A Puget Sound Companion

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Puget Sound Companion

It’s been an interesting week in Kenmore; my home town, on the top of the Puget Sound.  It’s been pretty tame weather-wise.  The forecasters warned of showers which never came that were supposed to be followed by partly cloudy skies.  They got the cloudy part with no problem.  They’re still waiting anxiously for that partly sunny to appear over the mountains.

But at least the mountains are still there.  They loom off in the distance, sort chuckling and laughing at folks while they sit in their cars and try to go to work.  They’re just close enough that the drivers know that they are there, but so far away are the majestic peaks that all those grey cotton balls in the sky obscure the view of the slopes. 

Joseph Harrington has been spending as much time up on those mountains as possible.  He’s as full of energy as any 17 year-old could be, but his parents want him to come home.  “Just, focus on your homework; there’s a good boy.  Be nice to your sister, keep those grades up, and maybe you can go skiing on the weekends.”  Of course, weekends are not enough to Joseph.  He wants to be out there, flying down slopes, watching trees turn into toothpicks that blur by.  He can’t understand, won’t see why his parents would try to stop this.  One of life’s true joys is waiting for him and he’s supposed to construct a diorama for class.

Of course their project will be spectacular.  For any other student it would be a cardboard box filled with scraps of paper and props glued about messily.  But for Joseph, well Joseph is a cut above those other scissor wielders.  He plays basketball for the team and leads them to championships.  The whole arena stands and cheers as their paragon of teenage excellence soars over the heads of the other players.  He is their Hermes, delivering this spherical message through the air to the hoop that welcomes him with open arms.  His grades are impeccable.  He rolls out of bed each morning with the perfect hair that other boys at school would hate him for.  But they can’t hate him; he’s just so darn likeable.  Yes, for this young lad, all is attainable and everything comes without any effort.

Except of course, for cooking.  Joseph would have received a B in Home Economics if he hadn’t charmed the teacher into giving him a better grade.  No matter how hard he tries, food and the rules of the kitchen escape him entirely.  He was dismayed at the failure that was scrambled eggs made with chocolate sauce.  Appetizers that consisted of pickles dipped in peanut butter fared no better with his parents.  It seemed that whatever skill he was destined to be born with had somehow been bestowed to his younger sister, Josephina.

Josephina; a surprise borne out of a snowy night when Joseph was over at a friend’s cabin skiing, was full of tricks.  She could leave her toys out in just the right arrangement where her father would avoid stepping on one only to trip over another and land on top of a third.  Josephina’s decision making-skills in regards to how she would dress herself in the morning made her teacher, Ms. Sniv, shake her head.  Ms. Sniv would often try to suggest clothes that matched better.  Instead of a tank top with polka-dot sweatpants and sandals, Ms. Sniv kindly suggested, in the way that only second-grade teachers can, that another outfit might work better.  “What if you tried a nice pair of blue jeans with a pretty red shirt”, she would offer as she tried to clean the gum out of another girl’s hair.  (The gum, which wanted no part of this excitement, had been only too happy sitting in little Tommy’s mouth until Tommy had decided he was going to share.  The gum wasn’t consulted on being relocated, but was working its hardest to stay in its new accommodations.)  Josephina would only cross her arms and shake her head at Ms. Shiv.  She felt that no words were needed in the world of fashion.  Her clothing would speak loud enough.

What is most surprising about Josephina is her ability to cook.  She could walk into a kitchen and walk out with a masterpiece.  She was the Princess of Pastries, the Best at Baking, and Queen of Culinary Concoctions.  Her mother and father could follow recipes, but nothing they cooked approached the abilities that Josephina had.  Harold thought his Aunt Kathy might have been a pastry chef in her motorcycle days; back when her Harley was her best friend and work was something she showed up for when it was too cold to ride.  Josephina, on the other hand, relished any opportunity to cook.  Baking, mixing, skewering; she was clearly a savant.  When the little five year-old had grabbed a knife for the first time, her mother rushed to snatch it from her.  In the time it took Susan to hurry across the room, Josephina had peeled a potato.  And she had done it all in one strand.  Since then, Josephina was pretty much allowed to do whatever she pleased in the linoleum covered room.  Oh sure, she might dash on a few too many sprinkles on the frosting of her cupcakes, but she had never made a false move where food was concerned.

This, not surprisingly, was a source of irritation for Joseph.  When combined with his little sister essentially stealing his name, he also had to endure the taunts of his friends when they found the one thing he was simply no good at.  “Oh look, there’s Jo who can cook and Joe who can’t!” they’d tease whenever the two were walking out of church.  Josephina, not knowing any better, grinned happily and showed off all her teeth in appreciation.  The gap between her teeth yearned for that last tooth to grow in so that it could join in the fun, but the molars and bicuspids did their best to shine a little brighter to make up for it.  Joseph, on the other hand, clenched his teeth.  The heckling grated on him so he grinded on his teeth.  The dentists were confused by the whole thing.  “How could someone whose life seems so perfect have anything to stress about?” they wondered out loud.

Now, when Aunt Kathy announced that she was getting married, to a mechanic, of course, it only made sense that Josephina should bake the wedding cake.  As for Joseph?  Well, maybe he’d be an usher.  They’d find something for him to do.

That was how things sat at the beginning of last weekend.  Josephina had spent a good day, including naps, getting the cake all cooked and decorating the tiers by hand.  Joseph had spent the morning with his video games.  Little did his family know that every alien invader that he zapped on behalf of the Gradulon Empire was really a wedding cake that he was destroying in his mind.  Joseph didn’t want his sister to fail or be embarrassed; he just wanted to be good at the one thing that had constantly eluded him. 

Joseph’s father, Harold, called up to him.  Joseph needed to get his coat on.  Joseph needed a few more minutes.  Joseph needed to turn off those video games and get his sorry butt in the car or there would be no more video games.  Joseph briefly contemplated testing the threat out.  However he had blown up as many dastardly invaders that he had wanted, so he saved his game and got dressed.  They had decided to take the pick-up truck so someone could watch the cake as they drove.  Somehow mom, dad, and Josephina had gotten to ride up front on the bench seat while Joseph was elected to protect the cake.  Joseph looked up at the three-layered work of art, his face turning a simmering shade of red that nicely offset the ecru frosting. 

He considered sabotaging the cake.  There could be an accident in the bed of that truck.  No one would know.  Giggles tore Joseph from his scheming.  Josephina had her doll and her plastic turtle out.  He wasn’t sure if the doll was supposed to be high-fiving the turtle or riding it to some great and majestic destination like Tacoma.  Either way, he couldn’t bring himself to do anything to his sister.  Yes, she’d taken up his rec room for her bedroom.  Granted she was always asking pesky questions.  But Joseph just couldn’t bring himself to break her heart out of jealousy.  As he heard his mom’s phone ring in her “special occasion” purse, he sat back and tried to enjoy the ride. 

The potholes caused him to bump and jostle about so much that he couldn’t hear what his mom was saying.  His dad was making a rather treacherous right turn when his wife screamed out, “Stop the car!”  Later on, Joseph had it explained to him that his mother had gotten a call from Aunt Kathy.  Kathy had gotten into, well, let’s call it a ruckus with her fiancée.  It turned out that he had decided to give up the mechanic life and sit in the den for the rest of his life and read.  Kathy couldn’t imagine a worse fate.  She’d thrown her high-heeled shoes at her man (her only nice pair, all the rest were boots and sneakers), mussed up her hair that had been in a bun, and rode off on a Jeep with the caterer that had more facial piercings than the tables had dinner forks. 

The shock of hearing this scandalous news was what sent the truck sliding and careening, but a whole other disaster was occurring in the back.  Joseph tried his very best to protect the cake.  As his dad’s steering turned quickly into braking, Joseph tensed up in true hero-form.  He put his arms to the base of the cake.  It was resting on a cling-wrapped piece of plywood which Joseph clung onto for dear life.  He would hold onto that cake or die trying.  He pressed his back against the cab of the truck and took the momentum of the vehicle on himself, sparing the cake any momentum-based injury.  Joseph could feel the truck slowing down as it ended the arc that it was turning through.  He congratulated himself on keeping his sister’s masterpiece from the cruel grasp of physics.  He had saved the cake.  Of course, that was before his father had slammed on the brakes.

Yes, there are many things one can do to stem the effects of an object in motion.  Yet Joseph was only human, and his father’s braking was more than even Joseph could combat.  The truck slid into the cub while coming to a quick and lurch-induced stop.  Joseph was happily not hurt.  He had the giant cake to cushion his fall.  The three family members hurried out of the car, hoping that their fourth family member, the one they’d so callously forced to sit with the cake, wasn’t hurt.  Joseph pulled his head out of the frosting, his fine features covered and obscured by the sugary topping.  He turned towards little Josephina; her face turning red and her lip quivering.  Joseph closed his eyes.  He couldn’t stand to look at his little sister’s face when the inevitable tears sprang forth. 

To his surprise, another sort of a noise sprang to his ears; laughter.  Josephina dropped the turtle and doll that she had clung to so tightly and let her whole body giggle and shake.  The parents joined in.  The sight of their usually-perfect son looking so disheveled brought guffaws and chortles from their bellies.  A smile broke through the icing covering Joseph’s face as he reveled in the thought of how silly he looked.  He had seen many a skier covered in white powder, and now it was his turn.

And that’s the news from Kenmore.  Where all the buses are full, all the people drink coffee, and the rainfall is above average.

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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