February 7, 2008

Delicious Fried Pies

If you think the idea of cutting your husband up into small pieces and serving him to unwitting guests at Thanksgiving dinner is disturbing, read no further. Otherwise meet Doradell. Doradell prided herself on her lovely rolled out pie crust and the use of the freshest, sweetest fruits for her delicious fried pies. She was fond of her own pies and always made a few extra for the cook. Consequently, she was rather plump and perspired constantly in the warm, yeasty kitchen. Sometimes while she let her crust dough set, she stepped out of her loose fitting, nude colored slip and took a quick shower. Freshly powdered and looking like rising bread dough, she returned to the kitchen to finish off the pies. Her thick, strong fingers worked quickly to fill the rounds of flattened dough with a dollop of filling, then gingerly folded and pinched the edges into a pretty ruffled seam. On days when she made her cherry pies, she painted her fingernails a fiery crimson. It made her smile to see those red nails dipping into the deep red fruity. Doradell would close her eyes and lick the cherry red mixture off her fingers, letting her tongue feel the slick red surface of her polished nails. Of course, she always washed her hands afterwards. She kept an impeccably clean kitchen to showcase her fried pies.

To Doradell there was nothing else in the whole wide world except fried pies. And pie related errands. And Beryl. Big, fat, greasy Beryl. And Beryl loved those pies! He also loved beer, fried chicken, and smutty magazines. He hated baths and Doradell. To everyone else, Doradell seemed resigned to Beryl’s unthoughtful, smelly, and downright cruel habits. He always complained about the pies with filling dripping off his unshaven, piggish chin, “If you ever learn to cook, I might buy you a new dress!” He would wipe his greasy hands on his once white Fruit of the Loom undershirt.

At Thanksgiving dinner Doradell surprised the crowd with a new meat pie filling. She proudly minced in on new high heeled pumps and sported a fashionably cut dress with tiny cherry clusters printed all over. She was carrying a white china platter of huge fried half-moon shaped fried pies. Everyone was equally surprised that Beryl was gone. Doradell ate meat pie after meat pie and almost forgot to serve the turkey, who, if he were alive, would have been mad that he had to play second fiddle to the popular meat pies. She licked every bit of the crumbs off her blood red nails and proclaimed the secret to such flaky crust was in the lard. She tentatively whispered, "ass" under her breath and felt a flood of freedom course through her rotund body.

I know you are thinking of the Butcher of Fleet Street and Sweeney Todd and the owner of the Barbeque Hamlet in Springtown. But this is a different story. There are no more murders. No more butchering bodies in the green tiled kitchen. No more bathtubs of blood or buckets of gore. There is only sadness.

Outwardly, Doradell looked better than everyone could remember. On her pie errands, she wore new fruit patterned dresses that made her look fresh and young. Her pies were as delicious as ever. And Beryl stayed gone! She even took to matching every pie filling with a new Sally Sweet nail color. Peach Pie filling day was Sunrise Delite. Coconut filling was Frosty Morn. Elderberry was Midnite Dreamz. But inwardly, Doradell felt she could never get clean. Beryl’s filthy ghost seemed to haunt her every thought. Stirring the stewing fruits, she could see through the steam his pudgy chin dripping with strawberries. Cleaning out the kitchen cabinets she would find one of the smutty magazines Beryl had probably hidden when she came home early and surprised him pie-handed. Secretly burning his stained undershirts in the backyard, she would catch a memory of his sickening BO. She couldn’t escape him. When he got too near for too long, she would scrub her white skin until it peeled like a cranberry popping open in simmering sugar syrup. When she used the Sally Sweet nail polish remover, she wiped both her nails and her fingertips, trying to erase the memory fried into her mind of cutting him open with the kitchen knife. However, her daydream nightmares, instead of entrails and blood, she saw piles of filthy underwear and magazine clippings of big breasted women spill from his opened gut.

She fried more pies. She scrubbed Beryl’s degradation off of her only to have it settle back on her. She filled her empty life with fruit filling, but the hole in her soul was bottomless. When Beryl was around, maybe he was bloated and sticky enough to have clogged it like a wet soapy hairball in the shower. But now her never-ending hole drained all the life from poor Doradell. She could think of only one solution. She made a plan.

The night before her plan was to be executed, she ever so carefully painted her nails with two coats of cherry red. Her hands looked perfect, like kneaded dough with ruby colored raisins. The next morning she scrubbed and powdered herself and her pastry board. Effortlessly she rolled out eight perfect circles of dough and carefully centered a mound of cherry filling on each. With a clean mind and clean fingers, she pressed the ruffled seams. The pies lay swelling and white on the floured board. Doradell thought of little chubby babies diapered and waiting for burping.

She lit the gas jets under the two black iron skillets full of clean, white shortening. The cool icebergs of white fat slowly melted into a clear black sea of popping hot grease. Doradell carefully let each baby slide under the blanket of the rolling ocean and watched as they sizzled, sank, then rose to the surface browning and expanding. When they were almost perfectly fried, Doradell washed her hands in the cold good water from the tap and dried them thoroughly on a clean white dish towel. Then without expression plunged her thumb and forefinger into the pan.

The skin around her nails separated from the layer beneath, but Doradell took no notice. She fished around and plucked a pie from the bubbling skillet. She bit into the lava hot crust, the burning filling searing her tongue. She closed her eyes and imagined the cherry magma, red and glowing, as it traveled down her throat into the hole in her soul. She imagined a trickle of orange hot light flowing miles down her esophagus until it finally reached the bottom. Opening her eyes, she saw the remaining pies, now dancing black-brown in the smoking pans. Hungrily, she grasped a skillet handle with her hands, fusing the skin onto the black iron. She lifted the pan to her lips and began to drink the liquid fire. Hotter and redder. Now whiter. Now blinding. It filled her throat—her soul pit—with sensation. CHERRY. LOVE. BLISS. The second skillet burst into flames. Kitchen.

Pies. Doradell. Beryl’s ghost. House. All afire. Flaking, charred lips grimacing either from the force of the flames shooting from her throat or the satisfaction of a searing, blackened, cherry filling.