Excerpt from Chlora's Book of the Month: July
Draft 1, Copyright 2015, Ginger Henry Geyer
Its the Fourth of July, and Chlora's family has just finished up a big Chinese dinner before heading back to lake for a fireworks show...
Next to the fireworks tent stood a fruit stand
overloaded with fresh peaches in market baskets.
That Betsy Ross really got around, as
her stars and stripes waved from this booth
and everything else nearby.
However, alongside Old Glory hung another flag
with a huge red maple leaf.
A man in overalls hopped off his tractor,
took a pipe out of his mouth,
and announced that peaches will give you a long, good life,
and that in China they symbolize immortality.
Are you from China? Chlora asked.
We just had Chinese food.
I'll trade you a fortune cookie for that peach.
The farmer spoke with a nice accent from growing up in Canada.
Peach ice cream was the special treat
they served on Canada Day, July 1st,
which was just a few days ago.
Chlora asked if it was their Fourth of July,
and he said sort of,
and they might as well celebrate together.
Peaches were better if they were peeled,
but whenever ripe and ready,
a bite into one just off the tree
and still warmed by the sun
made a gloriously juicy treat.
So be it if the peach fuzz got up
your nose and made you sneeze,
or juice dribbled off the tip of your chin,
there was no better sales strategy than this.
We will take a big bag full of your peaches, thank you.
The farmer pointed to a convenience store
down the way and just said "Ice."
Peach ice cream tonight!
The way the entire family cheered,
you'd think a major victory had been won.
The farmer told them to stick a banana
in the bag if you want them
to ripen up faster.
And it wouldn't hurt to add a bit of maple syrup.
Then he handed Chlora the slip of a fortune
he'd cracked out of her cookie, saying
here's a good Chinese message for us all:
Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.
Chlora said, but that sounds like the Golden Rule
and Jesus said that.
The man replied, yes, he did.
And so did Moses.
But it was first formulated
by Confucius way before Jesus.
In fact, it's the basis of all real religions.
Chlora looked for a strategic place
inside the RV to post the fortune cookie strip,
to give her bigoted cousins a subliminal message.
She settled in by the window.
She had one cookie left.
The ends of the paper slips revealed only a word or two.
But since Corinthians tells us we can know only in part,
that seemed fair enough.
As her brother Jerry Pete nagged her for the cookie,
she cracked it open, and read aloud:
To keep freedom you must share it.
She gave half of the cookie to her brother.
RETURN TO THE LAKE
As the RV careened back to their camping spot on the lake,
Jerry Pete whined that they were cooped up like chickens
back there. Over and over he asked when will we get there?
To show him the length of remaining segments
of the trip, Chlora took out her chewing gum
and demonstrated stretchy towns and short towns.
The bag of peaches smelled good,
but they could not win when a skunk odor
wafted in through the window.
Chlora held her nose. They had to roll up the windows.
The RV got stuffy. They wanted to go get icy Dr. Peppers
but the RV would rip the roof off the drive-through.
In the warbling kitchen,
Mom made the more economical Kool-aid,
and Chlora's sister Joanie Kay and Jerry Pete
made a paste of cherry and grape Kool-aid
to color their blonde hair red and blue.
It did not work for brunettes, so Chlora resorted
to red and purple stripes on her arms.
The three of them were told they'd have to wash it off
in the lake as soon as they got there.
Grandma switched her green reading lamp on in
the RV, which bothered Dad's eyes for driving.
But she said she had to finish up that book
by one of her favorite authors,
the one who wrote the Bible.
The rest of them resorted to looking out the windows.
Chlora blocked out all the chatter and
leaned her head against the glass.
The quiet insistence of the wheat fields
was an antidote to the RV clutter.
A lark arose from the swaying wheat
and ascended in twirls, as if Ralph Vaughn Williams
had written a song just for her.
The lake came into view and Jerry Pete cheered
as the Winnebago ambled into its parking spot.
They finally clamored out of the swelter
and headed for a quick dip in the lake.
By the dock they paused to watch
the miracle of mid-air mating thanks to a pair of dragonflies
who were all locked up.
Across the lake a stately blue heron
was posing for a Kodak moment.
Little did it know that its tranquil, fishy paradise would
soon be a blast-off site.
CHURNING ICE CREAM
While the big cousins set up their stash of fireworks,
Grandmother brought forth ingredients
for the ice cream mix,
including half a box of rock salt.
Dad set out the ice cream churn and the ice chest
and asked Chlora to come help.
What the heck happened to this wooden bucket?
Oh I left it outside last time and some old
porcupine needing a sodium fix
chewed up the edges of that salt-soaked wood.
Grandmother began peeling peaches
and dropping chunks into a bowl of cream and milk.
Peachy and preachy, she said.
Cream rises and so does Jesus, and
before your very eyes this mix will be
transformed into a different state of being,
like making milk into solid food,
just you watch.
Dad pulled apart the churn contraption,
with its hand-cranked gear box.
That metal part looked like an abstracted bird,
not unlike that pipe the Canadian farmer puffed on.
He had told Chlora it was a raven, a peace pipe
from the Northwest Coast
way up in Canada where they knew all about ice.
Ravens were credited with creating the world up there
but they were also tricksters,
which Chlora supposed was a pretty good description of
Dad pried open the big metal container
and Grandmother poured the peachy mix into it,
inserted the dasher and sealed it shut.
Now here comes the trick for transformation,
Dad said, as he layered
ice and salt all around the canister.
When it was filled up
Dad lay torn up newspapers over the top
and told Chlora to sit on it.
Dad began turning the hand crank.
He was getting quite a workout and
Chlora squirmed as the metal gears got
increasingly cold and the newspapers got wet.
It felt like she was butt-stuck to an iceberg.
She got cranky even though
she knew the results
would be well worth the effort in the end.
Grandmother observed and said,
but you'll be glad as the prophet Isaiah
when you get a mouthful of this.
What did Isaiah have to do with ice cream?
Hop off and lets add more ice and salt.
But by then they'd run out of the salt of the earth.
They'd even used up the blue box of Morton Salt
found in the RV kitchenette.
Grandmother came to the rescue
with a pretty bag of rose scented bath salts
she had stashed in her voluminous suitcase.
These rock salts were therapeutic
and might have been a life-saver
inside that RV bathroom,
but Grandmother happily sacrificed them
to the cause of ice cream.
The bath salt was labeled "from the Dead Sea"
and had pictures of roses on it, to disguise
that the Dead Sea is where people float
looking like bloated dead bodies.
The Dead Sea had something to do with that poor
wife of Lot who got turned into a pillar of salt.
If she'd been around, they would've chopped
her up for the ice cream churn.
The cranking continued for almost an hour
and the kids circled the churn and
argued over who'd get the licking spoon,
which was even a bigger prize than the dasher.
The dasher was a tongue-twister,
but the wooden licking spoon
could hold enough for a potlatch feast.
The licking spoon always went to the person
who had helped the most.
That happened to be her little brother Jerry Pete
who'd sat on the wet newspaper-covered churn the longest.
But Chlora called first dibs on the dasher,
which was worth losing the licking spoon,
as otherwise she would've
frozen her twott off sitting on that churn.
Jerry Pete, who had refused to eat dinner
at the Chinese restaurant
because he was stuffed,
now claimed that his
ice cream tummy was not full.
That kid had capacity, this he had well proved
at his own birthday party
back in March when he gobbled up
half a carton of Neopolitan.
The striped ice cream had been served in thick slices
that gave you three flavors all at once
so you could avoid making decisions.
One cannot have a birthday party
without ice cream, whether or not
your have a silver spoon
stuck in your mouth.
Homemade ice cream was an entirely different
food group. Ice cream from a carton was convenient,
and it wasn't bad, especially if it came
in small personal sized containers
with little wooden spoons.
Next best was the ice cream you bought
in an ice cream shop that featured
the flavor of the month,
sort of like their sister's latest boyfriend.
But on a day like this, store-bought ice cream
couldn't hold a candle to homemade.
Carton ice cream was kind of like
stuffing memories in the freezer,
and those memories were never
as good when you thawed them out.
True, homemade ice cream didn't hold over well,
but then it also didn't give you
freeze brain with an ice cream headache
from your own gluttony.
And since it melted fast,
you had to eat the whole bucket at once.
This often necessitated sharing
and might result in an ice cream social
which was an ethnographic ritual
akin to a potlatch feast,
one of those celebrations that just exuded
so much generosity that it oughta be outlawed.
The grinding sound ceased.
The transformation was complete, cold, and creamy.
Off came the lid and the dasher was eased up.
Jerry Pete proudly held up the prized licking spoon
and dipped in for the long-anticipated first taste.
Everyone awaited his verdict:
Yummmm... this sorta tastes like roses.
They all dug in.
Chlora's jaw now felt crooked
from licking the dasher,
and her chin and hands were sticky.
She asked Grandmother
What was that about the prophet Isaiah's mouth?
Well, he spoke like a poet, and
when he got called by God
the angel put a burning coal to his lips.
Is that what happens when God calls you?
Yea, you might get burned,
but God always provides ice cream later.
Or at least some chapstick.