In the kitchen, Mary preheated the oven and took the roast out of the refrigerator. "Devil Picture Shows," the radio preacher’s voice echoed between her ears. "Free pornography is available everywhere. At the touch of a finger."
She slid a knife from the block and trimmed fatty bits from the roast. Joseph liked the fatty parts but she didn’t, and she was making the dinner and he wasn’t; plus, he wouldn’t notice the difference. Clicking noises came from the warming oven. Mary took a large pot from its cupboard, placed it on the stove, poured in oil, and switched on the heat. It is up to you to contend with this Evil!
It would be easier to contend with, if I had any help.
She tried pushing Joseph to have “The Talk” with their son because she felt the material was much too vulgar to discuss with his own mother. Still, Joseph made excuses. He always found a reason, a way to avoid his duties. Running late, coffee in hand, cheating out the door. Too tired, rough day at the store, honey, just want to relax. Steam rose from the pot. She rubbed the meat with salt and pepper, then skewered it with a long fork and lowered it into the oil. Seared meat crackling and jumping flecks of fiery liquid. Remain vigilant against Prophets of Satan! The Lord is always testing you! She set a timer. Let the meat cook. She took carrots and potatoes from another cupboard, washed them in the sink then started peeling.
Skins fell headlong into the trash can. Beep, beep, beep! She flipped the roast. Continued peeling the vegetables. Why had she let John listen to that broadcast in the first place? In the past she would have changed the channel or turned off the radio. Should she have? The all-encompassing presence of the internet. "Free pornography is everywhere." If he was unaware of this before, he certainly knew now, she thought. Better for him to hear about it from a Man of God than some school teacher.
Better for him to hear about it from his father. Beep, beep, beep! She took the meat from the pot and put it on a separate plate. She cut a head of onion in half then in quarters, and threw it into the pot with more oil, salt and pepper. She remembered when John brought that permission sheet home from school. Joseph reached out right away to sign it, no questions asked. Until, politely, she asked to see it before he signed. She read: biology of sex, pregnancy, disease prevention, safe sex practices, and an introduction on sexual orientation. You were about to sign this? She cut six spuds in halves, quarters, eighths. Time to add the juices.
A pink tab marked the recipe in one of her cookbooks. The old book’s spine cracked; it once belonged to her father. “Add thyme sprigs, chopped garlic, beef broth, bay leaf, and red wine to the pan ('for sacrament,’ a scribbled note from her father read in the margin).”
No red wine in the house, as far as she knew. She checked the cupboard above the fridge. Whiskey; certainly unfit in a pot roast for the family. No wine. She opened the fridge. Plenty on the door: condiments, salad dressings, a jug of milk, and apple juice. This will work fine. The juice boiled up slightly as she poured it over the cooked onions, filling a layer enough to cover the pot’s bottom. Next, the beef stock, brownish red. When she opened the door to put the stock away she saw the bottle. Tucked in a corner, between the counter and under a cupboard. He knew she didn’t like it when he got drunk, "Only fools get drunk."
He was probably drunk when he tried to sign that sheet.
"Why don’t you try it?"
He had offered before. Always, he offered. Lately, he waited until she went to bed to have a drink. You might like it. He never drank in front of John, but she knew he drank wine. The whiskey was new. The bottle looked unopened. The wine bottle was half full, she could feel from holding the body. She uncorked. Sourness at first prickled the back of her nose, trickling down to her throat. Then sweetness wafted in, then both at the same time. Not unpleasant. She held the bottle with both hands, neck and punt, before her lips. Sipped.
A sound grate from her mouth like a cat with a hairball. It was worse than the wine in church, stronger. She put the bottle back. Apple juice and beef stock would work fine, she decided. A bitter, fruity taste lingered in the back of her mouth. She put the meat back in the pan with the simmering onions and juices, then added the other ingredients: herbs and spices, and vegetables. She covered the pot and opened the oven. A wave of heat pounded her cheeks. It made the taste in her mouth worse. She placed the pot inside and closed the oven. She set a timer then sat down at the kitchen table. Should she steam a head of broccoli, too?
A choir of pipes rang above her like a labored wind. John showering. Still showering. All this time while she cooked. Must be nice. He used so much hot water. At the touch of a finger. Why did she make him listen? "Devil Picture Shows." He always took such long showers, so much hot water. Remain vigilant!
Why did I make him listen?
Mary got up from her chair and went upstairs.