I am so happy to welcome Mr. Kenworthy to my blog during his current blog tour. Please be sure to visit his blog at http://missionaryandthebrute.blogspot.com/ and add him to your list of favorite bloggers and authors!
[Guest blogger John Kenworthy is author of the chilling new novel “The Missionary and the Brute”, a thriller set in Tanzania, East Africa. Mrs. Starr and her daughter Raven are two of the characters from that novel as seen in this prequel leading up to their journey to Africa. Kenworthy’s previous books have included “The Hand Behind the Mouse: an intimate biography of Ub Iwerks” and “Bungee Jumping & Cocoons”.]
Mrs. Starr’s EZ-Peasy Spinach Surprise
Mrs. Starr looked at her kitchen and frowned. There was simply not enough counter space, darn it. It had always seemed too small. Always. But now somehow it seemed to matter. Before her husband left, it wasn’t really a concern. They made do. Together. But now as cooking became more of a task rather than a blessing of love, it seemed all wrong.
And the counter space was worst of all.
She knew she had done the best with what she had. And she knew that it was way out of date – avocado appliances went out with Jimmy Carter and disco – but she didn’t really have the funds to update it to a more contemporary look and feel. She just prayed that everything would last a tad bit longer before going to the great Kenmore heaven in the sky.
The walls were papered with a bizarre chicken motif that probably had truly never been in style, but she liked it once. The chicken knick-knacks and wall hangings had long since gone – taken to Goodwill years ago – but the paper remained a kitschy reminder of happier days.
“Mom?” Mrs. Starr’s daughter, Raven was staring at her from the kitchen table. “You’re kinda spacing out. What are you doing?”
Mrs. Starr realized she was standing in the middle of the kitchen drifting off to memories hidden deep in the patterns of the chickens upon her walls. She looked down at her hands, she was holding a carton of eggs with the intent of taking them… oh, yes… over to the mixer on the too-small countertop.
“I’m sorry. I was thinking about something…”
“Africa? I think about it all the time. Can’t wait. Only a week and we’ll be on our way!” Raven was excited about an upcoming trip to Tanzania that she had cajoled her mother into joining. Because Mrs. Starr was coming as a chaperone, they had been able to get a full scholarship from a wealthy church member. It would cost them nothing. If that had not happened, neither one would have been able to go. Mrs. Starr wasn’t really crazy about the idea, but she knew what it meant for Raven.
Raven, whose true name was unfortunately Brenda, had been drifting a bit on her own since her father left them. She had never really fit in with the kids at school – she wasn’t popular, not a jock, not really anything. She felt even more estranged from her peers after though, even though she knew that she was certainly not alone in having a single parent situation. She compensated by going further into her outcast status. Her hair, once a source of pride for her mother, was no longer long and blonde, but trimmed short and dyed a shade of burgandy. She had given herself several noticeable piercings and a few unnoticeable ones. Her mother didn’t know it – and wouldn’t have approved of it had she known – but she also had an appointment for a tattoo the weekend before they left for Africa.
“No. Just thinking about this recipe.” Mrs. Starr lied casually. “I’m going to post on one of those cooking bloc thingies on the internet.”
“Blog, mom. It’s blog. Short for Web-log.” Raven had tried to introduce her mother to some new things and the web was one. For the most part, Mrs. Starr enjoyed it. She especially liked going on YouTube and watching funny videos, but she also went on several domestic websites that discussed cooking and the home, or jackass husbands leaving, or things such as that.
“So what recipe?” Raven took out her ear-bud and turned off her cheap knock-off ipod. She marked her place in the book she was reading with a paper napkin and closed it. She could sense her mom needed to talk.
“You want to help me?” Mrs. Starr asked with enough anticipation that Raven knew she would. “It’s all right if you don’t. You can go back to your comic book – I know you enjoy that.”
“It’s a graphic novel. But…”
“Whatever. Looks like a comic book.”
“It’s okay. I’ll help.”
“Really? It’s not hard. It’s my EZ-peasy-cheezy Spinach Surprise.” Mrs. Starr felt energized by Raven’s acceptance. The clouds of doubt and dark thoughts drifted away and were hidden again amongst the chickens on the wall.
“So what do I do?” Raven avoided commenting that it was one of her father’s favorite dishes, but maybe that was the point.
“Why don’t you start by warming up the oven to 400° and then get out the spray stuff up in the cupboard.”
“Yeah, that’s it. No, wait isn’t it PAM or something like that?” Mrs. Starr shrugged. “I think so. We’re doubling the recipe so you can grease those two glass pans stacked on the toaster.”
Raven dug through the boxes of dry soup mixes and macaroni in the cupboard. She pulled out the spray can. “It’s PAM.”
“Thought so.” Mrs. Starr blew a stray hair out of her face – a hair that was more gray than she had hoped. With a deft familiarity she cracked open 8 eggs in succession emptying their contents into the metal bowl. Into this she poured carefully 2 cups of Bisquick then turned on the mixer. “Can you get out the milk, dear? We need four cups. Oh, and you might as well get out the cheese too. The Mozzarella.”
“I’m on it.” Raven never considered herself to be all that handy at anything – especially in the kitchen – but she did enjoy the camaraderie with her mother from time to time. Sometimes she could be a royal nag, but every now and then she was actually all right. Raven felt sorry for her in a way. She had a kind of ache in the pit in her stomach when she thought about it.
Mrs. Starr took the milk and poured it in her bowl. “Thank you.”
“Now if you can take that cheese and put half in the bottom of each dish. And then a package of spinach in each – I have them thawing in the sink. Just spread it all around with a wooden spoon. Doesn’t have to be fancy.” Mrs. Starr watched Raven for a moment and then mixed the Bisquick, milk and eggs together a bit more before shaking salt and pepper from matching chicken-shaped shakers over the mixture. She didn’t bother to use the mixer.
“Remember the time the chicken’s head fell off and you got way too much salt in it?”
”Your father never said a thing about it. Ate it right up like there was nothing wrong.”
“He wasn’t always a knob.”
“No.” Mrs. Starr moved the hair from her face again with the inside of her elbow and felt suddenly older. “Not always.”
Raven hugged her mother from behind impulsively. She held her for a moment and then squeezed and released. “So what else?” She said abruptly getting back on task. Changing the subject.
“I opened a can of peas. Generic. You can put half the can in each and then we’ll pour this over the top. That’s the surprise! Peas. EZ-PEAsy!” She laughed at her own joke.
“Okie dokie.” Raven chuckled dutifully. She did as she was told. Into the pans, Mrs. Starr slowly poured the mixture and then placed them uncovered into the oven now preheated.
For an instant, mother and daughter stood looking at each other in anticipation. But of what, neither knew.
Raven spoke first. “So now what?”
“Now?” Mrs. Starr responded. “Now, we wait. About 30 minutes.”
“Is it okay if I read while we’re waiting?”
“Your graphic comic book? Sure.”
“Thanks, mom.” Raven held her mother’s gaze for an instant and then released it. She returned to the too-small kitchen table, reinserted her ear buds, turned her faux ipod on and began to read her Steam Punk graphic novel again from the spot vacated by the paper napkin.
Mrs. Starr watched her only daughter for a moment and smiled softly. Things were going to be all right. They were, weren’t they? Of course they were. She leaned back against the countertop, folded her arms across her chest, tugged the hair from her eyes again and let her gaze drift again to the chicken covered walls and the hidden memories that remained there just beneath the surface.
The Missionary and the Brute on Amazon (paperback):
The Missionary and the Brute on Amazon (Kindle):
The Missionary and the Brute on publisher’s site: