Today’s “ingredients” are from my dear friend Nancy, from my Albuquerque days – however, she lives in California now. She went to one coast and I went to the other, but we try to keep in touch. Nancy has a fondness for little poodles, so I’m throwing a poodle into this episode as a bonus.
I hope you will enjoy this episode. However, I fear I’m not in top form. Let’s just say it was a heck of a workweek and I’m low on energy. So without further ado, here’s Episode 15. Bon appétit!
15. Chicken, Meatloaf, Cookies
A large ball of fluffy white darted into the room the instant the door opened. It moved across the room so fast it was just a white fuzzy blur. Then it bounded up into my arms. I caught it instinctively. “Cotton!” I gasped.
Somewhere in all that mass of curly fluff was a dog. Veronica Vale’s miniature poodle, to be exact. I had only met the little dog a matter of hours before. The doctor had let him out briefly for some exercise, before she tiredly stumbled off to bed.
Cotton ran right between the young policeman’s feet as he was stepping over the threshold. Hank Hertz stumbled as he carried radio equipment into the makeshift “command center” as Detective Dabney Daniels dubbed the room. Not many hours earlier we sat in that same room; filled with worry as the doctors Vale operated on Marshall Moses Myrick.
Dabney caught a piece of radio equipment just before it hit the floor. Hank sighed, audible relief. “See. That’s exactly what I mean. You’re still woozy,” the detective admonished the young officer. “That is why you are not going on the raid.”
“I should think not,” Granny Fanny muttered as she walked past carrying a pan of uncooked meatloaf. She gave a derisive sniff. “You should be in bed, young man. Not toting radio tomfoolery around.”
She adjusted slices of green bell pepper on the top of the meatloaf. Sliced horizontally the peppers looked like flowers. Then she opened up the oven in the corner kitchenette and put the meatloaf inside. Granny had been cooking up a storm while we waited for a pronouncement from Veronica Vale as to whether or not she believed Moses Myrick would survive the several gunshot wounds. Apparently she was already using everything in the kitchen of the main house and now was taking over the kitchenette as well.
Marshal Myrick woke up briefly a couple of times in the early morning hours. Cracker the parrot, having somehow found us after getting out of Granny’s cottage and flying around who knew where, had taken up the bedside vigil when my grandmother left the recovery room. Once I heard the parrot chirp to the marshal in a soft sad sounding voice, “Who’s your daddy?” It had a tone of encouragement, as if she was trying to get him to respond to her.
The long building in which we stood had a small but complete kitchen area. The Vales’ property consisted of their house, a small stable, a combination boarding and recovery building, and the large structure where I had spent much of the night, keeping company with whoever watched the marshal.
The building was a vaguely hospital-like facility that Vincent Vale used in his veterinary practice. His wife, Veronica, also took part of it as her laboratory. The married doctors, one a veterinarian and one an MD had saved the life of Marshal Moses Myrick after he and his men were ambushed. Detective Daniels had also been instrumental in that, by getting the wounded man to medical attention so quickly.
Granny rummaged through the drawers and cabinets, probably trying to see what tools and dry goods would be useful to her. I couldn’t imagine what she might cook next. The entire place, even the areas between the buildings, was filled with delicious aromas from her non-stop cooking. She was stretching in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a canister of flour on a top shelf. Dabney, a tall man, noticed what she was about and quickly stepped over to get it for her.
That was one thing I could say for the detective. He might not know I was alive, as far as any romantic interest on his part. However, he was kind to my grandmother. So supposed I could forgive him for his lack of interest in me. Then Dabney turned back to Hank Hertz, attentively taking instruction from the younger man about setting up the radio station.
Hank was a wonder with the technical things. I had to admire his confidence in his ability. It was an understated self-assurance, as if he “just knew” and took his knowledge for granted, as if it was nothing. I hoped he would develop the same sureness in other parts of his career and life. I felt a little protective of Hank for some reason. He just seemed to need a bit of looking after. I had never been anybody’s big sister, but I sort of had that kind of feeling about Hank.
Vincent Vale came in carrying two heavy looking baskets. The aroma of fried chicken wafted to my nose. I couldn’t help imagining what foods filled the baskets. And I hoped it was meant for us! Dr. Vale set the baskets down and looked on as the two policemen worked. Dabney talked about a raid that was soon to take place at Wetson’s Mill. At the detective’s insistence, the coppers who followed the gangsters that ambushed Marshal Myrick held back and watched the place, rather than storming it.
As Dabney had expected, more villains gathered as the night went on. The police intended to stage a raid not long after sunrise. I knew that Dabney would leave soon to take part in that life threatening situation. I also knew that was his job, as Granny had reminded me. But I didn’t have to like it. I supposed Granny felt the same way, because now and then she shot Dabney a worried look.
I let the poodle down and she went to Vincent. I was headed toward the aromatic baskets when the sound of a truck outside sent me to the window instead. Granny looked up and I noticed that the flour was transforming into biscuits ready to go into the oven along with the meatloaf. “Pip,” she called over her shoulder as she continued to pat more biscuits and place them on the baking tray. “Sweet-pea, would you go get my pocketbook? That would be the young man from Gilley’s Grocery bringing more food.”
“I’ll get it Mrs. Peabody,” Vincent said in his usual polite if formal way. Granny protested that she had already cleaned out their pantry, and couldn’t let him buy the food she had ordered too. However, the veterinarian wouldn’t hear of it. “This is my contribution. At least let me do this much,” he added and I wondered again if he was feeling like he had done less than his surgeon wife in working on the marshal.
Granny relented. “Well, all right then. Godfrey Gilley said he would take those baskets to the families. Would you kindly make sure the driver gets them?”
The families? I was puzzled for a second. Then I felt a pang of guilt for my thoughtlessness. Two government agents, Moses Myrick’s men, were killed in the ambush where the marshal was left for dead. So Granny hadn’t been performing a cooking marathon just out of worry. She wanted to make sure the families of the two slain revenuers, the agents, had a good meal during their time of need.
I felt a second twinge of guilt when I was sorry to see all that lovely food leave. My stomach growled in commiseration with my conscience. Granny chuckled. I blushed, knowing that my stomach must have been loud enough for her to hear it across the room.
“Pip, why don’t you go check the oven at the house. I have some cookies that should be ready to come out about now. Bring them back here with a picture of milk so we can all have a little bite to eat,” Granny suggested — to the intense relief of my stomach, my conscience, and me.
From the open door of the recovery room I heard Cracker chirp. “Who’s your daddy?” Then more loudly, “Who’s your daddy? Clever bird!”
The parrot flapped out of the room and over to Granny. Cracker bobbed her head excitedly. Granny dropped what she was doing, but she was smiling. “Yes, clever bird indeed!” she told the parrot.
It seemed that Cracker had finally befriended my grandmother.
Vincent Vale, tall as Dabney but thinner, wiry and long legged, ran past us to the marshal’s room. Cracker glided just over our heads and back into the room. The parrot cooed and chattered an entire collection of phrases that I didn’t know were in her vocabulary. However, I had always suspected that she knew many more words than the few things I had gotten her to say. Vincent had confirmed my idea that the parrot was probably traumatized by her owner’s death.
Doc Vale went into the room, right behind the parrot. I heard muffled voices — two of them. Moses Myrick was awake.
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Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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