Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Secret's in the Sauce

Today's post is a bit of departure from my normal rants and observations around writing and a love of words. Feel free to check out previous and more recent posts, just there to your left.

I've been working on this scene for awhile and I think I may have finally worked out the glitch, but I need some fresh eyes, would you mind?

At the bottom there are a couple of specific questions that will help me work it out. Thank you!!

Howie's sauce had been simmering all day.

Jules could smell the sweet spicy aroma even from the bedroom, now clean and orderly. She sat on the edge of the bed wearing a dressing gown and holding a zip-lock sandwich bag filled with freshly ground nutmeg. An anxious heaviness sat in her stomach or was it her heart?

She reflected on her errand to the whole foods market and the eager college kid who’d cracked and ground the seeds for her; he was no more than twenty-two, working at the market while going to school, studying nutrition. He nearly cracked his own finger while sneaking looks at her cleavage, and she’d been okay with that. He also confirmed her suspicions: nutmeg can mess you up.

It’s a lot like X, he’d said.

X? What’s X?

X, Ecstasy—blurred vision, halos, euphoria. Take too much though and a fast pulse, fever, and flushing may prompt a nosy dorm advisor to rush you to the ER at all hours of the night.

That part seemed like he was speaking from experience, not book learning.

The sound of what might have been a car door closing brought her attention back to the present. Nutmeg was a key ingredient in the sauce—that much she knew—the question was how much? A dash or a downpour? Jules measured the weight of the bag in her hands. She let it roll back and forth over her palms. Heavy doses caused convulsions, palpitations, nausea, and generalized body pain. That part she’d Googled. The section about causing pain she’d found particularly interesting.

She held the bag to her nose. The keen scent penetrated the plastic bag and teased her nostrils.

The website said that given in excess, nutmeg causes a type of psychosis; which could lead to hallucinations and a feeling of impending death. Jules had no desire to induce psychosis; simple nausea and generalized pain would suffice. She hurt and so would he; it was only fair.

The doorbell chimed, as if on cue. Jules called out, “Howie can you get that? I’m still getting dressed.”

“I’ve kind of got my hands full here,” Howie replied.

“Well, all right. Your friends have always wanted to see me naked.”

“Wait. I’ll get it,” he said. “Somehow I doubt you’d go through with it, but I’m not prepared to call your bluff, or buff as the case may be.”

“Thank you, dear.” Peeking around the corner of the bedroom door, she watched him wipe his hands on her apron and exit one side of the kitchen, heading for the living room. Jules darted to the other entrance of the kitchen via the pantry. Elated by her machinations, she grabbed the glass lid on the simmering pot with her bare hand and nearly dropped it.

“Ouch!” She stifled a yell. “That smarts,” she whispered, shaking her hand.

She saw two platters: one of wings, the other of ribs. And all of it dripping in sauce. She didn’t crave his ribs like she did his wings, he had a dry rub for ribs, but she wouldn’t kick them out of bed either. Now what? Her mind raced. What would she say if caught?

She grabbed a covered serving dish from the cupboard, set it next to the simmering pot, and ran her thumbs between the flaps above the zip-lock seal; the bag clenched its teeth and refused to yield. Jules struggled with it, worried it would suddenly burst and cover her in nutmeg.

“Come on in,” Howie said from the entry way. “You look great.”

“Thanks,” Abra replied. “And you. I’ve always loved a football jersey. It gets me riled up, all of that testosterone. Kind of like a uniform.”

Ovulating are we? Jules thought. And it is a uniform you dimwit.

Howie laughed. “Jules hates it, but I can’t seem to get rid of it.”

Why not just go at it right there on the rug, Jules thought. Dare she look? No. Stay focused, she told herself, you’ve only got seconds. But she couldn’t resist. Jules pushed her eye around the corner in time to see Abra’s hand on Howie’s chest, his hand on hers.

She jerked backed, more determined to complete her mission. She focused on the task at hand, letting the conversation at the door go unheard. “Stupid bag!” she said under her breath. At that, the zip-lock gave away. She poured half the nutmeg into the serving bowl, ladled sauce in on top of it, and gave it a quick stir.

~ * ~

The doorbell chimed.

From down the hall came Jules’s voice, “Howie, can you get that? I’m still getting dressed.”

“I’ve kind of got my hands full here,” Howie replied.

With a basting brush in one hand and a ladle in the other, Howie put the finishing touches on a platter of hot wings and a second platter of ribs. From his right hand, he was Jackson Pollack, drizzling the sauce just so—not too much—but enough to make a subtle difference on each wing. In his left hand he was Vincent van Gogh, lathering the BBQ sauce on with thick heavy red and brown swirls until the ribs were drenched.

“Well, all right,” Jules replied. “Your friends have always wanted to see me naked.”

“Wait. I’ll get it,” he said. “Somehow I doubt you’d go through with it, but I’m not prepared to call your bluff, or buff as the case may be.”

The ladle plunged into the simmering sauce; the brush landed in a spoon cradle. Howie wiped his hands on Jules’s apron, leaving dark streaks, creating bleeding chrysanthemums.

He opened the front door to find Abra and quickly ushered her in.

“I can’t explain it," Abra said, "but I’ve always loved a football jersey." Abra ran her finger down the front of Howie's chest. "It gets me all riled up, something about all of that testosterone. Kind of like a uniform.” She inhaled; her eyes closed. “It’s not hard to tell when you’re home.”

He took hold of her hand and removed it from his chest. Howie shook his head ever so slightly. “That’s my cologne, Eaux de X-wingy.”

Abra dropped her hand. “I know. Call it a test of loyalty. Congratulations, you passed, unfortunately, I only have one bracelet.”

“So you brought it?”

“Here, in my clutch.” Abra started to undo the latch when Howie stopped her. “Come with me to the kitchen.”

“Oh, I get to meet your mother? I’m flattered.”

He gave her a wistful smile and shook his head.

~ * ~

1) At what point did you realize you were reading a parallel scene? (The same scene from a different point of view)

2) Was the transition from the first scene to the second scene smooth?

3) Please post any other comments you have regarding these pages.


Jeff VanDrimmelen said...

1) The second sentence.

2) No problem with the transition. I wasn't sure if you were presenting two different views as alternatives, or if they were meant to show both sides.

3) Peaked my interest to read the rest. The fist bit was confusing, but perhaps that is what you wanted. :)

Michael said...

1) Two clues hinted to me that the scene was repeating: The symbols ("~*~") indicating a pause, change of perspective, or shift to a different line of thought; and the repeated phrase "The doorbell chimed." The following paragraph confirmed this suspicion.

2) It had a steady rhythm, though there was no mistaking the pause and continuance of a shift.

Chris Todd Miller said...

Jeff, Michael - Thank you for your feedback, it's very helpful. If you were confused at all, it's because this scene is near the end. There's a lot you don't know.

The Damsel In DisDress said...

Lovely. And great pictures.

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