A couple weeks ago, before the shit hit the fan, I spent a few precious digital moments with flutter working on a descriptive writing piece. Like few people I read on a regular basis, she has a knack for eloquent and breathtaking descriptive writing. I tell her this often, and also how much I suck at it, so she challenged me to write a short piece describing a silver bowl sitting on a wooden table.
You’d think. We went back and forth, me writing and her critiquing. Eventually I came up with this little nugget, pieced together from our labors. I’m not totally satisfied, but it got my brain cooking, and that’s never a bad thing. Or in this case, maybe it is . . .
The dining room sat sparse and quiet in the southeast corner of the cottage. A stand of evergreens diffused the sunrise like nimble, sagacious fingers through a spotless four-paned window and across the polished surface of a sturdy oak dining table, each of its four legs ending in the shape of a cougar paw clawing into the fading milk chocolate carpet. A rutty and desolate scene straight from some Serengeti plateau if one allowed their imagination free reign.
Even the bowl, this mirrored basin of silver with a stigma the color of copper around the base from sitting in the kitchen cupboard too long, lent itself an imaginative twist. Picture the noblest princess – eyes deep and imposing – wrapped in a garment so austere that you shiver.
She placed the bowl in front of me then turned with a snap of her heels and sped back toward the kitchen. A memory flooded me as I stared at it. This bowl, with its gilded inscriptions and funhouse shine, had been a gift presented by a dignitary from Russia, in town July last for the annual Festival of Light. He had accepted it from his servant and then held it aloft as if hoping all the world would witness his generosity and bestow a modicum of respect upon him. I had almost laughed.
Fashioned onto the side gleamed the state seal of Russia, the two-headed eagle bearing lopsided crowns, an ornately rendered symbol harkening back to the Byzantine era. To those who abhorred the mighty nation, this image stood as a mere vulgar homage to the fallen: pride manifest in wrought and crafted steel. Even a spit shine couldn’t bring back her dignity – life gleaming inside a symbol of political foolishness. Of power run amuck and now wheezing a wall-shattering death rattle.
Now here it sat before me, appearing to hover an inch or so above the polished oak tabletop. I leaned forward and examined the curve of my moustache reflected upon its unblemished surface. I turned my head toward the window and watched how my right eye grew larger, my moustache now off kilter and pointing hyperbolically skyward. I winked and then did laugh with an abandon that startled even a stoic aristocrat like myself. “You are a cheeky bastard!” I whispered to my reflection. It seemed to agree.
Anastasiya had prepared her usual pre-breakfast appetizer, a medley of firm-flesh cantaloupe, Arkansas Black apple slices, green seedless grapes and a sliced banana, all tossed in yogurt and a quarter cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice. On this particular morning, and in a fashion I’ve never noticed before, the vivid appearance of her culinary efforts on behalf of my seldom-sated appetite breathed life into this most boorish of dinnerware. The crimson of the apple peels, so primal and devilishly tart, the muted orange of the sweet cantaloupe, the earthiness of the young grapes – all were yoked together with bonds of early morning sunlight and now frolicked around the spangled interior of this most unwanted boon.
I ate from it with gusto!