“Come have dinner with us, Mr. Goodwich,” Sylvia (daughter) blurted out.
“Sylvia!” I said. “He probably has plans for dinner. At least something a little more exciting than the roast I threw in the oven this afternoon.”
“I’d love a home-cooked meal,” Chris Goodwich said. “If it’s not inconvenient.”
“A roast?” Sylvia asked with a puzzled expression.
I knew she was thinking her mother had begun taking drugs. I hadn’t cooked a meal in so long that a spider had woven a dual-rack web in my oven. I didn’t leave all the take-out bags in my frig though. I put the last piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tupperware the night before. It gave some sick semblance that there were real leftovers from a real meal. The kind that actually did taste better the second day.
I turned to Chris. “It’s not inconvenient at all.”
“Well, great. I’ll run down to my hotel and check out. Where do you live?”
I gave him directions and looked at Sylvia while Chris thanked her art teacher.
“A roast?” Sylvia repeated.
“I can cook when my back’s against the wall,” I said. “Come on, get your stuff and hurry up. We have to stop at the store and buy one.”
Sylvia gathered up her things, and we hustled to my car.
“How do you know this guy, Mom?”
“He’s the artist from the courthouse dedication the other night.”
“The one that asked you out? The one you thought was gay?”
“That guy is not gay, Mom. And don’t roasts take, like, all day to cook?”
“Only the ones your grandmother makes.”
“Bubble gum meat? Those are roasts?”
“Bubble gum meat” was what my children and their cousins called every main course that came out of my mother’s oven approximately twelve hours after she put it in, never really knowing whether it came from a cow or a pig or a turkey but certain that one could chew for a really long time before swallowing or spitting it out.
“Come. Learn from the master,” I said to Sylvia as we ran from the car into the grocery store. Sixty bucks and twenty minutes later, we hurried into the house. Frank was at watching TV.
“What’s going on?” he asked amid a flurry of packages and shouting.
“Mom kind of has a date. He’s coming here for dinner,” Sylvia said to her brother. “Microwave or oven for this meat?”
“Oven. Turn that sucker to five-hundred degrees. Frank, run upstairs and wipe up the bathroom.”
“Yes, the bathroom,” Sylvia prodded. “There are little wipes under the sink. Use those. Just don’t go from toilet to sink. Only sink to toilet.”
I looked at my daughter and thought about what a fine wife she would make. “Put on a clean shirt when you’re done, Frank, and close all of the bedroom doors.”
I put the pre-mashed potatoes in the microwave and took the already-cooked roast out of its packaging. Congealed gunk went flying down the front of my red suit and down to my matching pumps.
“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” Sylvia laughed. “You’ve got to change anyway.”
“Why? I love this suit.”
“That outfit always reminded me of those suits that minister’s wife used to wear. The one you used to make fun of. You know. The one with all the mascara and blond hair.”
“Tammy Faye Baker?” I asked, horrified. “I look like Tammy Faye Baker?”
“Those little flower cut-outs in the lapel. The way that jacket sticks out over your hips. Gawd! Go change. I’ll handle dinner.”
I went to my bedroom past the bathroom door, where Frank was standing; disinfectant hanky in hand.
“I’m not lifting the seat, Mom. I’m not.”
I walked past him into the bathroom, pulled a clean wipe out of its container, lifted the toilet seat, and wiped the bowl. “You know, Frank, Sylvia and I sit down and pee. We’re not the ones who make the mess on the rim.”
Frank shrugged. “Who is this guy? Where did you meet him? What’s he like?”
“He’s the man who painted the new mural at the courthouse. He was giving a talk in Sylvia’s art class. He’s the one who asked me to go to the thing at Children’s. He’s very nice, Frank.” I walked past my son and had nearly made it to the relative safety of my bedroom when he called out.
“You thought John Marshall was a nice guy, too.”
I chose not to respond. Instead, I pulled on my jeans and a nice, new cream-colored sweater with a little half zipper and a stand-up collar. I ran a brush through my hair, reapplied lipstick and slipped into a pair of penny loafers. I wiped the gunk off of the red suit and put it in the bag for the Goodwill.
When I came downstairs, Sylvia was putting corn in the microwave, and Frank was setting the table. I went into the living room to gather last night’s glasses of warm Pepsi and pick potato chips off the carpet. No time for the vacuum, I thought. The doorbell rang, and I smoothed down my hair and took a deep breath.
I’m no cook either but I make these pumpkin muffins every year and they’re always a hit!
1 & 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup raisins
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottom of 12 muffin cups or use paper muffin cups. Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle 1/4 t. sugar over batter in each cup. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. 12 muffins.
Trivia Question: How much did it cost Glenda in the grocery store?