Gravity

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I’ve got my anti-gravity dreaming boots

Got an anti-reality pistol that shoots

I’ve got hope and I use it like rocket fuel

Have a dagger made of pain, it’s a razor tool

I have no disdain for the earth beneath

But against ordinary I am armed to the teeth

Don’t know very much about the how or when

But I won’t be stopped, I’ve got a mightier pen

Starlight

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A comet streaked through the night sky so brightly that Adea awoke with a start. She looked about but could see only the tall trunks of black pines beneath a blanket of silvery stars.

“Where are we?” she asked the young man sitting next to her.

Jadon had been watching her sleep for over an hour by then.

“I used the hammer, Adea,” he explained.

“The hammer? But why? What happened?” Adea grew more alarmed by each heartbeat.

“They were coming for us. The har-goblins. I could smell them already and I had to get us out of there. I used the hammer and pulled you through the door.”

“Did any of them get through?” Adea asked.

“No. I don’t think so. I’ve been listening for them for the last hour or so.”

“So we’re in Soltre.”

The hammer was Lagvind, a mighty gift from the people of Soltre. One solid strike, anywhere in the all the Realms of Possible, would open a window back to Soltre, but only for a moment.

Adea looked down to see her feet wrapped in Jadon’s scarf. Then she remembered what had taken place what seemed like moments before she woke up among the towering trees.

She and Jadon had been resting in a small wood-paneled room at the back of the only inn in the village of Nor. It was already late at night.

“You know the har-goblins might come out in a place like this,” he had said, half smiling. He was gazing through the foggy glass windows at the moon.

“You don’t really believe in har-goblins, do you?” Adea had teased. “Those are stories for wee children.”

“Heard them of late, have you?”

“I am sixteen!” she protested. “And I don’t believe in them. It’s silly. Monsters that eat your toes while you sleep!”

Yet she had not protested when Jadon pulled off his scarf and carefully wound it around her feet. The gentle and tender way he had caressed them while wrapping her small feet reminded her of why she admired him so much.

“Now listen. If the har-goblins come, they must obey the Law of Toe. Only bare toes, exposed to the air, may be eaten. They will not violate it, lest they come under the wrath of the Har-Kong.”

“What Law? I think you’re making this up,” she said.

“I have it by authority of Farfar Landon,” he stated resolutely.

“I think you just wanted to touch my feet.”

“Silly girl. You don’t want your toes nipped off one by one, do you?”

“Have you ever seen anyone walking around the village with missing toes?” she countered.

“They all have shoes on, so you wouldn’t know, would you? Now go to sleep. I will stand watch and guard your toes, just in case.”

“In case what? You just wrapped my feet.”

“Just in case,” he said more sternly. “In case it’s not enough.” He looked slightly worried.

***

            Now in the darkness of the forest of Soltre, Jadon still looked a bit unsettled.

“I don’t think any of them got through. But they are real, Starlight. I admit, I didn’t believe the tales were true, but then the smell came. I heard the claws of their feet dragging along the floor in the hallway.”

She loved when he called her Starlight.

“But my feet were wrapped,” Adea said.

“I don’t trust the Law of Toe. I don’t really know what was coming down the hallway, but I wasn’t going to wait and find out. Ever since we left Soltre, all sorts of things we only half-believed before have been coming true. I had to get us out of that house, out of that village.”

“So you brought us back to Soltre? That’s like going backwards. You know what Bidron told us. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Jadon looked down pensively. He let out a long sigh. Adea’s eyes were getting used to the low light of the night sky and she could see he was holding something back.

“There’s something else,” she ventured. “Another reason you brought me here.”

“I just wanted to be with you, Starlight. Bidron said there were no night animals in all of Soltre. It’s just you and me right now.”

“Unless the har-goblins made it through the window,” she reminded him.

“Do you trust me, Adea?”

“I trust you completely, Jadon. With my life.”

“There are other ways to conjure magic, but the secret to all magic is that you must believe. Belief is everything.”

“I believe you.”

“Believe in my words,” Jadon whispered as he took her hand in his.

He raised it to his lips and kissed the top of her hand. Then he turned it over and kissed each fingertip once. Adea smiled.

“You going to start saying any words?”

“Shhh,” he warned.

He took her other hand and repeated the display of affection, almost as if part of a ritual.

“Now, believe this. I am a son of the Elgam. By kissing your hands and fingers in this way, you are protected from harmful magic until the sun rises.”

“You could just do that all the time if you’re trying to protect me,” she offered.

“It doesn’t work that way. I can only do that once every new moon.”

She looked up. The moon was full. Jadon saw her glance and followed her line of reasoning.

“In Soltre the moon is full. In our world, the moon is new. I saw that through the window as you were sleeping.”

“It’s like you planned this,” said Adea.

“Not exactly. But you are safe no matter what right now. Do you believe me?”

“I feel safe with you,” Adea breathed. “I believe you.”

“Then sleep, Starlight.”

He set himself against the nearest tree and pulled her softly toward himself. She nestled into him as he wrapped his arms around her.

“Sleep, Starlight. Tomorrow we will look for Bidron and seek guidance.”

“I love you, Jadon,” she mumbled as she slipped quickly into a deep slumber.

“I love you, too, Adea,” he whispered, as he realized she had already fallen asleep. “More than I should.”

 

 

A Recipe for Non-Egalitarian Beans

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You will see in a moment why I call them this.  First I present to you the ingredient list.  It is short, which ensures two things: there is little danger of boredom while reading it; and there are few enough ingredients such that leaving even one of them out might have drastic effects, a result for which I will claim no responsibility.  You have been warned.

1 ½ lbs. Pinto Beans

Salt, lots of it

A generous slice of salt-pork*

One large tomato, coarsely chopped

One small onion, very coarsely chopped, large pieces or rings are better

One half bell pepper, thinly sliced

One or two jalapenos, sliced

Garlic **

Cumin

Cilantro***

Chili pepper

Black pepper

*This may be omitted at your own peril, though I personally find it inconceivable.  The heart of this dish’s taste is its pork flavoring.  You may be forced, for Kosher considerations, to use a pork flavoring substitute.  You will not need very much as the salt pork is generally removed halfway through the process.

**There are multiple strategies to using garlic: a) use garlic powder as a cheap and easy alternative…I do this at times;  b) use a couple of cloves of garlic, peeled, and remove them before you serve the beans; or c) throw in a small amount of minced garlic and consider it part of the meal.  It’s up to you.

***This is also known as Chinese parsley.  There is no substitute for fresh cilantro.  If no fresh cilantro is available, you will just have to use dried but I don’t really know what that would do.  It is essentially an herb that adds a fresh flavor to the beans and cools the edge of any hotness introduced by the jalapenos.  If you do not live where this herb is readily available, then I sincerely hope you know where the local farmer’s market is.

Step 1:  Sort and wash the beans

We are no egalitarians here.  The weak, the crippled, the halt and the deformed must go; even the beans of unusual size.  Spare none of these when sorting the beans, coldly, methodically, and without mercy.  Take only the unblemished ones (generally 98% of them).  The reason for this is that they only get worse in the cooking, so getting rid of the imperfections makes for a more presentable dish down the road.  Then wash the beans in a colander with warm water by hand.  The truth about beans is that they are dirtier than they look.  You will discover this if you cook them without washing them.  They do not need to be soaked overnight; I never do this and don’t know anyone who does.

Step 2:  Start them up!

Roughly 5 quarts of water ought to do this.  You can bring the water to a gentle boil first and then dump the beans in.  Bring it back to a boil and cover with a well-fitted lid.  You will need to lower the heat, just enough to keep a very gentle boil for the next hour while stirring occasionally.  Adding a generous amount of salt at this time is advisable.  Beans are like potatoes; they absorb a lot of salt.  It is almost impossible to accidentally over-salt beans.

Step 3:  Order

I like to cook with order.  You probably do as well.  Generally I have cooked the beans by themselves up to this point with only salt added.  Now I add the salt pork and cook for an additional hour and a half.  Remember to maintain only a gentle boil while covered.  Unless you have a see-through lid, this can only be ascertained in the first few moments after you open the lid, so good luck with that.

We are now two and half hours into our beans.  They are smelling okay but there is something missing.  Seasoning.  At this point remove the salt pork.  Add more table salt, some black pepper, a decent amount of chili powder, a smaller amount of cumin, the garlic powder (or whatever you scrounged up), and the jalapenos.

Cook one hour.  I feel compelled to remind you that only a gentle little boil is permitted.  Something like two or three little steady bubble streams would be good.

Now add tomato, onions, bell peppers, and fresh cilantro.  I sincerely hope you are very careful when chopping up your vegetables.  It is good to use a freshly sharpened knife for best control.  (I wouldn’t want you to lose a finger, which might not be so bad if you happened to already have six fingers on your hand.)  Cook for one more hour. Gently boil, gently boil, gently boil! Covered.

Why gently?  It just has to be like that.

I had a roommate in college who made beans in two hours under much higher heat than I would ever have used, using a pressure cooker of some kind.  They were awful and I let him know it.  He said, “Well that’s how my mom makes beans.”

And I said, “Well your mama don’t know how to make beans!”

Let me tell you, them is fightin’ words.  Feeling brave, I also told him that the Wolf-brand chili schlock that his mother calls “enchiladas” is a joke and that MY mama said only lazy people cook enchiladas in a casserole.

Well… It didn’t quite come to blows and I resolved to afterwards not burst any more of his bubbles (except for pointing out that his Camaro with a 6-cylinder engine and automatic transmission was not a real sports car, technically, and thus there was no reason for him to have his hand on the gear shift all the time; and that putting on a leather duster, cowboy hat, jeans, boots and a giant buckle didn’t make him a cowboy, especially since he’d never worked a day in his life on a ranch….but really I think he already knew that.)

Anyway, my mama said it has to be a gentle boil.  Pinto beans are delicate and the texture that is created by this method is wonderful.

By the way, strictly speaking this is not a soup, but it will eat like one.  It is generally served in a bowl.  You can put bits of tortilla chips if you like, or add salsa to make it spicier, or add grated cheese (mild cheddar or monterry jack).  It goes well with rice.

Extra: to make refried beans (remarkably easy and a perfect compliment to over-easy eggs for breakfast), you simply heat up a little vegetable oil in a saucepan, add beans with enough of the broth to barely cover, none of the vegetables, and heat to a medium boil.  Smash thoroughly with a smashing utensil (I prefer the bent wire kind as opposed to the perforated plate) and then simmer gently until it thickens.  Refried pinto beans are unbeatable when they are homemade.  That stuff in the can can stay there. (I like setting off grammer-check.)  Use them as a side dish, for breakfast burritos, chalupas, tortas (a large French roll split in the middle and layered with hot refried beans, chopped seasoned meat, mashed avacado, sour cream, chopped tomato and lettuce, with salsa to taste), or wherever you like.  Be careful not to let them dry out when refrying them; you will quickly discover the right consistency for the various applications you wish to make.

You are done.  Taste broth for correct saltiness.  Adding salt to a bowl of beans is a no -no, so get it right while it’s in the pot.  Cooking times vary.  Failure to boil in the first hour will mean longer cooking time and perhaps damaged beans.  Too much boiling at any point means beans at the
bottom may burn or disintegrate.  There are many hazards to cooking beans.  But the rule for Mexican cooking is to cook with love, not lunacy.  I have an aunt who does the latter, but that is another story…