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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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Return to lately 2008.

like chocolate milkshake
december 1, 2008

I'm in a great mood.

I finished the first draft of my new novel, The Angry Red Planet, at 68,000 words, and in fact last month finished a second draft, which had swollen slightly, like wet wood, to 72,000 words.

I also wrote a short story. I had ideas for others, but I didn't want to start a new fiction just yet, given that with all the end of the year activities, I'd probably have to put my pen down halfway through, for weeks, which I don't like to do.

So I wanted a new project, something casual I could work at on and off.

Like most people, over the years Mary and I have tried hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different recipes. Nearly all of them were disappointments. What looks great in a color picture taken with a macro lens, or shows promise with a long list of exotic ingredients, turns out oomphless. Sometimes, though, lifted forks lead to lifted eyebrows. As a result, we've accumulated probably a hundred or so dishes we really, really enjoy.

Those precious recipes are scattered throughout our kitchen, in cook books, on yellowing rectangles of ripped-out newspaper, hand-written on the backs of old utility bills, on red, white and curled squares snipped off soup cans, or in our lively heads.

I decided my end-of-the-year project would be to collect all our recipes, type them up, put them in a loose-leaf folder, indexed by subject.

It's been a lot of fun.

Recipes are promises. These typed recipes are promises kept.

The loose-leaf notebook feels like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen Island in Norway. Paging through it is like paging through a photo album. Each page brings up memories of happy times Mary and I have spent together.

Mary's dad, Joe, is coming to visit us again this holiday season, for two weeks, an annual tradition stretching back ten years, to when his wife Joan, Mary's mom, died.

Mary and I have been driving around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, collecting nuts and berries for his visit. At the end of each day's foray, returning home, the rear of our silver SUV is like Santa's sleigh, only instead of being stuffed with toys, it's stuffed with food.

(On our foragings, we pass by a lot of newly-opening strip malls. You ever notice, when a new shopping mall is being constructed, the first store that opens is the least interesting store? A dialysis center. A nail salon.)

Here are the meals we'll be serving during Joe's stay:

Romano's Macaroni Grill Shrimp and Artichoke Dip with Garlic Croutons (Something light for the first evening, that we can just reheat in the oven while we have a drink and catch up)

Mary's Sea Scallops in Cream and Fresh Basil Sauce
Avocado Halves with Bleu Cheese Dressing

Baked Ziti with Meatballs

Steamed Whole Lobster
Buttered Corn on the Cob

Oysters on the Half Shell
Steamed Clams
Fettuccine Alfredo
Beet Salad

Prime Rib Roast (Christmas)
Pan Roasted Vegetables
Horseradish Sauce
Au Jus Sauce

Beef Enchiladas
Cheese Enchiladas
Mexican Rice
Refried Beans

Hot Cheese Chicken
Crazy Rice
Sautéed Zucchini and Tomatoes

Sunday Gravy with Veal Shanks, Meatballs, and Italian Sausage
Penne Pasta
Broccoli Rabe
Garlic Bread

Beef Short Ribs
Mashed Potatoes
Squash Casserole

Lobster Thermidor
Toast Points
Brussel Sprouts

Spaghetti Carbonara
Bell Peppers Baked with Tomatoes

Chicken Fried Steaks (New Year's Day)
Pan Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Garlic and Bacon

Chicken and Dumplings

Movies we'll be seeing are:

Nim's Island
3:10 to Yuma
P.S. I Love You
The Bucket List
No Country for Old Men
The Unforgiven
Burn After Reading
There Will Be Blood
27 Dresses
In Bruges
Lars and the Real Girl
True Romance
84 Charing Cross Road
The Legend of Bagger Vance

Every so often we get the gift of living in a horror movie.

That sudden sense of strangeness.

Our bedroom has bay windows on its south side, looking out over our backyard. Lots of trees, hedges, roses, grass paths.

As I mentioned in a previous Lately, outside one of those windows we placed a wooden TV table, scattering different-sized seeds across its top. Birds flap down, squirrels jump up. The cats go crazy. They spend the whole day on the inside sill, tails switching, pawing at the pane.

The past week, the weather getting colder, we've been leaving the window cracked open four inches after we turn off the lights, to let that wonderful smell of damp night air seep into our bedroom, like chocolate milkshake.

So anyway, a few days ago I wake up, it's one o'clock in the morning, and as I'm trying to fall back asleep, I hear this noise.

The noise has that moist, clicking rhythm to it that makes me think it's one of our cats cleaning its crotch.

I realize I have to urinate.

I get out of the warm breath of our bed, pad barefoot down the cold length of the master bath off the bedroom, to the toilet alcove.

Slip back under the covers, next to Mary.

Except, I'm still hearing that sound.

No cat is that clean. Trust me.

The sound starts to bother me.

(If you want a picture of the future, imagine a cat cleaning its crotch - forever.)

As I lie under the covers, listening, I realize the noise has a slurping quality to it one doesn't hear with crotch-cleanings.

I throw off the covers. Stand up in the darkness. Turn around, aiming my ears at the different walls of our black bedroom, trying to determine the source of the noise.

Which is when I realize the noise is coming from that partially-opened window.

I tip-toe to the window. Bend over in my pajamas. Squint my eyes, trying to peer through the tiny hatchings of the window screen, smelling cold, fresh air. I can't really see what is eating the seed on the other side of the screen, an inch beyond my nose. Just that it's large.

I go out into our moonlit kitchen, major appliances cleaning their crotches, my knuckles flexing up and down, typing a numerical code into our alarm system, so I can shut the window in our bedroom.

As I slide down the window, the animal's bulk jumps off the TV table. It shambles away across the black grass, hesitating, looking back, in that old fear versus food struggle.

I told Mary about it the next morning.

Since then, she's seen it herself in the middle of the night, me sleeping, her awake.

I thought it was a possum. She thinks it's a raccoon.

We noticed the other day some of the hatchings in the window screen are bent inwards. If you stand back, you can see the inward bendings are in the shape of claws.

Whatever it is, it's trying to get inside.

My short story Grappling with Urine, which I'm particularly fond of, is in the current issue (Number 5) of Chimeraworld. The issue can be ordered here.

My short story Fleeing, on a Bicycle with Your Father, from the Living Dead, originally published in Midnight Street, where it received an Honorable Mention from The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, is being reprinted in the new Permuted Press anthology, History is Dead, edited by Dr. Kim Paffenroth, who's an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Cornwall on Hudson.