for help.

-It’s alright! It’s alright, said John. This time his voice was mellow, was faded and had a tonality which brought tears into nurses’ eyes. They knew exactly that John rapidly figured out the situation. He fell on the pillow and closed his eyes.

-Do you want a shot to help with the pain, Sir?

John moved his head few times into an affirmative way. Soon he fell into a deep and healthy sleep which took him all the way into the morning of next day.

When he opened up his eyes, Linda was there sitting on the side of his bed, wiping the sweat that was constantly gathering on his forehead.

“Yeah, still good memories” said John but the sigh he pulled at the end of “memories” betrayed him…he didn’t completely put the event behind him. Even now, after so many years, he was getting emotional about the event.

-Which memories are still good? John startled as he didn’t expect his wife to get ready so quickly…or he didn’t realize that he was dreaming for long time.

-While watching this terrible game that’s going on, I got back memories from that particular day when I got injured.

-You are still hung up on that? So many years went by from the event!

-I am not hung up on it, but it just feels unfair sometimes…I would’ve made it to the NFL.

-Sometimes life is not fair John and all we can do is to stay the course and keep our spirits up. And yes, you would’ve made it to the very top. You are a hard- working, smart, talented guy. Let’s just say that God had a different plan for you. A large smile flooded Linda’s face and John took her into his arms lifting her up from the ground. They started kissing again, passionately and meaningfully in an attempt to recreate those good old times but in the same time to put a closure on the event. John eventually let her down.

-Next morning when I woke up and saw you – sitting on the side of my bed – I knew that it’s all over.

-How did you know? And why you never told me? Her voice sounded surprised at first, but then became questionable and intrigued.

-The smile on your face betrayed you. It was different, it was worry like, it was full of compassion…was remorseful. I knew that it was time to accept the situation.

-You never told me!

-You didn’t tell me either that it was over…

Linda felt like she was going to swallow her Adam’s apple. Her mouth was drying out and a deep sentiment of guilt and sorrow embraced her from head to toe.

-When did the doctor tell you?

-The same night we brought you at the Hospital. He looked at the MRI, he examined your leg and told me that I should prepare myself to tell you. I couldn’t sleep. They gave me a bed in a nearby room. I napped a bit I guess. I came once to look at you, but the nurses told me that they gave you a powerful dose to knock you down – apparently you had night mares.

-Yeah, I had nightmares! I screamed from pain and when I saw my leg in a cast, I knew it was over. Your smile in the morning, confirmed my supposition.

Linda looked at him and shyly asked: Would you forgive me for not saying?

-Of course I would! You said it yourself that God had different plans for me! And here we are: a happy family with two beautiful kids. This is all that matters.

-I hope that one day that wound will heal, John. You lived for being a Quarterback in the NFL! You brain was completely wired to this task.

-Common! It is already healed!

-If you say, so…I am glad to hear that! Linda’s voice was still betraying a certain level of doubt and she did the best she could to muffle it, to hide it from her husband’s keen senses.

John let Linda go from the embrace and quickly realized that lunch is rapidly approaching.

-Hungry?

-Like a wolf!

-All right then. Let’s get something going! In the meantime, have a couple of pizza slices. There are two more left overs in the fridge.

-Perfect, exclaimed Linda and before you know it, the pizza slices were already turning into microwave. What are you cooking?

-I am thinking more like some grilled veal with steamed vegetables. It’s quick and good.

-Then grilled veal and vegetables we will have, said Lind with a large smile on her face. She knew that only good things could come out of John’s kitchen ware and imagination. I am going to change, OK? Will be back in a few.

-Sure. Wanna’ have wine for the veal?

-Wine is good. I want to taste a red one, a wine out of those bottles you keep in your private stock. John’s lower jaw dropped as he didn’t expect this request. His facial expression at that moment looked at least hilarious: the color of his face turned to pale and the eyes were as dilated as the eyes of a raccoon into the head lights. Linda burst into laughter! Her chest was shaking from laughter and her whole body trembled from the huge blast she was heaving.

-This is not funny, honey! It’s not funny!

-You should’ve seen your face…priceless! OK, OK. Get something less casual, something we can have on a Sunday afternoon. Immediately she disappeared into the Master Bedroom.

With a slow motion, he wiped his sweat off of his forehead. “Those bottles are meant for special occasions only!” John was just trying to justify his reaction to himself, still not believing that he fell into his wife’s trap.

He eventually put a smile on his face and the very thought that he was going to cook again, made him get into the groove. Whistling a favorite song he just remembered, he pulled the veal from the fridge and the steamer from underneath the counter.  Simply seasoned the stakes with salt, black and cayenne pepper and set them on the side on a very large plate. They were not supposed to touch each other! And the four decent size pieces of meat needed quite some space in order to meet John’s high standards in preparing a meal.

Then he grabbed a bag of mixed frozen vegetables and tossed them into the steamer. “It will take a bit of time…they are frozen. But it will be just enough to allow me to finish the veal”. It was too cold to turn on the grill on the patio in the backyard, so the electrical one was the grill of choice this time.

Shortly, the temperature of the grilling surface reached the temperature John wanted and with a great satisfaction, he placed the veal stakes on the grill. The hissing sound of the fresh meat in contact with the hot grill, made him crack a smile again. The electrical devise was set at high. John kept the temperature at this level for two minutes until the chops caught that nice trace of the grilling surface. Then he flipped them on the other side for two minutes too. “OK. Now they are ready for the long journey” said John to himself and turned the grill to low. He checked the steamer as well and set it to low. Added his favorite spices on top of the vegetables and then covered the steaming devise with a great satisfaction on his face. Everything was moving according to the plan, to his expectations, ultimately to the routine – as he did this drill numerous times before. “I think we need some rice – it will go well with the veggies and the stakes”. Without any sort of hesitation he grabbed a bag of Himalayan red rice they had inside of the top counter, filled up a large cup and then carefully washed it. He pulled another steamer from underneath the counter (this was a smaller one they were keeping exclusively for preparing the rice) and tossed the rice in. Turned the knob to 25 minutes and from this moment everything was set to provide a delicious and healthy meal.

“How about some appetizers?” This thought made him open up the fridge and from one sight he figured out exactly what he wanted: he pulled a container of hummus he was buying from a Downtown store, a jar of mini red bell peppers stuffed with cheese, a jar with mini pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts (the same as they had in the morning), a jar of mixed pickled vegetables and a soft cheese he was buying from the same store.

He pulled a large plate from one of the cabinets, in a sign that he was planning a feast from the very beginning. However, while setting the plate on the table, a second thought struck him: “what if I pull that special nice plate Linda bought?” Fervently he started searching for something else. Methodically, John opened up all the kitchen cabinets without finding what he was looking for. “Hmm! Where could it be? According to one of Murphy’s laws, it will be in the last cabinet” The search started all over and right when he was ready to give up, a large smile brightened his face: “Bingo!” He pulled out of the last cabinet he looked into, a superb plate which most of the people wouldn’t even figure out that it is something to be used in the kitchen. It had the shape of a lemon tree leaf with unusual curved edges and many cavities and ridges – specially meant to receive small and various quantities of food. It was meant to sit in the middle of the table so people could share from it. The plate was not only practical for this sort of dish, but was also masterfully crafted and colored. The irregularities of the design and the curved edges and ridges of the openings showed that the artist did not make too many of this kind. The light green color with little brown veins (simulating the real leaf) was sending a warm and inviting message to the diners. Linda bought it at an auction organized by her school to support an after-hours program. “I think she told me once who donated this plate to the auction…can’t remember. I’ll ask her”

John started placing the food into the openings beginning with the hummus in the middle. Then it was the turn of the little bell red peppers, the mini eggplants and the pickled vegetables to be placed into the cavities adjacent to the middle opening.

The soft cheese encircled everything and its white color in contrast with the green color of the plate and the reds of the bell peppers and various pickled vegetables, conveyed a strong “come and eat” signal. He finished up the plate by pouring a little olive oil on the hummus and sprinkled some hot paprika powder on the top.

“Ready?” John stepped back a couple of feet from the table, in an attempt to have a fresh look at the table. “Of course I am missing something and unfortunately it is essential!” Quickly he opened up the fridge and started going through the bottom drawers looking for something that apparently cannot be missed. A bunch of fresh parsley was now waiting to be washed and chopped. It only took one minute for his professional knife to finely cut the leaves and place them in two plate cavities, diagonally opposite. “Now it is ready, exclaimed John with a great satisfaction in his voice!”

-What is ready? Linda didn’t need to ask any more questions as her sight fell onto the gorgeous plate in front of her…Where did you find it? I was looking for it a while ago!

-You simply didn’t look hard enough, honey. A waggish smile flourished on his face, a smile which made Linda slap his arm in a sign of: “don’t give me that!” No, seriously – where did you find it?

-In that top cabinet.

-I looked there and couldn’t see it; anyway, it looks fantastic with all this stuff on it. This is again one of your spur of the moment things, I guess.

-Pretty much. Yeah! Now let’s check on the stakes and the veggies. Please throw into the toaster some bread for the hummus. Quickly he turned his attention towards the stove area, where the two steamers and the grille were placed. John removed the lids and a smell of seasoned meat filled up the kitchen and the dining area.

-God, I am starved, exclaimed Linda while looking at the food that was simmering in front of her!

-Ten more minutes and it is done. Let’s have some starters first.

-Good idea with this plate of appetizers! Not sure I could’ve resisted until the veal was ready!

Both of them headed to the dinner table. The bread just popped up from the toaster. Everything was ready! Linda said her short prayer. Now, the road towards feasting was wide open. Nobody was saying anything anymore; they were just digging into the appetizers, trying different combinations with the stuff presented in front of them. Shortly into their appetizers feast, a “ding” coming from the veggie steamer made them lift up their heads and realized that the main course was probably ready. John checked again the stakes and with the voice of someone who knows he was in charge of providing a tasty meal, announced the output of all the preparations made to that point: “the veal is ready and so are the veggies! The rice needs a little more time though”

-Awesome! I am done with the starters.

-Plates please! Knives, forks, glasses for the wine!

In a heartbeat, Linda removed the leftovers by placing the one of a kind plate on a smaller table beside the main dinner table and brought nice large lunch plates and some wine glasses they haven’t used in a while. For some reason, Linda felt like reaching into the stand alone walnut wood cabinet they had in the Living room. This was the place where they were keeping all the special crystal and porcelain ware they had. This was the stuff Linda inherited from her father, Reverend Wilson. He was a great collector of exquisite porcelain figurines and art glass ware. A light inside of the cabinet was most of the time on, thus lighting up the wonderful specter of colors and shapes molded or engraved on the ceramic or crystal ware or figurines displayed in the cabinet.

The two crystal glasses picked by Linda were exquisite indeed…the forms and shapes at the joint between the tall leg and the cup itself were a master piece of imagination, color and craftsmanship. Three lions equally displayed around the circumference “hugging” each other by joining their front paws were attracting like a magnet the sight of whoever was looking at them. Their manes were painted in a dark brown which was contrasting so well with the crystal clear nuance of the glass itself! At each pawn joint, there was a depression painted in red, simulating a Rubin stone. The rear legs of the beasts were resting on the glass’s leg, thus providing balance and stability.

Overall, it was a masterpiece of the glass making trade, one of those forgotten skills replaced by technology and mass production means.

Linda poured the wine in. She didn’t realize that John was standing right by the table with the grill in his hands, waiting to lay it on the wooden board specially made for these sort of occasions. He was simply mesmerized at the sight of the glasses Linda picked; sun rays were hitting the crystal from the side, thus making the red wine release shades which seemed like they were having lots of fun dancing and mingling with the shades released by the exquisite quality of the glass work.

-Why did you pick up these glasses?

-I don’t know…a spur of the moment I guess – same like your cooking.

They spent the next two minutes laying the food on the table, arranging the plates, the knifes, the forks and finally the wine bottle and the glasses in a way which was not only presenting an invitation to the dinner table, but was also pleasant to the eye and thus releasing a warm and welcoming call for indulging into the main course.

John skillfully placed the stakes in the middle of the plate and then the veggies on one side. Another “ding” made them ware that the rice was ready too. In less than thirty seconds, the plates received the nice reddish Himalayan rice, placed on the opposite side of the veggies. Everything was ready now.

-Cheers!

-Cheers!

The superb sound released by the “clink” of the crystals, proved again the high quality of the material in the glasses and the unique skills of the master who made them.

-This wine is superb! What an aroma, what a fantastic taste!

-Yeah…it has a well-balanced body and the bouquet is summary like – brings the smell of all the wild mountain flowers.

For the next two minutes or so, none of them said anything anymore. It was just the cadenced sound of the forks and the knives hitting the plates, cutting the nice juicy stakes and scooping the rice and the vegetables.

-I can’t believe I have missed this, exclaimed John and he simply sprung up and headed for the spices rack.

-What did you forget?

-Cayenne pepper on top of the vegetables.

-That’s all right. Now it’s too late. It was supposed to steam alongside with the veggies.

-I don’t care. I will sprinkle some now.

-OK, go nuts…what can I say? But the stake is spicy enough.

-It’s spicy enough for you, honey!

John’s obsession and taste for spicy food was something he developed during his College Football years when he entered countless competitions with his team mates on: “who can eat spicier?” During road games or while playing at home, so many times they ended up eating wherever they could or found a place to decently feed, but the competition was always on: “let’s see who’s the man!”

Big K.J. was always a front runner. He could eat so spicy that others wouldn’t even dream on touching food like that. John tried to take it up to him. There was no chance he could even come close to his friend’s abilities! K.J. was the undisputed champion. His forehead was all covered with sweat when he was having his spicy food…this is how spicy he was eating!

John sprinkled cayenne pepper on top of the broccoli, the cauliflower, the carrots and the corn he had as veggies in front of him. Then took another fork and made sure everything was nicely mixed up. Finally, he tasted the stuff in front of him and with a victorious like smile, he exclaimed:

-Now it is eatable!

Linda lifted up her head, looked at John’s plate and started shaking her head.

-I want to see you eating that thing!

-You will! Without hesitation, John dug into the veggies and realized that he over reacted. The veggies were not spicy anymore, they were red hot! “Now I have to keep a low profile…damn it! I put way too much cayenne pepper on them!”

He wanted to save the appearances at any costs! “There is no way I am showing the discomfort! Ultimately, I was one of the guys who always dared to challenge Big K.J.”

He reached for the wine glass – the mouth was desperately asking for some liquid to put away the fire that was apparently burning out of control.

Linda was perfectly simulating that she had nothing to do with her husband’s troubles by keeping her head down and focusing on the food in front of her. But one could tell that she was “spying” on John and she was quite enjoying the spectacle in front of her: John’s face turned already red and now the sweat started running down from the forehead on the cheeks. He slowly stood up and headed for the kitchen. Grabbed a fair amount of towel paper and wiped his face. Linda couldn’t hold it anymore and burst into one of her crystalline laughter, a sign of big time amusement and good mood. She actually stopped eating and was just watching John’s temporary misery…the coughing, the red face turning into different shades, the altered voice which sounded like a little kid’s voice and finally the sweat dripping off in buckets like.

-I can’t believe this! It’s not the first time I am doing it! Something is not right! John’s sight fell on the little plastic container he used to spice his food up. Couldn’t believe his eyes of the mistake he made!

-I knew something was wrong! Read the label please; he handed the container to Linda and with a shake of his head he actually told himself: “can’t believe you made such a dummy mistake”

Linda grabbed the item which almost made her husband choke and read the label.

-Are you kidding me? We actually had this stuff in our spice rack? I need you to throw it away!

-No, I am not going to get rid of it; I am just going to put a special label on it.

-You lost your minds…all these extra spicy foods you are eating, can’t be good. I still cannot believe that we had in our rack the Carolina Reaper! That is poison! Why did you even try it? And you put quite a bit of that powder on your veggies.

-Look at the containers…John pulled the Cayenne pepper from the rack and placed it beside the other one. They were almost identical. In his attempt to make his side dish as perfect as possible, he mixed up the jars and sprinkled the Reaper on them.

After the fire in his mouth was relatively put away, he took again a sit at the dinner table and reached for the wine glass. Few small sips taken at few seconds interval made him feel his tongue and the lips again.

-Great! Now the stake and the rice are cold! But that’s fine – I will eat them. I am still hungry and I don’t like to throw food into garbage. The veggies unfortunately will land right into the food disposal.

-I just hope you learnt your lesson…you had to go through this episode, or you would have never even considered chilling down on the amount of spices you are eating.

John didn’t say anything anymore. He took his plate, threw the “contaminated” veggies into the food disposal and placed the plate into the microwave. Just couldn’t eat that great stake he made, cold.

Linda raised her glass again and the “cheers” that came out of her mouth was intended for John to cheer him up. He was still recovering from the violent tasting experience he went through. He raised the glass too, only that this time his “cheers” was barely a happy drinking message, it was a message of “happy to still be alive”.

They both took a couple of sips from the wonderful red they had in front of them before the microwave’s “ding” made John’s aware that his stake and rice were warm again. For the next ten minutes, there was a deep silence into the dining room until all the food in front of them was gone.

-More wine?

-Sure. It is very good. Where did you buy it from?

-I have my places…a little store Downtown. They have a great selection and the wines they are bringing in, are literally the best you can have with your meals. Slowly they finished the bottle in front of them. The excellent meal they had, the wine and the long walk they took into the cold crispy morning, made them contemplate at a short nap. John knew that if he had even a short power sleep of half an hour, he wouldn’t be able to sleep again at night. So, he had to get himself busy for at least another three, four hours before the evening routine would settle in and the bed time for a “next work week” will take over.

-Ice cream?

-Yes! What do we have?

-Let me look…I think we have that Viennese style ice cream, you know the one…

-Oh, I know! It has layers of wafer and vanilla ice cream between them!

-Yeap! You got it. John started moving things around into the freezer in order to get to the ice cream his wife was gaga about. After thirty seconds of digging through the stuff they had into the freezer, John broke it to Linda: it is gone, honey! Sorry.

-Oh! I so would’ve loved some Viennese! So what are we having for our sweet tooth? Disappointment (to say the least) was the feeling Linda was experiencing and John knew that he had to come up with a plan. Both of them had a weakness for sweets, but most of all he simply couldn’t stand seeing her sad.

-Tell you what…we have two options: first, we walk to Giovanni’s and this way we are burning few calories, or I get started on making some crêpes.

-Wow! Both are enticing! Now I have a problem deciding which one I want. Let’s take a walk to Mr. Ferrari’s place.

-Fantastic! Good choice. I am ready in five.

-OK. I will put my blue jeans on and we are on our way.

 

 

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