“Is this horseshoe crab meat?”
The question was so out of place that Charlotte was momentarily speechless.
“What?! No.” She said assertively
“Oh…” Bart responded seemingly confused.
His questions had been so jarring that Charlotte had stopped preparing the food and had turned towards Bart fully invested in whatever nonsense was currently going through his head.
“Why did you ask that?”
He was still eating.
“I dunno…” gnash gnash “it just tastes like how I would imagine horseshoe crabs taste.”
“You’ve imagined what horseshoe crabs taste like?”
“No, not really, but as soon as I ate this I was like this taste like horseshoe crabs.”
“Well it’s pork,” she countered “and I need to know if it’s done.”
“How should I know? I’m not a thermometer.”
“Well how does it taste
“I already told you, it tastes like horseshoe crabs”
Her temper which had been idling was now going full tilt.
“No it doesn’t!” She shouted louder than she had meant to “You’ve never eaten horseshow crabs in your life!”
“How do you know?”
His casual attitude was making her see spots but she swallowed her frustration and asked through clinched teeth.
“Just… is it good?”
He sat and thought about, chewing slowly to aid in his mental faculties.
“Kinda want to try horseshoe crab now.”
Her annoyance had settled back into her routine levels. The levels that are often attributed to a single mother with a toddler.
“Please stay on topic.” She asked in an even voice.
“Is that not the topic?”
“It never WAS!” a temporary flair and then back to normal “Now, please, I have to finish this tonight.”
“I told you, I’m taking these to the thing tomorrow. It’s the stuffing for my potstickers
“You’re taking potstickers to a funeral?”
“I told you, it’s not a funeral it’s a wake”
“6 one way half a dozen the other. Who died?”
“Do you just tune me out at will?”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t listening what did you say”
Charlotte glared at him from the kitchen.
“Kidding…I just...ya know there’s been a whole bunch of things going on and I don’t remember anyone specifically…I mean it’s not your family right?”
“Right.” She spoke now as she stirred in stuffing around the skillet.
“Cause I’d be going…” It wasn’t supposed to come out as a question but it did.
“And it would seem insensitive of me if I didn’t remember.”
“Correct.” She felt like she was leading a toddler through social interactions and basic empathy.
“Yeah…so who is it?”
“It’s that guy that one chick had us looking for”
“Ah yes, how could I forget that guy.” He said his words heavy with sarcasm.
“Look I’m just trying to be nice” She continued her eyes on meat cooking away with the cabbage and other veggies.
“A white person bringing another cultures comfort food as their own. I mean you’re pretty on brand for whites. Culturally speaking.”
“Was he Asian?”
“No, he was Native American.”
“So why potstickers?”
“I dunno I looked up the recipe and it looked easy. Plus we already had most of the stuff.”
"Easier than like…I dunno mashed potatoes or paper plates?"
"Mashed potatoes is a white people thing and plates seriously? It’s not your scout troop’s potluck."
Bart pulled out his phone in a natural modern response to not needing to be present and attentive. His fingers glided across the screen in an effortless dance he had gotten so used to whenever there was an empty moment in life.
"So are they burying him then? Grounds pretty hard this time of year." He asked.
"There’s no body." Charlotte answered.
"What? That’s what a wake is. Being around a body. And drinking and being sad or happy or whatever but the body is pretty central in the ceremony."
"Well they cant find one and the marshal’s have given up the search so he's been declared dead."
"Just like that?"
"That's pretty damn quick. I mean aren't some people missing for years but they keep the case open or the search ya know...semi open just in case."
"Well not with this one," said Charlotte. "You said yourself, grounds solid. It's the middle of winter. if he did get lost out there he's dead. And has probably been eaten by bears already."
"Yeah, the bears are particularly hungry around here."
Charlotte turned killed the heat to the skillet and looked around the counterspace in the kitchen.
"So the family is burying what an empty casket?" Bart asked.
"No. There’s no casket. There’s no plot. They just doing a celebration of life or whatever."
"Glad to see you're so invested."
Charlotte grabbed the package of wonton wrappers she laid out early and turned to Bart.
"Look," she said "the woman couldn’t pay us much and we technically didn’t find the body and she’s real upset so I figured it was the least I could do."
"The least you could do would be to send a consolatory text."
"Well I’m taking potstickers. To the funeral or wake or celebration of life or whatever the hell it is" she said, pulling apart the wrappers and attempting to subdue her years or urban whiteness to fold a proper dumpling.
"Is there gonna be booze?" Bart asked, his face back in his phone.
"He was a teetotaler." She said without looking away from her slow hands.
"You know we could sneak some in," Bart said with a smirk "Wouldn't be the first funeral I snuck whiskey into."
"You're not coming."
"Fine." He huffed
Charlotte kept spooning the filler onto the little wrappers and mangling them together in what she thought poststickers looked like. Bart hung casually in the door of the kitchen, half watching her half staring into space.
He was brought back. "Was it her uncle or something?"
"She wasn’t related."
"Jeez, she wasn’t even related to the guy?"
"No, she just liked him I guess."
"Oh okay, so more like boyfriend material."
"I dunno, he was like 35 or 40 years older than her."
"Holy crow! So he was robbing the cradle."
"I said she liked him"
"Oh so she was robbing the grave. Is that the term for that?"
"I don’t know if there is a term for that but can you please stop talking I can't talk and fold these little things over at the same time."
"I thought you said the recipe was easy."
"Well I'm sure it is easy for someone who knows how to do this sorta thing but I don't cook and it's very...not easy for me."
She persisted. Her furrowed brow and the mild tremor in her hands showing the level of patience in her was dwindling.
"I just Googled it" Bart said, not looking away from his phone "and the recipe I found says medium"
"Silence." She snipped at him.
He continues to read and comment aloud. "This person says their mother made it for them when they were sick…and on their birthday…and for school functions. Sounds like she just made potstickers a lot, not really a special occasion type thing."
He had talked enough now to pause her mediocre progress "What are you talking about?"
"In the bio spot above the recipe."
"You have to be the only person on earth that reads those."
"I’m sure I'm not the only one." He took none of the sass from her last comment.
"Why are you cooking it now?" He asked as she returned to her work.
"What do you mean?" She had slowed now her hands barely moving as he continued.
"I mean you don’t cook it now. You get all the crap together and THEN you put it in the wrappers or whatever THEN you cook it or steam it or whatever."
The handbrake was pulled. "What? Seriously?"
She put down her work and walked to Bart as he turned his phone to her. She skimmed the page and saw step by step instructions with little pictures showing her exactly everything she had not done.
"Hold on this is a different recipe."
"Pretty sure they're all faaaairly similar." He said condescendingly.
Charlotte crossed the small kitchen back to her work station which had taken over the whole counter top and picked up her phone wiping her messy hand on her pants before unlocking her screen. She studied the screen for just a moment before her shoulders fell and her face spelled defeat.
"For gods sake. It's at the very beginning. It's even got the pictures too. I just skipped that part I guess."
"Skipping a step in a recipe you've never tried. Good move babe."
"Shit," she sighed "Well can you run to the store for me?"
"It’s 11 o clock. The store's closed."
"Crap. What do we have in the pantry?"
"I dunno." Bart walked the short distance to the pantry and opened the door. "Some Kraft Mac and Cheese. Some ramen."
"Maybe I’ll just send some flowers." She resigned.
"So what do we do with this?" Bart gestured towards the skillet with the cooked pork.
"I dunno we could make burritos."
"Potsticker burritos, where's a hipster when you need one."
"I think we're the hipsters in this scenario."
"I absolutely am not a hipster, I work for a living."