Fighting Irish

10 Aug

I don’t really like Irish soda bread, so I am unwilling to make it for this Sunday dinner coming. My drunken sister is a pretty good baker, but she has no cast iron skillet and I’ll be damned if I’d let her borrow mine. Her daughter, worked in that strip club, had a baby last November that isn’t white, God bless his little soul, and that whore of a girl never did learn to cook .
If what you mean when you say, “Just like mom made.” comes from a box, if truth be told it’s the reason I never liked the stuff, dusted mealy white, crust like asphalt, parched raisins goin’ down the throat like tight little balls of tinfoil, nasty stuff, that. Can’t make a proper bread, them shanty Irish, no! Yeast’s for beer, is it not?
Ma’s dead and gone, rest her soul in Jesus and as I say, it was a box she’d open, cigarette dangling from her lips, ashes fallen where they may. My other sister is a lesbian, and won’t be comin’, not to dinner; I’ll ask forgiveness for that later.
Good bread for a summer’s day. It really shouldn’t have sultanas, as is right to call the fuckin things, not raisins, like some stoned Californian. Myself, I’d likely have more appetite if it wasn’t for the digitalis, but my heart leaks and races as if the accelerator were stuck under an impractical shoe to wear to work. Raisins, sultanas, prunes, I like the none of them.
As I type this with the stink of cabbage on my fingers, I think of my Da and his quasi-benevolent breath on the back of my neck whenever I stood in front of the stove or sink; whenever I had my back turned. As a child I thought a pound of flesh was a euphemism for his manhood, the kitchen not really a room but a dungeon of tepid, slick dishwater and never- believed promises.
He was cremated and thrown off the San Mateo Bridge. And yes, he was already dead when we did it, the spitting rain mixing with our crocodile tears.
I find myself in the kitchen still, perhaps by choice. I rub bacon fat into my skin at night to plump up that which clings to my weary bones. If I dream I no longer remember. I think, though, of clean sheets, soft and thin smelling, and towels that would fluff if we had the money to not hang them on the hempen line in the relentless sunshine. The digitalis effects both my sleep and my appetite.
The acts of cooking and eating. In the dark, I could do. Blind as well, I could do it. If I wanted to I would do it. I need no recipes. It’s a habit now. It all tastes the same.
If there’s art in the kitchen it’s the table setting. The ritual of lace upon lace, hair -thin filigree falling as graceful as snow, almost to touch the Sabbath floor, swept hard, brilliant and quiet.
Yeast is alive. So are the herbs on the sill, the mewling cat. I don’t notice them. I wield a sharp knife in preparation for the Sunday meal all expect and I resent, with the bitterness of chicory. Would that my brother- in -law got a job? My cousin the cop stop smoking dope? To find myself a matriarch, does this make me a goddess, a martyr or both?
It’s yeasted bread they’ll get. The sponge is rising so I am given a respite to type. I should think about going to mass. I need so much more than forgiveness today!
I’ll rest my head here for a brief few among the cool flesh of potatoes, turnips and onions, the scent of which is the only thing in this kitchen that remains sharp. No wits, no knife, no chest pain. I close my eyes. The church organ plays. Bach. How would I know that?
I wake. I’ll not be seeing my grand- nephew tomorrow. I don’t know what he looks like and I’ll not be finding that out tomorrow. My drunken sister and her enraged husband ruined their daughter, and I had the gall to say so. A goodly number of Hail Marys hasn’t turned that around. The pair of them will be here to eat though, married in the eyes of God or the statutes of the Health and Welfare Code of the Republic of California, whichever is the quickest way to get to eternity. Is there a law that says ye gotta be sober to get divorced?
Maybe if I hadn’t been such a bad student. Mouthy and inattentive. If I remember my dreams at all, they involve school. Flunking algebra tests because I hadn’t attended any classes, lost in a foreign corridor, on a strange bus, burdened with textbooks. I was ruined before I got to high school.
There’s a 10 o’clock mass at St. Benedicts. I’ll bow head my while the meat cooks alone in the oven. No one knows me there. Bless me Father, I don’t understand sin.

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