Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A recipe for the seduction of Ms. Tomasetti

I must ask, dear readers, for your assistance. I've drawn a blank. Although I've never suffered from "writer's block" and consider it to be a myth concocted by people who really aren't writers but like pretending that they are, I have, on occasion, suffered from "culinary impotence." You see, I'm having a young woman over for dinner and I am in need of a meal plan. I've been through dozens of volumes from my food library and nothing calls to me. Imagine...the Brown Trout at a loss for recipes. The horror!

She showed up at my office door yesterday. A trace of perfume festooned the air of the little room as she entered. I smelled, at turns, hairspray, fingernail polish, the tang of nervous sweat (pheremones!), shampoo, and crisp autumn air rolling off the black leather of her jacket. When she spoke I thought I could detect the sticky-sweet scent of a cocktail on her breath. This old trout's sniffer still functions well; I spend too much time in training in the woods with my eyes closed, inhaling wild smells, for it not to. In short, she appeared ready for a night out.

She sat down in my beanbag chair. She seemed nervous. She fiddled with her fingers and looked down at her lap. Finally she steered the conversation from small talk to what she had on her mind.

Lovely Shirleen Tomasetti: So, you've made your nomination, I assume?

Frumpy Prof. Trout: Yes. I have.

Shirleen: And...(looks away)...I guess you made your choice based solely on merit.

Prof. Trout: I did.

Shirleen: In that case, you probably didn't select me.

Trout: Why would you say that?

Shirleen: Because I know I'm not a good writer.

Trout: That's bullshit, Shirleen.

Shirleen: (surprised) You did pick me?

Trout: In truth...

Allow me to interject here. Intrepid readers will recall my recent quandry, where I had three students from whom to choose for only two slots for a full scholarship and stipend. Shirl was clearly number three, if she was that high. But she also offers obvious advantages should a lecherous old writer be intrested in lavishing favors upon a young divorcee. In truth, I did suffer an ethical lapse in choosing the two writers to nominate. Billy Clayhouse, the best writer in my classes, didn't submit an application. I also couldn't reach him. So I performed a no-no and forged his application. I submitted it along with that of the bubbly Ms. Elizabeth Puppycute. I ran Shirleen's application through the shredder, weeping as I did.

Trout (cont'd.): In truth...no. I'm only allowed two nominations, and I had applications from two better writers.

Shirleen: (eyes glistening) I see.

Trout: But if you try to say that it's because you're a bad writer, that's a fallacy.

Shirleen: (a sigh)

Trout: You've got all the tools. You're good with language. You just need to find what it is you're going to write about.

Shirleen: You've said that before, but I don't know what else I can do. You talk all the time about the "middlebrow domestic Iowa Workshop nonsense," and I know you're referring to me.

Trout: Not to you...

Shirleen: (a single tear leaking down a singular cheek) Yes...because that's what I write. I'm a "suburban" writer and you know it.

Trout: (meltyhearted) Some writers need to search to find what they want to write about...

She was openly weeping now, and my blubbering didn't help. But being a big, soft teadybear, I began crying as well. I rose from my chair and knealt by the beanbag. I took her hand and proceeded to recall, line for line, a passage from one of her stories. It's not that I'd memorized it, only that I'd been reading the piece when she knocked at the door so it was fresh in my mind. In truth, it wasn't bad. It was almost poignant, though it was a clear violation of my topic rules. Though it wasn't about the death of a grandparent, it did feature a girl standing by the edge of her aunt's hospital bed. In all, though, it was a decent scene.

She stopped weeping and watched me as I retold the scene. I'm a good reader. I'm no Garrison Keillor, who could engage an audience merely by reading the label of a soup can, but I can manage to add weight and power to a story whether it's there or not. I did my best.

I follwed by telling her again that she had the tools, which is completely true, but that she just needed to "spend some time in the trenches." She needed to travel. Cook. Wander in the woods. My native American friends understand this as well as anyone, as do, oddly, most Mormons.

Shirl: I guess you're right. I just don't know where to begin.

Trout: There's so many options. But, unfortunately, an MFA program may not be the best place to start looking.

Shirl: Maybe...maybe you could give me some ideas. Over dinner sometime (OVER DINNER SOMETIME!).

Trout: (speechless)

Shirl: (blush/smile) I mean...if that would be apporpriate...

Trout: (recovering) No, no...that's perfectly fine. Very appropriate! In fact...I'll have you over some evening. We'll discuss this matter seriously. I'll cook. It's an important conversation to have, and I haven't found a restaurant in this town yet that's reliable enough to trust for such a situation. How about...

Shirl: Tuesday?

Trout: Perfect!

And there you have it, readers. I've been racking my thoughts for the past two days. I've started a shopping list, but at the moment it contains 1) olive oil (xx) and 2) eggs and nothing else. Cookbooks are strewn about my apartment. I've spent hours on my favorite websites. I called Lucy, Most Favorite Ex-Wife Number Two, who was a glorious gourmet cook. I called my daughter Ella, a chef-in-training. I still have no idea what to prepare. I'm sick. Lovestruck over lovely Ms. Tomasetti. Please share your thoughts as to what I should prepare. My heart is twittering like a teenager's. O, the agony!

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