Never Hook a Gift Fish in the Gills
Morning came and with it the smell of a forest woodland Sarge had never walked through, yet which his nose identified as definitely not the city park. Noticing that Lily had already exited her down burrow and the room, he wandered into the bathroom where the smell was strongest. He didn’t identify its main source until he looked in the shower and discovered a fine mesh bag securely tied over the water sprayer. Closer investigation revealed the bag contained an assortment of leaves, formerly dried flowers, pine needles and other plant matter he was unable to identify. Enjoying the scent emanating from the moist collection, he decided to take a shower. He left the bag in place for the water to run through it, hoping there were plenty more good smells left inside.
After shutting the water off, he stood inhaling the scented steaming air in the bathroom. Feeling like much more than his skin had been cleaned and refreshed he dressed, then went to see if Lily was waiting for him to stuff her with another round of pancakes or if she’d already finished her morning feeding frenzy.
When he stepped into the kitchen she grinned at him. “Water just hit full boil. How many poached eggs can you eat?”
Sarge shrugged. “At least three. Yeah, definitely three with toast should do me just fine. Morning to you too.” She winked her greeting.
“Okay, I’ll toss in an extra in case one breaks. If you don’t eat it, I will.” She proceeded to start cracking eggs into a bowl and sliding them into the pot of rapidly boiling water. “Gunpowder tea is in the pot. The peaches are canned but they’re chilled and yummy. Drop your bread for toasting at will. Now it looks about time to start chasing these eggies.”
By the time he was buttering two slices of toasted rye bread, four poached eggs were cuddling together in a shallow bowl. “Maybe you should just eat the fourth egg or at least set it aside because I’m going to put a lot of Rosa’s red sauce on the others.”
Lily sipped her tea. “No problem, Sarge. I ate mine with Rosa’s sauce too. If the fourth one is too much for you, it’ll be fine keeping warm there until you’ve had enough. I’ve always got room for poached eggs.”
“I have no doubt.” Sarge showered red sauce over the eggs, broke the first one and spooned part of it onto a slice of toast. After swallowing his first mouthful, he sighed. “Ah, hell, it’s been a long time since I’ve had poached eggs. They’re definitely the best hands down. Thanks Lily. I wouldn’t count on getting the fourth one, if I were you.”
“I’m not worried. There are four more eggs still in the carton. If I, or you, want more, we can do at least another half round each. There is another cartoon.” Hiding her smile behind her cup, she watched him take his time enjoying every bite of egg, sauce, toast and an occasional peach slice in between. She noticed that the smells from the bathroom had done more than simply follow him into the kitchen. His unruly mop of hair seemed to have soaked up the scents like a sponge so much so that with his every movement a fresh wave rippled from him into the surrounding air. This morning, Lily was content to let the past merge into the present as the memories associated with the woodland scents were some of the happiest of her childhood. Pulling up her feet onto her chair so she could rest her cup on her knees, she thoughtfully considered her idea of a very good smelling young man happily eating a bowl of poached eggs.
Lily tried to view him as Esther had spoken about him as a piece of fine-looking man candy. While she understood quite well what Esther, JJ, and Rosa meant by that phrase, she was having the same trouble with it that she had with various other concepts which had not been part of her early cultural learning, especially those in regard to people. So while Sarge took his time enjoying his breakfast, Lily sat quietly wondering if her Gran and mother would have considered Sarge attractive or a suitable mate by their cultural measures of men. While his hair was short by their standards, at least it was thick. His height and build were both beyond the usual range for her people. Both would have challenged a snowshoe artist to get the right dimensions and tensions for an appropriate pair of shoes for him. But all things considered regarding her memory of that person, Lily had no doubt the challenge would have been met more than adequately. The hazel eyes would have attracted Gran’s attention as an anomaly. Yet, the symmetry and balance of his facial features were not exactly distinctive enough to have brought an appreciative comment forth from Gran who had never hesitated to share her opinions of the opposite gender in any regard. Lily was fairly certain the openness conveyed by his smile could have gotten him some traction into Gran’s good graces and probably her mother’s too. But her mother would have placed a much higher value on his physical strength and skills, rather than his looks considering the context of their world. She also knew from childhood memories that effective problem solving on the fly trumped physical strength in her mother’s personal value system. What he’d done in Rosa’s basement by himself would have gotten him high marks in that regard .The basement plan he’d worked up with Ricardo tossed a few more fish points in his bucket. As for his board action which had started off the walkway on the snow, well, Lily was certain even her father and Priest would have appreciated that notion. As far as Lily could tell from his reading and their shared enjoyment of Volpone his other forms of intellectual grey matter appeared viable and in good working order.
Hence, creative intelligence and apparent good nature were what would have actually gotten him any truly serious traction as a potential suitor as far as Gran was concerned, especially after their time in Anchorage. Of that much Lily was certain. Gran had always appreciated and enjoyed coming up with new ways to solve the old and new problems of daily living. She’d also made it very clear to her granddaughter that the last thing to look for in a mate was physical attractiveness. While that could be a pleasing enough thing in itself, it did not ensure a steady supply of food nor offer a woman any protection and help in the face of any natural or man-made crisis. Nor did a so-called handsome face insure an equally appealing personality to match. The two definitely did not go hand in had. In short, masculine eye candy was basically good for only one thing, a good laugh. If that was all a man had to offer then, according to Gran, and Priest too, Lily ought not to be doing anything with him except enjoying the scenery while swiftly passing by on her way to finding someone with considerably more to offer in regard to finding someone for sharing her life. This was one reason she hadn’t mentioned Sarge’s looks to her friends even though she had known such information was of high interest to them. Lily could practically hear Gran telling her to look beyond the packaging for whatever else the man had to offer in this strange world of which she thought she finally had gained a fairly solid understanding. Oh sure you like that smile, Lily. Yep, it’s a good one, but what he got in survival skill set? How he match up with a good caribou man? Or a fine seal hunter? A dependable fisherman? What he got to offer that’s real in that world you living in, Lily? How would he be here? Would he even come here if I and Priest were still mushing?
After refilling her and Sarge’s cups with more tea, Lily ate another peach slice. Savoring its flavor she considered Sarge in relation to other men whose company she’d shared. It hadn’t been easy finding enjoyable male companionship in what she considered a very literal urban jungle complete with all sorts of unpredictable human predators up and down the human food chain. She was far too well aware of her cultural heritage’s influence on her daily life and the high value she placed upon it to disappear into someone else’s cultural context like a ghost. She’d met young men who had offered her a choice to do just that, plus a variety of others. Only a very few had tried to meet her on her own terms which included venturing into the world of her happy early formative years via her rich memories. None of them had ever considered taking a shower with her home people land scents or even entertained the notion of letting such thoroughly soak into their hair. Some had appreciated the scents on her person and in her living spaces. But until now no other man had taken them on himself. At the moment Lily was enjoying the effects this was having on her. She certainly wasn’t quite ready to let Sarge, or anyone else for that matter, in on her little secret. Not until she knew if it had been a fluke because she’d left the mesh bag on the shower head out of habit or if he’d deliberately chosen to imbue himself with the smell of some of her very favorite things because he found them appealing all on his own.
Sarge easily managed to eat all four poached eggs, doing so in about fives times the length of time it had taken Lily to ravenously consume her meal of them before he’d even thought of venturing into the waking world. He savored every bite and then cleaned the bowl with a untoasted slice of rye bread. As he relished the dregs he leaned back in his chair slack limbed with contentment. “Ahhh Lily, between your wonderful poached eggs and all the good shower smells, I feel like a brand new man. Is there any way I could get you to part with some of that stuff for a little packet to carry around for a whiff when I get stressed? A while back I read some things about aromatherapy. I tried to find something I liked, but nothing ever quite did the trick for me. Your shower bag definitely has the right stuff. I’m willing to make a fair trade for a regular supply. What do you say? Hmm?”
When Lily began giggling in a manner that implied she knew something he didn’t and wasn’t about to share with him, Sarge decided not to even bother asking her what was so funny. Thinking perhaps he’d wandered into some sort of private joke of hers, he wasn’t going to pursue his request further.
“So Sarge, um, just what are you willing to trade for some of my personal blends? Hmm? I already have some little cotton bags for sachets. What are you offering in trade? More pancakes? Some work on Rosa’s shifting foundation? How about a foot massage or two? Hunting down Karen’s cat wherever it’s hiding in this house? Hmm? Come on, what do you have in mind? What are you willing to place on the fair trade table?” LIly rapped on the tabletop with a teaspoon.
Sarge slowly leaned forward as he realized she was serious even though she had the oddest shit eating grin on her face that he’d ever seen. Considering how she’d devoured his pancakes the previous morning he decided to pursue that route of trade and see where it got him. “How many pancakes do you have in mind, Lily? Would you want them delivered all at once or spread out over a period of time?”
“Even I can only eat so many pancakes at once. Common sense dictates that fresh cakes should be spread out over time. I’ve tried freezing big batches and while they’re not bad reheated, they’re just not the same as fresh off the heat.” She sipped her tea and smiled at him. “Perhaps you’d like to get a whiff of the rest of my collection first? Hmm?”
Sarge raised his eyebrows. “You have a ‘collection’ of good smelling things? I have choices?”
Lilly grinned and nodded energetically. “Oh yes, Sarge, you definitely have choices when it comes to Lily’s personal scents.” She set down her cup and beckoned him with one hooked finger to follow her into the book room. “Have some velvet and I’ll be right back.”
Completely caught up in his curiosity and hoping Lily really did have more of the sorts of scents that were doing wonderful things for his state of being, Sarge laid claim to one end of the red couch and watched her disappear into the small room that served as her walk-in closet. A few moments later she came out carrying a large wooden box and wearing a wicked pleased smile on her face. She set the box between them on the couch. With a little flourish she opened it revealing dozens of small tightly capped glass jars filled with an assortment of dried plants, bark, flowers, roots, grasses, seeds, pine cones, leaves, twigs and even tiny pebbles. “Feel free to sniff to your nose’s content. Find what you like the most. Take your time. We’ll talk more about pancakes later. How about another cup of tea? “
He picked up a jar of petals and nodded. “More tea sounds good. Thank you, Lily.” Twisting off the cap he sniffed once and then again and smiled as he spoke to the jars’ contents. “I have no clue what you are, but I like the way you smell.”
Returning with a fresh cup of gunpowder tea for each of them, Lily nodded ever so slightly in response to the internal gentle voice whispering that the young man had gone straight to the very best bait in the box and had thoroughly hooked himself. She had absolutely no intention of even slightly tugging on the line at all, even if it was thoroughly down into his gullet all on its own. There was no reason to rush or tug when they were already snowbound and more flakes were on the way. It was not lost upon her that she too was caught via being the one at the other end of line. She didn’t see or sense any reason to complain about this unexpected development. Under the circumstances she figured things ought resolve themselves fairly quickly one way or another. The way relationship matters between herself and other eligible males had gone the past few years, Lily was all for not wasting time on what didn’t matter and focusing on what did matter to her.
They spent the entire morning exploring the contents of Lily’s wooden box, drinking gunpowder tea and eventually filling several small sachet bags with different mixtures of the things most agreeable to Sarge’s nose. For Lily it was a healthy merging of different locales, times and people. From the start it was clear that Sarge was seriously intent on finding scents that would help him relax physically and mentally.. He explained to her how he already had made effective use of several breathing techniques in conjunction with mindfulness and awareness of his reactions to a variety of stress triggers. Lily listened closely, but did not probe what she understood as his efforts to deal with unspecified things he couldn’t change but encountered frequently in general, a great many of which seemed to have direct connections to family affairs.
Realizing the man was in earnest regarding dealing with such things on multiple levels piqued Lily’s interest further, yet she did no more than listen to whatever he was willing to share. There was no reason to push or rush him to talk until he was ready. A momentary glance at the windows confirmed that the density of the falling snowflakes was increasing. There was no need for any further verbal pressure assaults like the one in the back seat of the taxi. The process of getting to know one another was well underway. From Lily’s perspective, Sarge was showing potential for far more than being The Man With A Plan To Fix Rosa’s House.
After they’d mixed together several different blends for sachet bags he could either wear on a soft cotton string around his neck or carry in a pocket then the pancake trade was discussed. The few remaining from the previous day’s breakfast were polished off during a midday meal composed of leftovers which also included the remains of the chicken soup. Being in agreement that more soup was indeed in order, they commenced making another large pot of it without noticing that a hearty blizzard was well underway outside. Once the soup was left to breathe on the stove, there were children to tutor and books to read. They gently slipped into a fine mellow flow after the busy intensity of the previous days.
Breakfast Special, #18, “Fore Play” https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/breakfast-special-18-fore-play/