It was a good day for a cookout. Harry poured himself a drink. Nick was coming over later, and when he did, they would have more drinks. For now, Harry occupied himself with the corndogs. Mary was passed out on the sofa. He wished Mary hadn’t drunk so much so that she could make the dinner and he could go back to writing. He donned an apron and sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. First, he fished the bullets out of the baking powder and sat them on the counter while he measured out 1 ½ teaspoons of it, then he put the bullets back in for safekeeping. He didn’t know why Mary hid the bullets in the baking powder instead of the flour like everyone else.
Then he stirred in the corn meal. He cut in the shortening until it resembled fine crumbs between his fingers, like rough sand. He poured himself another drink, then decided he’d rather have a beer. He combined egg and milk in a cup and added it to the cornmeal mixture. Things were coming together now, and he felt the afternoon would be a success.
He reached for the frankfurters. They reminded him of the war, when frankfurters were all they could find to eat on the streets of Frankfurt. They were everywhere, being brandished by soldiers with terrible wounds. The memory made him sweat. He drank from his beer. That was better. He pushed each frankfurter onto a stick and dipped it briefly into the batter, coating each one thoroughly. Mary stirred, but did not wake. She was going to feel it tomorrow. It was no laughing matter.
By now the oil was bubbling in the fryer. It make a hissing sound like water in a shallow stream. The one he fished as a boy used to sound like that too, in March when it was swelled by the melting snow and ran fast. He loved to catch fish then — all he needed to do was reach in and grab them with his bare hands. He broke their necks and set them in a basket on the bank.
He put the battered frankfurters in the boiling oil and watched them fizz. He didn’t know how long it would take, maybe 4 or 5 minutes. Meanwhile, he finished his drink. Cooking was thirsty work. Nick would be here soon, and he wanted everything to be ready. Nick was driving all the way from Spain to Idaho and would be thirsty too.
He opened a tin of beans and poured them into bowls. He wondered how to serve the corndogs — that’s what they were, really — and considered waking Mary to ask what to do. But Mary was still out cold, her mouth hanging open. It looked like she'd been shot, but she hadn't. A small puddle of drool had formed on the cushion under her head. Harry was angered by this, her blatant disregard for household furnishings, but many was the time he had woken from a blackout drunk in far worse circumstances, so he left her be. Boy, was she going to feel it.
The corndogs were ready to be taken out of the oil. There was no other choice but to serve them stuck in a cabbage. It seemed a waste of a cabbage, and Nick had not yet arrived, so he hollowed out an opening in the top of it with his pocket knife and inserted a bowl of catsup. He stood back and admired his handiwork. It was a better job than when he’d had to cut his own leg off in the war. Mary would be proud. Mary was a looker back then, and slept with all the soldiers. Harry had wanted to chase them off, but couldn’t. They usually had both legs. Instead he sat in the dark, drinking and brooding. She always came back in the end, legless drunk. Harry took a sordid pleasure in the irony.
He could hear an engine coming up the drive. It was Nick. He was on his motorcycle. He was holding a case of beer in one hand and three bottles of brandy in the other. It was a wonder he could drive.
“I say,” he called out over the throttle, “I’m starving! Is Mary about?”
“Passed out,” Harry replied, taking the beer. “In the living room. Best not disturb her.”
“Gosh, she’ll feel it in the morning,” Nick said. “We’ll all feel it in the morning I expect. Good Lord — is that your creation?” Nick was pointing at the cabbage impaled with corndogs which sat on the patio table.
“It’s the best I could do, I’m afraid,” Harry said, opening two beers. “I’d like to think Mary would be proud of it.”
“Well,” Nick said, taking a long drink, “I’m not sure about that, old chap. But wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?”
Barbecue Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1956
Also form this book: Balls
Also form this book: Balls