Mary Lou's Cookbook

By @tlmntim9

Chapter 1

Title: Mary Lou’s Cookbook

Word count: 2,384

Author: Tim Wilkinson

 

Mary Lou’s Cookbook

By Tim Wilkinson

 

“What are you reading?” Shelia asked, her tall, lean frame stretched over the back of the plush, high backed chair, her chin resting lightly on the top of Wayne’s head.

“Oh, nothing really, a recipe book.”

“Really? You?”

“Yes—and why does that surprise you?”

“Oh, I don’t know, just not what I’d expect you to be reading. Thought the classics or ripe and bloody vampire stories were more your style.”

“True.”

“What is it? I mean what kind of recipe book, or who’s?”

“My Grandmothers actually. It’s a collection of her favorite recipes, or rather the favorites of her children and…the family.”

You’re Grandmother, really? How cool. I didn’t know you had any family.”

“I don’t. And what exactly does that mean? Did you think I was hatched in an incubator or grown from a spore or something?”

“No silly. I just never heard you speak of your family before. Do you keep in contact with any of them? What about your parents?”

“Like I said, I have none.”

“No what, family, or parents?”

“No either.”

“Why? Have they passed away, your parents I mean, good ole dad and mumsy?”

“No, not passed, just away.”

“So where did the recipe book come from?”

“A cousin of mine. Seems she broadcast it to her address book and I suppose I was still on it.”

“You say that like your surprised. Is there some reason why you wouldn’t be on her list? Don’t you have any contact with her?”

“No, not really, just the occasional, incidental mass mailing like this.”

“I’d hardly call that incidental. Sounds more like treasure to me. So tell me, why? Why don’t you two keep in touch?”

“Oh, it all seems a bit pointless, really.”

“Pointless? How can your family be pointless?”

“Do you really want me to go there? No good will come of it, I assure you. Besides, it always puts me in a bad mood, and that, I’ll warn you, might just spoil your chances for a little poke and tickle later.”

“Yes, I do want to go there, really! I see no reason why we can’t…and have a bit of poke and tickle. If it puts you off I promise I’ll do my best to…uhum…to get you back up.”

Wayne paused before answering, his voice tired and dismissive. “Really Shelia, it’s complicated.”

“Is it? Do tell.”

“Like I said it’s…”

“Come on. Please,” Shelia pleaded, moving around to the front of the chair, where sitting cross-legged on the floor before him she fixed her eyes on his, intent and determined.

Wayne, his resistance fading swiftly to resignation expelled a deep, defeatist sigh. Then lowering the small, paper sheathed book onto his lap he leaned his head back against the chair, raised his eyes to the ceiling. And began.

“Okay, if I have to. But remember it was all your idea,” he pouted.

“Agreed, now spill the dirt.”

“Well, I mean it’s no dank, dark little secret or something we hide from the neighbors, nothing so interesting as all that. It’s just because I don’t know them…and they don’t know me. And if they did…well, I figure they wouldn’t want to anymore.”

“Why would you say that? I think you’re wonderful.”

“Wow. Now that does make a difference, doesn’t it? The new grand total of all who think I’m wonderful, is now up to, what? Let me see–one.”

“Now stop it. It can’t be that bad, can it?”

“Can. Now can we just drop it? And just why do you feel the need to push so? Exactly what do you gain by tearing me down and exposing all my weaknesses? What sick, perverted pleasure do you get by seeing me flail like a beached fish, huh?”

“Wow, sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. I just thought…”

“No, no I’m sorry. Forget I said that. Like I told you, these things always put me in a funk. I didn’t mean to be an ass. Let’s just say there are things you don’t know and leave it at that. Can we?”

 “Okay, sure. We could do that…But no, we won’t. I’m not just the gal next door you know, so if you expect to slither up inside of me each and every time the mood strikes you, you by God owe me the honor of knowing a few things about you, things not fit for primetime or public exposure. Get it? So why, why don’t you try to keep in touch with any of them?”

“It’s just a thing I’ve had to do Shelia.”

“Splain.”

 “Not sure if I can.”

“Try anyway.”

“It’s sort of like this…Some people choose not to watch the news or read the paper because it bothers and upsets them, makes them angry or anxious. So they give it up and stop watching. And in an odd sort of way, because of that, they are happier, happier not knowing the dirty little details of all of the horrible things going on around them. It’s a sort of a self-preservation technique or a self-protection device really. And it’s kind of like that with my so-called family, if that makes any sense.”

“But it doesn’t really, does it? When does ignoring reality change it? Besides, how can your family do that, bring you down I mean? Doesn’t family do just the opposite; provide clarity and a sense of belonging, love, understanding and compassion, even forgiveness? How can that stress you out, upset you, or make you angry?”

“I have no family, remember?”

“So you say. But they’re alive. They’re still out there. You said so yourself. Doesn’t that mean anything? Don’t you want that? Don’t we all? Don’t we need it, all of us?”

“Really Shelia, think about what you are saying. Who values and reveres one’s health more than the one who has lost it?”

“What? Oh, never mind. I think I get it.”

“Do we all want it Shelia, a family I mean? Do we all need it? I can only say that I suppose we do. I sure don’t know. I really don’t. All I can say is that you’re sure as hell asking the wrong person. What I do know is that I can’t. I can’t have it. I can’t make it appear where it isn’t, and I can’t bring it back from wherever it is that it’s gone. What’s more…I can’t take it anymore. It makes me too sad, and frankly, it just hurts too **** much. So I avoid it. I‘ve had too. I’ve had to because it or they just depresses me every time I hear of them. Just like today, I mean getting this, this accidental or guilt motivated inclusion into their lives. Face it, my cousin didn’t send this to me but to a nameless, soulless list. There is no intention or sentiment behind it, nothing but the robotic mechanics of an anonymous and lifeless email server. It’s no more meaningful and indicative of an enduring affection than a dollar that slipped out someone’s pocket and fell into my path. And let me assure you, it does nothing to cheer me up or make me feel a part of something. As for clarity, clarity of what? Clarity of purpose or origin, of sentiment or connection? Well, I have none of those things. No clarity, no connection, and no sense of origin or purpose. No, it’s all too painful and for reasons that to me are starkly obvious.”

“Coward.”

“Yes Shelia, but then what you’re suggesting that I reach for is a thing that I can never have. It’s too late for me to have an interested and involved father, a loving and mostly sane mother. It’s too late to benefit from the care and instruction of a protective older brother, or for me to become the hero or even the friend to some dotting sister or admiring little sibling. And likewise it’s too late to form lasting or intimate relationships with cousins, aunts, nieces, or uncles, regardless of their professed, and if I might add, false interest or connection that they feign to have in my life. No, that time and that chance have long passed. You know as well anyone that we can’t go back, no one can. And that what is dead and gone, is dead and gone forever. So every time I see a little something about them, what they are doing, their gatherings or reunions, or when I read any of their correspondence that might for reasons unknown, whether out a sense of guilt or some misplaced sense of responsibility or duty, accidentally or otherwise make its way to me, I feel nothing but sadness, loss, and an overpowering wave of regret and depression. So yes, I **** well avoid it, and them, whenever I can. Fortunately, that’s not too difficult as for them I ceased to exist decades ago.”

“But why Wayne. How can you feel that way? How can you think that for them you do not exist? The recipe book proves you mistaken, even if it proves nothing else.”

“You’re wrong Shelia. Don’t you see? What one does, or has done. Or hasn’t done can’t be undone. What one says or has said can’t be unsaid. No, I’ve been long accused and convicted of dozens of crimes that I have never committed, and a greater number that I have. As for forgiveness, there is none, not for me, not here, and certainly not from them. I’m an outsider and will always be an outsider. And over the past forty years, I’ve had no choice but to accept that. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. Doesn’t mean that I do like it. What it means is that that’s how it is and how it will ever stay. I’m sorry Shelia, but you’re simply wrong.”

 “I don’t understand how you can think that way, Wayne? Why does it make you sad to receive something like this? I think it’s sweet of her to think of you, to include you. Aren’t there any memories of pleasant times and happy emotions between you and her? Isn’t there anything worthy stored and locked away inside from when you and she were young? Something good, and kind, and wonderful, anything?”

“Memories? Sure, a few. Of her, maybe even a lot. But you have to understand that that was another world and another life. And that that life and that world are gone. Why? Simply because it is. And how do I know this? I know this for that very same reason. I know this because of the very memories you speak of; memories that remind me of a dream I once had, a dream I hardly remember. A bright and happy dream where everything was fresh, and young, and pure; where love was real and futures bright; where everyone I knew was strong and bold, and right, and where goodness and kindness were at the center of everything; A dream where strawberry haired angels with pale and silken skin and eyes of eggshell blue walked amid roses as red as the tone of her lips; where life was an adventure and each day a joy; where the waters ran clear and cool and the sun shone warm and bright; where the breezes, fresh and lightly fragrant blew soft and clean, and warm; where all those around me were caring and happy, and everywhere lay nothing but possibilities, friendships, affections and joys.”

“Sounds lovely. So what happened to that dream? Where did it go and why did it pass?”

“That’s just it. Don’t you see? It was only a dream, Shelia, albeit a lovely, fantastical dream, but still only a dream. And dreams…well, they don’t last do they? In the end, you’ve got to wake up, and I did. I woke up as all dreamers eventually do and I saw the truth for what it was, what it is. And that’s when I knew that I was alone, that nothing and nobody among all those I’d ever known were actually there to remain, and that all I’d previously thought or believed was false. Sure it was simple, lovely, and pure, but in the end a fairytale at best. For in reality nobody is true and nothing is clean. No one’s real and nothing lasts. There is no such thing as unconditional love and the sun simply rises. It scorches one’s eyes and sears one skin. And the water at the bottom of the pond is fetid, putrid, and cold, filled with fish **** and *****. And the air, once scented, perfumed, and fresh, stinks of nothing but drugs, and blood, and sex. And family, the family, these are only words Shelia, meaningless expressions we use to describe what we think we remember, things like friendship, or love. But just like my dream the memories we carry from our youth aren’t real. They are nothing more than an image viewed in a mirror, possessing no knowledge of what goes on behind the frame. No, it’s been over forty years Shelia, forty years since a thought of me has even crossed their minds, and you wonder how or why I might doubt the sincerity of their actions or words. No, what I learned and what I remember from when first I awoke is that I am me and they are them, and that, as they say, is that.”

“But I will say this. The worst of all, the bitterest, most indigestible of all my insights was the realization that never would I dream that dream again. And true to course I never have. For dreams, like wishes, are little more than muddled fantasies, each no better than the lies we use to mask the truth and soften the sting of a hard, selfish, and senseless world.”

“But I love you Wayne, and I’m not going anywhere. Is that also a lie?”

“No, I suppose not. I hope not. But then you don’t really know me, do you? And perhaps…”

“Perhaps what?”

“Perhaps you, you and I that is…well, perhaps I’m dreaming still.”

© 2016, Tim Wilkinson

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