Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spirit Muse

Pffsss . . . T!  On hearing the threat from the distant, Thermador cooktop, the girl put down the sleek, black paperback that she had intended to open in deference to her phone.  "Just-kill-me-now.  Grandpa's frying catfish," she tweeted to her sister, while mouthing the same under her breath.

She loved her grandfather dearly.  He would do anything for her, and there was no end to his inventive soul.  Once upon a time, he led over twenty men in an elite, engineering aviation battalion that fashioned rock crushing apparatus out of whaling equipment to build experimental, B-29 bomber runways on near quicksand in India.  As for frying fish these days . . .

Pffsss . . . T!  The oil overspill seared menacingly.  It had overflowed the rim of the cast iron skillet and slithered into contact with the red-hot burner coils.

A dashing, 6' 2", former Disco King, and masculine duplicate of her mother sauntered into the den.  "Uncle Clay, grandpa's frying fish," the young woman told him in a rushed, hushed voice.  She rose to follow him as he passed her by, headed through the swinging door toward the sizzle in mutual, expressionless anticipation.

The two entered the kitchen just in time to see the drippings on the burner blossom into a bluish red halo around the iron. 

Her uncle exclaimed, "Father!  You have too much oil in there!"  He deftly advanced to his daddy's side, turned off the burner, grabbed an oven mitt, and used it to slide the skillet off the heat.  Before the patriarch could object, the modest halo burst into flames two feet high.  

The girl's uncle and grandfather stepped back, wide-eyed.  She announced, "That's an oil fire.  I'm going to get the baking soda." 

Her uncle protectively objected, "Get back!"  He lunged to open an upper right cabinet and snatched the iconic, orange tribute to Vulcan—the Roman God of fire—from within.  Sparsely sprinkling the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda onto the flames only caused mild, smoky protest before their menace prevailed.

The blaze that had gained strength was otherworldly.  There was a presence about the fire—a mesmerizing shape—that the girl recognized from a recurring dream.  It was an elderly and sweet face with kind eyes.  

On previously describing the genteel lady's complexion, skin, and features from the dream, her mother had responded, "That sounds like daddy's mother, your great grandmother.  She passed away when you were about three and half."

The memory of her mother's words snapped the girl to attention.  Fearful of what it foreboded for her grandfather, she wailed at her uncle, "Give me the box!"  

Determined to protect his niece, her uncle used his free hand to further bar her way to both the box and the flames, while heavy-handedly dumping nearly all of the powder onto the fire with his other.  The powder's weight smote the mirage and the blaze beneath it to nearly smoke-free nothing.

"Wow," her uncle quietly voiced at the instantaneous change and peaceful aftermath.  A moment passed.  Then he and her grandfather eyed the perfect, golden, untouched catfish before helping each other to the toweled plate and fork to retrieve them.

Whatever, she inwardly thought, observing their trance-like pull to the food.  The girl misinterpreted her uncle's protection as bravado before shaking her head and turning back toward the den.  Then she dismissed the mirage as commonplace.  

After finally lounging back down onto the sofa, she retrieved the slender volume to resume reading . . .