Am I in an odd “place” or is it just the weather? The moon? Solar flares maybe? Could it be this week’s ghostly ingredient from the Jar of Spooky Things?
I can’t define it — this odd mood, so I may as well just roll with it. However, be warned that it might make this episode of Cookbook-2 a little peculiar too!
Not everything writers do is influenced by the nature and contents of our mood, mind or memories. Some characters have nothing at all to do with our personalities or pain. And some do. However, I think most of what we write is influenced by our experiences. It would take a talented writer indeed to fully remove self from the words.
So for most of us, a piece of the heart, the soul goes into what we write. The same is true for great cooks — a little of their spirit and a lot of their love is stirred into everything they prepare. Take a tour of A Pug in the Kitchen, and you’ll see an example of how true that is. Suzanne supplied the ingredients for this episode. Her blog is packed with great food and clear instructions. But what makes it a truly special place are the touches of real life, the bits of her that you’ll find in each recipe and post.
And now, a brief reminder of where we left things last time…
Saltwater and rain drenched everyone. Passengers screamed. The captain shouted for calm. Huge waves poured into the small craft. Thunder roared. Lightning blasted the darkness, eerily illuminating the terrified faces around me.
A double pronged bolt of lightning fractured the sky right above us. The boat launched into the air again. That time I lost my grip. I felt myself lifted off my seat and into the air.
11. Red Currants, Baked Beans, Polish Sausage
It was a big soft cushion of black velvet. I settled against it as I floated down. Down.
The world was so quiet and peaceful. I relaxed and drifted further into dark serenity. A gentle downward motion cradled me. Peace. It was a wonderful calm feeling. I never wanted to let go of it.
Then icy cold stabbed through me, jolting my arms, my legs with abrupt freezing pain. Shocked, my eyes bulged open, but I couldn’t see. The world around me was black and empty. Suddenly I realized that I couldn’t breathe.
I finally understood that I was under water. My arms and legs floundered as my mind told them to move, to swim. However, in the shock of the cold depths, my body didn’t listen to what my brain said. My muscles seemed confused, trying but not succeeding to comply with mental demands.
Something scaly brushed past my legs. I twisted in the Atlantic, still descending. Then I felt a soft caress, like a hand on my shin, gently pulling me even farther down. I swung out my leg instinctively. A bubbling chuckle answered my kick.
In the darkness I saw a glimmer reflect from opalescent scales and a broad fishtail. Bright green eyes were unexpectedly locked with mine. I saw a beautiful face that could have been either male or female, surrounded by a nimbus of long floating green hair. The face loomed closer and I was kissed passionately.
At first I struggled in fear. Then I realized that my lungs were filling with air. He backed away, and I saw his bare chest, marked with what appeared to be strange tattoos. I stretched out my hand beseechingly. I tried to plead for help, but only succeeded in taking in more of the ocean. With another watery chuckle he glided closer, eyes softly glowing in the night. He licked his lips and the light in his eyes intensified. His expression scared me more than the prospect of drowning.
Abruptly he broke eye contact and looked around suspiciously. Something about the way his green hair floated made me think he was using it in a sensory way. His fierce expression turned fearful. With a powerful thrust of the broad fin of his tail he plunged deeper into the Atlantic and disappeared.
Applesauce! A mermaid. No, a merman, I corrected myself as I struggled in vain to reach the surface. I had always thought mer… people were supposed to be playful rescuers. But that guy really scared me. Then I remembered something from school, about long ago sailors telling tales of men being dragged to their deaths by mermaids. I didn’t know what to think. It had to be a hallucination anyway. After all, I was drowning, and with that I realized the breath of air he gave me was already exhausted.
Despite the frigid ocean, my lungs burned, ready to explode. I saw a narrow stream of small blood red bubbles, and I thought perhaps my lungs really had burst. Although I knew that had not happened. Yet.
I looked at the tiny bubbles in fascination as they floated toward me in single file. They reminded me of ripe red currants. The line of translucent red currant bubbles became a loop and it circled around me. I heard a pop-fizz sound and the red bubbles drew snuggly around me, no longer a loop but a lariat.
A current surged against me, pushing me halfway around. Charging toward me was a giant seahorse. As it drew close, the seahorse reared back, snorting supernatural fire the ocean could not quench. The glowing white form of a Stetson hat shone from behind the creature’s head. Caleb Colman leaned forward, took off his hat, and gave me a dazzling grin.
“Hey little filly,” he said. “It looks like you’re in a mite of trouble,” the erstwhile ghost-rider said as he gave the supernatural lasso a gentle tug.
Caleb put an arm around me and placed me in front of him where he sat astride the enormous seahorse. He whipped the lasso, cracking it heavenward. The seahorse snorted fire and bolted upward.
It was still pitch black, but I sensed we neared the surface of the Atlantic. Caleb leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I know that I owe my chance at redemption to Maestro Martino, and I hope you’ll thank him for me. But if it hadn’t been for you Miss Pip, it never would have happened. I’m just trying to say that I’m grateful to you. And I’m grateful to be able to help you in return,” Caleb said.
Unexpectedly when I broke the surface of the water, I sailed up several feet into the air, like a dolphin. But what goes up must come down, and I hit the water again with a cold splash. I heard Andy scream my name and immediately after, a life preserver plopped into the ocean next to me.
Sputtering, wheezing, coughing, and finally a belch of smoke preceded the reanimation of the ferry’s engine. The captain’s soot streaked face broke into a smile. Some of the passengers cheered, but half of them were too wet, cold, and shocked to express emotions. The small craft limped to the dock at Tybee Island.
To my surprise a line of torches lit the shore. A dozen people moved forward, eagerly greeting the passengers of the unlucky boat. They had made fire pits, and had blankets ready, which was a great comfort to everyone. The aroma of food came to my nose and I was suddenly hungry. A woman came toward Andy and me with a bowl in each hand.
“It’s only baked beans,” she apologized. “That’s all we could do on short notice. I was already cooking them for the picnic tomorrow, but this is a more important use for them. C’mon they’re warm and hearty. Have some; it’ll do you good,” she said as she handed us the bowls which we gratefully accepted.
She called over her shoulder to someone. “Vance Varley, will you please hurry up and give these kids some blankets?” she said, though I couldn’t tell to whom she spoke.
The woman was right. Having some warm food in my belly did make me feel better. At that moment, filet mignon couldn’t have been any better than those baked beans.
A man put a blanket around my shoulders. A bit of white at his collar shone in the firelight. He turned and put another blanket around Andy. The man quickly moved to someone behind us. I heard the voice of Mattie Maddox talking enthusiastically to him as he tucked a blanket around her. I was glad to see that the older woman had taken one of the few camp chairs. He told her not to worry, that they would make sure everyone got home safely.
“Vicar Varley, how could you possibly have known, especially in time to get all this together?” she asked him.
“I tell you Mattie, it was the oddest thing,” the clergyman began. “I was in the kitchen when I heard the radio start making all kinds of noise. The dial was spinning crazily, not even on any normal channel. The static and screeching were so fierce that I covered my ears. Then I heard a foreign man. He said the ferry was in trouble and that we had to be ready to care for the passengers when it got to shore.”
“A foreigner, you say?” Mattie Maddox said in a curious tone.
“I-talian, I think he was,” the cleric said. “I believe he said his name was Mister Martino, but I’m not familiar with any Martinos in Savannah.”
Andy and I looked at each other, our jaws hanging open. I moved my mouth to ask how, but the word didn’t come out. Andy got that look on his face that he gets when he’s thinking up something for one of his stories.
“They say that spirits can control electrical things, like the telephones and radios,” Andy said in an amazed voice. “Maestro must have pulled some kind of poltergeist switchboard shenanigan. But I don’t understand how he could have known.”
Memory came clearly despite my frazzled and soggy state. “Maestro knew I was upset when the ghost-riders accidentally took you,” I told Andy. “He said the presence of the riders and the Devil’s Herd are such a strong phenomenon that he felt them, and somehow that let him tune into me as well,” I said but Andy didn’t seem to understand, so I tried to explain. “Just before I went overboard, I saw the Devil’s Herd in the sky. I also saw a horizontal bolt of red lightning that seemed to point straight at the island,” I added and looked inland.
Andy followed my gaze. The church steeple was alight. A smaller, partially obscured building stood next to the church. The lights were also on there. I supposed it was the rectory. I took a few steps in that direction so that I could see past a clump of needle palm trees. The unobstructed view showed me an arched stained glass window that glowed golden and aqua in the night.
I shivered, and it wasn’t because I was soaked to the skin. I was looking at the exact window that Daisy had made appear in the abandoned warehouse.
Mattie Maddox looked my way when I moved. I gave her an encouraging smile. She turned back to Vicar Vance Varley. “That nice young couple over there,” she said in a quieter voice, but I was easily within earshot. “They were planning to ask for beds in the hostel. But are you going to have room? I expect some of these other passengers are going to need a place to stay the night. It’s awfully late for anybody to be trying to get home,” Mattie said in a concerned voice.
Vicar Varley patted Mattie’s shoulder. “Don’t you worry your sweet head about it Miss Mattie. The hostel was already full, but we’ll manage in a time of need,” he said in a confident voice, but his face looked uncertain.
“No,” Mattie said flatly. “I already offered to let them stay with me, but I could tell they just didn’t want to put me to any trouble when they said they’d go to the church hostel. Vance,” she added with authority and switched from calling him Vicar to using his first name.
“You’ll have to insist to them for me. It won’t be any trouble at all. I even have a nice supper with Polish sausage already cooked and waiting in the icebox. And it’s too much for just me. Polish sausage, cabbage, pierogies — why that’s too good to let it go to waste. Those two can stay the night at my house, and that’s that,” she said.
I had not expected Mattie Maddox to be such a forceful woman. It seemed like she had known Vicar Varley for a long time, based on the way they acted with each other. I had to laugh. I’d hate to be on the wrong side of an argument with her. Mattie had the heart of a flapper for sure.
The stained glass window in the rectory pulled my gaze back toward the churchyard. That was definitely the window in Mattie’s painting. I was certain that it was also the one Daisy, the ghost woman showed us as a clue to the mystery of who killed her.
I bit my lip in frustration, wishing poor Daisy hadn’t been too devastated to remember much of anything. However, I shuddered to think what might be so horrible that even in death the memory was unbearable. But then again, I guessed that anyone who was murdered would be traumatized. Holy Hannah, what an awful thing!
I could imagine someone sweet and gentle like Daisy befriending Mattie Maddox. Daisy was from a very poor family, and she wouldn’t have thought twice about her status being harmed by that kind of friendship. Not Daisy. If Mattie had been her friend before Henry Kingston fell in love and married her, then Daisy wouldn’t have ended the friendship just because Mattie was a maid rather than a socialite.
Another idea came to me before that thought even finished running through my waterlogged noodle. A wealthy man like Kingston would have had a lot of servants, just like his son had a whole staff to take care of that swanky mansion. Maybe I had it backwards. What if Mattie had worked for the Kingstons and then became friendly with Daisy?
No… I told myself that whole line of thought was crazy. Savannah had plenty of rich bluenose aristocrat types who could afford maids. Mattie knowing Daisy the Dainty Dish was too much of a longshot.
As I looked at Mattie, a pinkish aura appeared around the older woman. I blinked. Was I going to start seeing auras as well as ghosts? I wondered what “pink” meant.
A moment later Daisy appeared behind Mattie. The spirit frowned as she looked down at the woman. I didn’t think her expression was one of anger. Rather Daisy looked pensive or perhaps confused. After a moment Daisy’s form disappeared. Mattie turned around, as if she felt someone behind her. The older woman looked at me and gave a cheery little wave.
The sound of the ocean drew me. I pulled the rough blanket closer around myself and strolled out onto the beach. Twinkling stars reflected in the water as it lapped against the shore. The breeze hummed a hypnotic tune in my ears. I saw two specks of sparkling green out on the gentle waves.
The emerald sparks started to move closer, and I realized they didn’t come from reflected starlight of any kind. They were eyes. A broad shimmering green tailfin surfaced and slapped the water with a loud splash before heading back to sea.
Recipe: Baked Beans with Salt Pork
Recipe Credit: Mrs. Wilson’s Cook Book (1920).
1 pound of beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 cup of chopped onions
1/2 cup of syrup
1 pound of salt pork cut in pieces
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of paprika
Soak the beans over night or early in the morning. At noon place in a kettle and cover with water. Bring to a boil and drain off the water. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for fifteen minutes. Drain.
Now add tomatoes, onions, syrup, pork, salt, and paprika. Add sufficient water to cover beans one inch deep. Mix well and then cover the pot closely and bake in a slow oven for four hours.
Tune in next weekend for a new episode with “ingredients” from Willy Nilly To and Fro ~ The Philosophy of Inanity.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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