The strawberry bled through my fingers to the white counter-top below. I sliced again and again, heedless of its pathetic protests. The violence will continue. Every splotchy gross part will be removed from each and every berry. The stainless steel knife transfers my frustration into the flesh of the fruit.
Overripe strawberries. Five pounds. Nobody to eat them.
Irritation pulls on my anger, and I stuff a gutted fruit between my right molars. His name is Jack, he had a little strawberry mom who told him not to visit the giants. Unfortunately he didn’t listen and I’m enjoying his fresher parts. His unwitting comrades will die next.
Mastication releases a short term dopamine rush which sustains my cutting of the next two victims. It feels good to assert positive action. I have found that decisiveness, even if misplaced, tends towards achievement of one form or another. Action blocks self pity, and that’s generally the goal, isn’t it?
They hate you.
Ah yes, I forgot. Let me introduce you to Henry. Henry is my evil shoulder angel. Now don’t go misunderstanding, my life is not interesting enough where I actually hear voices. In an effort to ensure proper understanding I hereby bequeath the repressive half of my sub-conscious the honor of a name. His name is Henry. Henry comes to play when I mess up on something, generally something that isn’t a big deal.
Today Henry came when leaders from the youth group gave up on our weekly meeting. Somebody’s business travels were more important than keeping kids off drugs, so they decided to throw teaching of life skills under the bus. For good measure they tossed me as well.
You didn’t finish your report.
Henry is correct. I left work an hour and a half early to buy ingredients. I drove to three different stores to get produce and supplies. By a quarter to seven my back seat had four or five grocery bags, one containing overripe strawberries that had to be consumed by tonight. They weren’t in season, but I had hand picked baskets with enough good ones to make things work. In my left front pocket hid a bulleted list of steps and things to teach. Sometimes I am forgetful so I have to have a plan.
You are always forgetful.
Anyway, I called one of the boys to see if he needed a ride. He said there wasn’t an activity. I called around to confirm, but none of the adults answered or called me back. I resorted to calling individual boys to see if I could get someone to eat the strawberries. No interest.
They don’t like you.
I hurl a green stem into the trash can. Red sprays on my pants. My good pants. My all-time favorite-
Aunt Sage: -They’ll wash.
I have a pretty good shoulder angel, really. I don’t know how hard other people’s work, but mine’s on-call 24-7. I named her Aunt Sage when she told me to put sage on potatoes one day, which turned out to be some of the best culinary advice I ever received, but that’s a story for another day, and has nothing to do with strawberries or canceled youth groups.
Pants forgotten, I grab a few bars of Intense Dark Ghirardelli 72% Cacao. “Twilight Delight”. I smell the former symbol of Aztec wealth and power through the crinkly golden wrapper. Solidified by European artisans and hijacked by the San Francisco-based company, I wonder again why humans gave up this tasty monetary system for bills and coins (which taste awful- but that’s a rant for another day as well).
Sage: Get the 85% cacao.
Henry: It’s too bitter.
Sage: Henry can’t cook. Remember the ‘broccoli incident’?
Sage is right, Henry never cooked a day in his life. My hand reverently unveils the potent power. “Midnight Reverie.” A sacrosanct ingredient indeed. There can be no mistakes. Aunt Sage gives me a secret ratio for blending the two types of chocolate. I unwrap the requisite number of bars for her recipe. They each snap into eight perfect squares, but I break the squares a few more times to evenly distribute the heat during melting. This will ensure each precious morsel melts at the same rate, and the chocolate stays tempered. If it gets too hot it will set incorrectly, and the chewing experience will be less than perfect.
When the chocolate becomes perfect I start dipping. Each berry gets its own parking spot on the wax paper (a luxury in the city). Straight rows, evenly spaced columns. The strawberries happily receive Sage’s special Twilight-Midnight combination (I call it “Sexy Dusk,” what do you think?) and converse happily one with another, oblivious of their final destination. The clock on the wall speeds up as I coat each one, cutting into my delivery time.
As twenty minutes turns to an hour and a half I get hungry. My head starts to hurt from dehydration (I forgot to drink water, and now I’m too focused to wash chocolate from my hands and find a proper water containing vessel). Henry becomes more persuasive, and Aunt Sage fades to the background.
Towards the end the strawberries become uglier and uglier. I wonder if I really want to deliver these to my friends. Did I use the good ones first, or were they all this rotten? If someone bites into one will they think I’m a terrible cook? If I were keeping them for myself it wouldn’t matter, but for someone else…
Henry: Just throw them away.
Me: Maybe you’re right. They don’t look that good.
Henry: You’ll have to eat them. You can’t spread cheer with substandard quality. Throwing them away would be wasteful.
Me: What about my diet?
Aunt Sage: Just one won’t hurt. Good job on making so many. They look great.
I grab the worst looking one and pop it in my mouth. Bitter mingles with sweet, juicy meets creamy, dark contrasts with light. The intensity of the chocolate brings accents natural goodness of the explosive, organic strawberry. As the chocolate melts it mingles with the juice, and together they create a new hybrid combination. I chew more slowly, enjoying a new entity in and of itself, a fleeting flavor profile depending from the size of my bite and the whimsical mixing of my tongue and teeth.
Henry yells something that I can’t hear, and my brain formulates a plan for packaging the chocolates for delivery.
Aunt Sage: Good enough to serve?