Burgundy, Bolero and Chicken Supreme

Miranda had agreed to come round to Declan’s for dinner because she couldn’t think of anything better to do. Miranda and Declan worked at the same school, she taught French and Home Economics, he taught Science and P.E. The staff room rap was that Declan was a bit of a sleaze and that he tried to seduce women with Burgundy, Bolero and badly cooked chicken, in a botch of a sauce. By all accounts he assumed that both he and the chicken were Supreme. Miranda wanted to be the judge of his culinary skills and whatever else was on offer. She was bored, she supposed, like her teenage students. Whatever.

Miranda had a pile of French comprehension marking to get through. She pictured herself at a table with a conciliatory desk lamp at 3am making furious red pen markings after extricating herself from….well all was still imagination… but some late night liaison with a man with all the necessary parts in working order. She had appetites. She would come out from a day of teaching sewing, one carefully arranged hand stitch after another and feel the urge to rip her clothes at the seams and roll naked over the bonnet of the headmaster’s car. Or after a period of pummelling and kneading dough she would imagine the meat of a man’s solid flesh under her fingers or between her… well you couldn’t think about that on the way back to the staff room, as you went down the corridor with lines of transitory school kids keeping left by the wall. It was all she could do not to leg it past them and give a whoop, fist thrust into the air. But she put her passion into French class, in the intense articulation of those rolling rs, in the low round baritone of her accent, an echo of a Seine-side stroll or the dark cavern of the Moulin Rouge.

Declan’s flat was dim when she arrived, it was late October and the relief of the mid-term break was looming. He played the Bolero on a scratchy 45 – the real deal.

The only bolero she understood was a short jacket with long sleeves that went over the top of other things. Also known as a shrug. And a shrug was an indispensable part of her non-verbal wardrobe. She used it when he asked if she liked his flat, although she nodded when he offered wine.

The decor had an 80’s theme, predominantly black and white with red splashes. His was a world of dimmer switches and frothy cappuccino makers. She expected to find a Knight Rider poster on the back of the bathroom door when she popped in. When she re-emerged he perpetuated rumours of Baked Alaska for later so that was the melting taken care of. Now it was time for dripping and dipping with skewers, there were some assorted raw vegetables and a gloopy cheese sauce. Cheesy. He grinned and raised the Burgundy. Miranda feared for the evening. She didn’t like the way he fondled his fondue.

Later he modelled himself on that experimental chef Heston Blumenthal and blew up a quails egg by torching it en situ. She gave him marks for inventiveness but none for technique.

The egg reminded her by association of ‘Bird’s nest soup’, a Chinese delicacy she’d seen a programme on recently.  It was made out of nests that were built out of saliva by cave swiftlet’s during the breeding season.

The soup was said to be an aid to digestion.

Perhaps it would help him swallow the bile of his arduous and unremitting indenture in the teaching of 12 to 18 year olds the beauty of Bunsen burners and somersaults.

Bird’s nests were also beneficial to the libido.

They ate the Chicken Supreme, more gloop this time flavoured with tarragon. He knew his herbs.

He played the Bolero again. She told him it was by a French composer, Ravel. ‘I know’ he said and his irises displayed a flicker of wit.

Two bottles of Burgundy later they sat on the floor in front of the sofa. He confided his desires. ‘I always wanted to be a Home Economics teacher’ he said, ‘But I didn’t have the nerve, so I ended up in Chemistry and Physical Education’.

‘Mmmm’ she said, tracing his hairy wrists. ‘Have you ever tried bird’s nest soup?’

They could never afford it on a teacher’s salary.

They talked into the night and the pile of marking at home on Miranda’s desk, shifted and settled. Declan and Miranda discovered a shared admiration of Christopher Reeve and a pathos for the irony of his demise against the glory of Superman. But they had both enjoyed Somewhere in Time, his gentle time travel movie with Jane Seymour, although the theme tune was Rachmaninov rather than Ravel. Miranda rolled the ‘r’s on her tongue. And when she was done, Declan kissed her and it was very good. She put her hand on his shoulder; he placed his on the small of her back. They ate the baked Alaska in bed.

They might build a nest yet and feather it with staff room anecdotes and culinary conundrums. In her back garden she’d seen a nest torn apart in the night by ravens. But Declan tasted of Burgundy and the Bolero on perpetual replay in the sitting room was heading to a crescendo. He stopped kissing, leaned back a little, looked into her face and smiled. Gosh, Miranda thought, there’s just one thing, chicken shouldn’t go with Burgundy. She opened her mouth to tell him but he sealed her gastronomic quibbles with the most ravenous of kisses. Did it really matter? If she could convince him to forgo the fondue, anything was possible.

#fridayflash Tales of monsoon and adventure

She woke to the sound of the monsoon drumbeat and all she could think was ‘my sheets!’ She had left them on the washing line all night. She had stepped out into the garden before going to bed and the air was so starched linen clean that she’d stopped – the dusk against her cheeks – and taken in a cool breath. She had spoken aloud ‘They will be alright’. The stars winked.

When she went back into the kitchen the milk was still left out on the table, the butter unlidded, knives and forks at cross purposes, splotches of Rorschach sauce across the tablecloth in which she saw an octopus. The tarot of her son’s collector cards scattered on the floor told her that there would be an arduous task ahead but that she would triumph over adversity.

In the bedroom her husband slept open mouthed, agog at his dreams. A fly buzzed against the side lamp, sleazily addicted to light. He rose and hovered over her husband’s face and oh, she feared for him. She made a SWAT team out of the many facets of her love. But she couldn’t stand his snoring. When she knew he was safe, she went to sleep in the spare room.

There was a ‘less-of-the-old!’ woman who lived on a shoestring budget and had so many children that she had a difficult time fitting in all the lunchmaking, drop offs, pickups, activities, homework, bedtime routines, behaviour management with the requisite reward and sticker charts, naughty steps, timeout, privilege curtailment, grounding, not to mention all the cajoling, counselling, clothing and the cooking of large tender casseroles and quantities of broth and porridge. How she longed for a magic porridge pot that would continue cooking until the town was filled up and people could only trudge in its gloop instead of racing about trying to get places, get ahead of themselves so they could see their space-time anomalies coming back richer, happier, more productive.

And the children. There was so much hothousing going on that many of the children she saw these days were round and redfaced like tomatoes, ready to split at any minute.

She unwrapped her Mummy self from the sheets in the spare room and went to bathe in clamour.

After she’d got the kids to school, long after she’d snuck into the bedroom to see if her husband had dined on minibeasts at all, long after she’d woke in the night to the sound of sheets drowning and felt guilt about everything, she drank a cup of coffee so slowly that the coffee beans grew back into the ground and rooted her. She remembered a day in a long life ago when the filamentous achenes of a dandelion clock scudded across a sun sodden sky. When she scooped all her whoops up and ran with abandon

Oh, oh, oh.

Her handbag was heavy with undertakings. Lists that sucked the life out.

They had played games with ropes that she could always get out of, spies and hostages, nothing sinister. They walked across the tops of gates and never fell off. She liked the adventures best.

‘Many of the men I know are former boys’ she thought as she pulled up at Tescos.

At the trolley bay she grabbed a man walking past with his jiggly fizzy toddler, kissed him on the mouth. She got the taste of the cheese and onion crisps that he was sharing with his son. They had always been her favourite as a child. Later she had switched to salt and vinegar.

The man was scratching his almost bald head.

‘You’re lovely but it’s nothing personal’ she said. She pictured him walking across the top of a gate. The toddler laughed warily.

She went inside to do the supermarket shop.