Welcome back everyone! I’m pleased to tell you that today’s ingredients were sent by a reader who hasn’t always been with us here at Teagan’s Books — Jo Robinson.
Jo lives in beautiful South Africa, and has written quite a remarkable collection of stories. She has a wonderful imagination. For instance in her novel “The Shadow People, The Finding” characters are hurled across time and space, and find themselves on Lapillus, a beautiful world made up of precious gems. (If you had any idea what a self-proclaimed “rock geek” I am, you’d understand that is a huge attraction. I have such a thing for semiprecious gems…)
Jo says all creatures feathered and furred inspire her writing, so I’m curious to know which of the “critters” in our serial she likes best.
This week’s ingredients have remarkable health benefits. I never knew that about sauerkraut! Another reader, Sally at “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” told me she recommends onions (among many other vegetables) for their healthfulness in her book on nutrition and emotional health. Check out Sally’s nutrition book, “Turning Back the Clock.”
6. Turnips, Onions, Sauerkraut
A scent of mint was on the breeze and I inhaled with pleasure. I sat on the ground in Granny Fanny’s garden wiping dirt from a turnip and an interesting idea popped into my head. “I wonder how turnips would taste cooked with some mint,” I pondered aloud.
Cinnamon Bun, Granny’s Flemish Giant rabbit, looked at me quizzically and twitched his dirty nose. I could have offered the huge bunny a turnip, but he clearly enjoyed digging up his own. Just as we both went back to the dirt, a loud noise cracked the air. I jumped half out of my skin, and Cinnamon Bun dashed to the security of his hutch.
The loud sound was followed by the beep-beep or a horn. I looked down toward the road and saw a Dodge Roadster. It wasn’t new. I guessed it was about a 1921 model. It was a black two-seater with a tan rag-top and tan spoke wheels. The automobile was not familiar to me. However, it pulled into Granny’s driveway. A moment later Andy Avis jumped out and hurried to the back yard, where I sat in the vegetable garden.
I shook my head and chuckled to myself. It seemed like every automobile Andy ever drove backfired like that.
“What do you think?” Andy asked motioning to the Dodge.
“Oh, it wasn’t worth the cost of shipping it to Hollywood, so I had to let her go,” he said with a touch of regret in his voice. “Garth Gilley, down at the garage, let me rent this roadster from him. If I knew more about how long I was going to be in town, I’d just buy it,” he said and I chuckled. “Yes, Pip. I’ve already succumbed to the charms of a new vehicle, before the dust of the Studebaker has even settled,” he said, taking off his hat and placing it over his heart in pretend drama.
Garth,owned Gilley’s Garage. Garth’s brother Godfrey owned Gilley’s Grocery where my grandmother and I bought much of our food. Godfrey was attentive to Granny Fanny’s preferences for just the right produce, and Garth handled her Model-T with kid gloves. They were good people, the Gilleys.
I took my basket of turnips, and on impulse plucked some fresh mint. Andy followed me to the side of the cottage, that’s where the water pump was. Always thoughtful, Andy got the water going and I rinsed off the vegetables and cleaned my hands.
The pump was near the open kitchen window. An unexpected sound caused me to be immediately concerned. Andy asked me if I needed any more water, and I shushed him. Then I apologized in a whisper and motioned to the window. Had I heard sobbing? Granny was the only one inside the cottage. Or was she?
I strained to hear, but Wriggles the pug was whining at Cinnamon Bun’s hutch, trying to get him to come outside. I didn’t worry about Cinnamon with the dog, because the rabbit was much larger. Besides, they seemed to be friendly with each other. They weren’t making much noise, but it was enough to prevent me hearing what was happening inside the cottage.
Yes, yes… I know I shouldn’t listen that way, but I felt awfully protective of my grandmother. Suddenly I heard a consoling voice. A male voice. Quietly I moved to the house and stood below the kitchen window. Andy was right behind me.
“Holy Hannah,” Andy whispered. “It can’t be.”
I scrunched up my face and gave Andy a look because he wasn’t making any sense. Then the voices became louder. The man had an accent. Applesauce!
“No, no, no bella. A flower like you should not cry. Dry your tears and tell the Maestro all about it. This will make you feel better, no?” the ghost chef consoled my grandmother — and she let him, despite the fact that she kicked his posterior into the refrigerator and slammed shut the door the first time she saw him..
“No, no, Luce dei Miei Occhi! Light of my eyes, you do not fool the Maestro. These tears are not from the onion. Someone has broken your heart, I can see it.”
Suddenly the sobbing grew louder. Poor Granny! She was bawling her eyes out. I moved to go inside and make sure she was okay. However, Andy held me back.
“Actually Pip… the ghost seems to be doing a good job of comforting her. There might be things that she needs to get off her chest that she wouldn’t necessarily want to tell her granddaughter,” my friend whispered.
I had to admit that Andy had a point. My thoughts went to the big shindig where we had cornered the gang of bootleggers, and moments before I had accidentally found Dabney Daniels and Granny in a passionate kiss. Granny had rejected him because she couldn’t accept being older than the handsome detective. I figured she was probably no more than a dozen years his senior, and I couldn’t understand why she let that bother her. But it did, and it was her choice, so I didn’t try to convince her otherwise. Anyhow, when you consider Granny’s mixed feelings for Detective Dabney Daniels, maybe the ghost was right. Maybe her heart was breaking.
I heard indistinguishable words in between sobs. Then finally she spoke clearly. “I don’t know if it was the right thing for me, but it had to be the right thing for him. It just had to be. A beautiful man, still in his prime shouldn’t be saddled with an old woman,” she said, though Maestro Martino protested. “But just because I turned him down — it didn’t mean I wanted him to move halfway up the east coast!” she cried. “And I surely didn’t want him to run off and do something so dangerous!” she wailed.
In between a lot of blubbering we learned that Dabney Daniels went to Washington DC to become part of a special taskforce. Granny also felt a little betrayed, because her old friend, Federal Marshal, Moses Myrick gave Daniels a glowing recommendation for the new position.
“So he’s gone for training with the U.S. Marshal’s Service Fugitive Taskforce. That’s even more dangerous than his work as a police detective. If anything happens to Dabney I’ll never forgive myself,” Granny sobbed. “It’s my fault. I pushed him into it by rejecting his romantic advances.”
Martino continued to console Granny Fanny. Once she seemed calmer, Andy and I went to the back porch and inside the cottage. As I opened the kitchen door I heard bustling sounds. To my surprise, it wasn’t Granny moving around her kitchen. It was Maestro in his white chef’s apron and hat, along with those odd looking Renaissance era boots. His back was to us, but he appeared to be making tea and a snack.
I couldn’t believe Granny would sit still for the ghost to be cooking in her kitchen — not after the way she had acted the first time she saw him. I supposed that was testament to how distraught she was. I also didn’t know what to expect the ghost chef to do when he saw us. I thought maybe he’d wink out, disappear; whatever you’d call it.
“Ah! Signorina o Signore please do make yourselves comfortable. The Maestro, he will soon have prepared something nice to make everyone feel better, no?” the spirit said.
Granny avoided looking at us. I knew she didn’t want me or Andy to see her tear stained face. She excused herself and went to wash her face. She gave a sidelong, annoyed glance to Maestro for daring to do anything in her kitchen, but she hurried out of the room without saying anything else.
Maestro Martino turned to watch her retreating form as she went down the hall. He was humming a tune that I recognized for a madrigal, It Was a Lover and His Lass. So intent was the ghost on watching my grandmother’s backside that he overfilled a teacup and didn’t notice, even when the liquid spilled over the countertop to the blue and white tile floor.
It Was a Lover and His Lass – Highland High School Madrigal singers 20131215
I cleared my throat loudly and then got a dishtowel and mopped up the mess. The Maestro acted as if nothing had happened. He served tea and sat down at the kitchen table to join Andy and me. There was something different about his face. I looked at him closely. The corner of his lower lip was swollen and inflamed. He seemed to sip his tea very carefully.
It was puzzling to me… after all, he was a ghost. “Maestro, is everything okay,” I said pointing to the corner of my own mouth to show what I meant.
He sighed unhappily. “No, Signorina. It is only …” he paused, searching for the correct term. “It is only a canker sore, I think you call it,” he said sardonically.
“Oh, that can be miserable,” I said sympathetically.
I moved to the refrigerator. I took out a dish of sauerkraut and got a fork from the drawer. “Here. Get a wad of kraut and put it against the mouth ulcer for a minute or two. Then chew it up and swallow it,” I instructed him in the same remedy Granny had
given others in the past. “It works, I promise.”
He did as I said. After a moment he chewed and gulped, then washed down the sauerkraut with his tea. Andy looked at the ghost chef with a speculative expression on his face that probably matched my own. My friend seemed to weigh a couple of options and then discard them. Finally Andy cleared his throat and questioned Maestro Martino.
“Pardon me, but how can a ghost have a canker sore?” he asked what might have been an impertinent question as politely as he could.
“Ah Signore,” Maestro began and shook his head remorsefully. “When first I met you two lovely young people, I told you of my predicament. Through no fault of my own, I pissed off the Pope and in short the point of the parable is now I am a poltergeist,” he said and waited for us to confirm that we remembered. “Perhaps I postponed providing the piece where my predicament also presents another problem,” he said looking embarrassed.
Had the spirit really used that many Ps? I blinked and gave my head a shake to make sure I was keeping up with him.
Andy chortled and I gave his ankle a little kick under the table, and told him he was being insensitive. However, Andy just laughed again. “Pip, don’t you realize?” he asked, though I didn’t understand what he meant. “The beautiful woman he was lusting after was your grandmother,” he said as he leaned his chair backward and
rocked it on two legs while he chuckled at me.
My eyes popped open wide as I looked at Maestro Martino accusingly. The ghost looked down at his teacup and nodded penitently. I got up but I didn’t know what to do with myself. When I rested my hand on the countertop it landed on the dishtowel, sopping wet with tea. I threw the towel at Maestro’s face.
The ghost immediately became transparent, and the wet towel went right through him. It plopped wetly across Andy’s face. Apparently I threw it pretty hard. Andy was still leaning his chair back on two legs, and he toppled over when the wet towel landed, covering his face.
When Andy sat up, wet white towel still covering his face, he looked like a ghost out
of a Lon Chaney movie. I made a comment to that effect, and Andy proceeded to make monster-like motions and chase me around the cottage, with the towel still covering his face. It was amazing that he didn’t run into more furniture than he did.
Wriggles the pug’s sensitive ears picked up the excited noises of play and he barreled into the game. The little dog barked as he chased behind Andy. I ran into the parlor and both of them followed. Granny Fanny must have been “on a mission” to learn something again, because there were several stacks of newspapers and other periodicals from the library around the room.
Unable to see very much, Andy stumbled over a stack of newspapers. Our laughter subsided, but Wriggles hadn’t given up the game. The pug bounced around on the strewn papers and in a moment the entire floor was covered. Andy and I set about collecting the pages and putting them back into the right order.
I noticed that they were very old issues of the Savannah Tribune, from before I was even born. Andy was on his hands and knees trying to get newspapers away from the dog without tearing them. Something caught his eye, and he shifted from his knees to a sitting position to read a page. He scratched his head and made a humpf sound that I’d often heard him make when he was thinking about an idea for one of his science fiction stories.
“What is it?” I asked.
“This name is familiar, but I don’t know why. It’s an announcement article about a local boy rising up in the organization of the Church here,” Andy said as he continued to browse the write-up. “Two brothers had been on scholarships to some hoity-toity business university, but during summer break, back home in Savannah, one of them suddenly joined the priesthood.”
“Do you mean the Binghamtons?” I asked
“Yepper,” he said and then smacked his palm against the polished oak floor with a loud smack that started the pug barking.
I shushed the dog by scratching his back. Wriggles lived up to his name. That little dog loved getting his back scratched. He stuck out his tongue to lick his little pugged nose and wagged his tail until I thought he’d tip over.
Andy continued. “Now I remember where I’ve seen that name. I saw it when I was researching the ownership history of the abandoned factory Manny Mayer had me buy for him. I don’t remember the first name, except that it started with a ‘B’ but the surname was Binghamton for sure,” he said.
I remembered the old photograph I had seen at the Kingston mansion during the big shindig. It seemed like Daisy wanted me to see something in it. I remembered it clearly. I saw Daisy step through the broad French doors. She went to a large framed photograph and placed her hand on it. She nodded to me. I knew there was information in that photograph. But then Daisy vanished.
He handed me the yellowed page. It had a much smaller version of the same old photograph. However this one had the surnames of the men listed under it. Sure enough, one of them was Binghamton. The image was so small, that it was hard to tell if one of them was a much younger version of the man who was now a bishop.
Looking closely, I realized there were two men who were thinner than the others. The bishop was a very slight man. So those must be the Binghamton brothers. However, I couldn’t make out much about their faces from the old newsprint image.
Andy and I sat back and looked at each other. One of the Binghamtons had owned the factory where Daisy the ghost girl said something happened to her. It was something so horrible that she blocked it out of her living memory and she was afraid to go inside the place even as a ghost.
“We need to make tracks back to that factory and look around,” I said.
How to Preserve Onions
Next time, Barbeque Sauce, Baby Bok Choy, Aluminium Foil
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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