My father had already been slipping into the murky mire of senility even before my mother’s death sixth months ago. As I went through a gray pantomime of motions to keep him, and myself, alive and, more or less, clean, I ignored most of his advice. Why would I take heed, especially at a time like this?
“You need to find yourself a strong woman, Clark. Like a horse,” he tells me. He sits with a bowl of lentil soup in front of a muted television, screening a clips episode of Designing Women, 5th season.
I’m preparing a soufflé by my mother’s recipe, wishing I had paid more attention to everything she told me about cooking. The simple instructions on the note cards do not convey the intricacies that are needed to appropriately cultivate something as refined and French as a cheese soufflé.
“Those waffles smell delicious. Been a long time since I ate a cheese waffle.”
“It’s a soufflé, Dad.” I begin to cry into the dish, torrents of tears and mucus. This doesn’t look like my mother’s soufflé, even less so now that I’ve waterlogged it. Waterlogged, like my life.
“I ruined the soufflé, Dad.” I wipe my face and yank myself back together.
“What are you going to do now, Clark?”
I have no idea what I’m going to do. My last hopes of getting my life back on track sits gloopily in front of me, mocking me with its inedibility. Defeated by food. But I need to say something, so: “I’m going to buy more cheese, I guess.”
He shuffles into the kitchen with a mostly empty soup bowl that he tucks into a sink brimming with dishes. With a hand on my shoulder, he says, “Oh, Clark. Sometimes cheese isn’t the answer.”
For a minute, I listen. Perhaps he’s got a point. My life is not as simple as a ruined soufflé.
I ask, “Do you think there is an answer?”
He wanders over to the stove. “If you are going to the store for cheese,” he says, as if he didn’t hear my last question, “can you pick me up some Pepsi?”
My heart slouches a little. “Sure, any particular kind of Pepsi you’d like?”
He arranges some dirty dish towels on the handle of the oven. He smacks his lips and says, “Grape will be fine.”
Copyright 2013 G. Arthur Brown
Painting by Carlo Carra