In my winter white ceramic bowl sat absolutely perfect muffin batter. Fluffy yet slightly lumpy. It's a damn shame that it ultimately ended up in a bloody mess all over the front yard.
I am not usually one to accept a compliment. In fact, I have been told that the screwed up look on my face after receiving any sort of praise much resembles the look a baby makes the first time she licks a pickle. However, I can state with complete empiricism that I make excellent muffins. It doesn't even matter what kind, I have perfected my "pinch of this and that" base recipe and the rest falls into place. Even my mother (the Great Queen of Pastries) herself has crowned me the Quickbread Queen. I don't argue. And when someone tries one for the first time, I can tell by their thin- lipped smile that I am indeed gifted.
Over the years that I was married, I used these little breads as a means of stress relief and self-affirmation. Therefore, I developed my own concoctions for catharsis such as: Honey Oatmeal, Tomato Basil, Peach Raspberry, Vanilla Rosemary, Dark Chocolate Cherry, Strawberry Rhubarb, Lemon Mint, Almond Poppyseed, Apple Cinnamon, Rum Raisin, and of course Blueberry and of certainly many more that I haven't yet documented, and definitely many more that have flopped terribly. None of these flops, might I add, have ever occurred while I have been one- handed, toting a glass of whiskey or wine. Well, not until frigid, Northern afternoon, while i was under a deep, drunken spell due simultaneous over-consumption of these two elixirs. Not until I had come home from the gym, collected my mail and opened up the envelope from my attorney. There they were. The signed and finalized divorce papers. I had been expecting them any day. But the hot fuzz in my stomach sunk deeper and I headed for my liquor closet and box of recipes.
Once, I purchased a beautiful little apron for the sole purpose of muffin making. It was completely quaint with ruffles, bows and French scroll pattern. I only used it once, because well, I deemed it too pretty to use. So I would spin around in tiny circles with dashes of salt and sugar in my hair and flour on my un-aproned knees, mixing woes with alcohol in my pretty white mixing bowls.
I loved to tear around my flyspeck kitchen. Even though the lid of the garbage and the top of the refrigerator had to frequently serve as extra counter space. I did let Fitzgerald, my fluffy mutt of a cat, sit on the counter while I cracked eggs and splashed unmeasured amounts of various extracts into flour wells. He would huff and sneeze sometimes when the baking powder plumed like dust from my clapping hands. And, sometimes, I would pretend like I didn't see him lick the gooey spoon. And other times, I had a bit too much wine while whisking around and, I am sure, genuinely oversaw his sneaky spatula licks.
At first I was only trying to smash the unwelcome, grotesque spider as he swayed from the door frame, sneering at me. Taunting me, even. Well, taunting in a three fingers of Irish Whiskey and 3/4 bottle of $35 Cabernet sort of way perhaps. "Get out of here, you bastard," I slurred. "You're not touching these muffins." Like he was going to anyway...
Guarding white bowl of muffin perfection under my arm, I calculated my steps across the minute kitchen. I stood next to my cat, who was now greedily lapping up batter drops from the counter. I stared profoundly into his huge green eyes. "Fitzy. You're the man around here now. Go get that thing. Eat it. Do- whatever." He stared lovingly into my eyes and I could hear small rumblings of a purr and he just laid himself down on the floured surface.
Cat in one arm and precious bowl of Orange Pecan muffins- to- be in the other, I marched gracelessly nearer to the eight-legged terror. I shoved Fitzy's face into the hundreds of swinging eyes. "Get him, babe." The cat just hung there over my arm, purring.
I don't usually eat the muffins. Certainly I follow the Baker's Creed and taste part of one before serving them, but I make a great effort to distribute them to co-workers and friends as quickly as possible before they magically and maliciously float from the tin onto my thighs. But, on that particular snowy afternoon, I did not need to worry about burning the muffins off on the treadmill. I was at least safe from that prospect as I lay there covered in blood and batter and snow in the yard, while Fitzgerald sat staring inquisitively at me through the window.