Story a Day for a Week in May…plus 2

 

cap again

Couldn’t resist writing another hapless Hugh story!

***

Cooking a Capercaillie

by

Christine Campbell

This morning was the last straw, the ridiculous, humiliating last straw. Sandra’s feet beat out the rhythm of the words on the wet pavement as she stomped her way home. Locked in the broom cupboard! ‘This is not what I signed on for,’ she fumed.

By the time she turned into the communal stair of the flats, she had built up a fair head of steam in her boiler, fuelled by the indignity she suffered, the memory of Hugh lying warm and sleepy in their bed when she left him this morning and sitting with his feet on the coffee table all day watching day-time trash on the unlicensed box; as she imagined he had most of her long, torturous day. ‘Sauce for the goose!’ Colleen’s remark flared in her memory. ‘Equal opportunity!’ She was ready to blow.

A blanket of fresh, enticing, foodie smells doused her anger as she opened the door.

“Don’t, em, don’t come in the kitchen!” Hugh yelled. “Surprise. It’s, it’s a surprise!”

Sandra still had her key in the lock, the door still standing open, the sudden cooling of her anger leaving her frozen in disbelief. “You’re cooking!”

“Guessed it must be about my turn,” Hugh planted a kiss on her cheek as he busied past her with candles for the table.

“But you never cook. You hate cooking.”

“I didn’t say that, or, not exactly. It’s just that…” he ran his hands through his floppy hair, pushing his swimming goggles onto his forehead. “It’s just that you do it so much better. Onions,” he added in answer to her unspoken enquiry about the goggles.

“Yes, I see. But the candles, wine?” She closed the door.

“A sudden pang of conscience: you out there every day working for us; me in here watching tele.”

A weary snort of recognition escaped from Sandra.

“One of these interminable talk shows, ‘Is your man a loser?’. Suddenly saw that, yes, your man, me, was, am, a bit of a loser. Wouldn’t be watching that dreadful program otherwise. Decided to do something about it.”

“A job would be nice.”

“Yes. Yes, I suppose that would be nice. The ideal really, I imagine.” Hugh stood with his hands on his hips, his hips girded with a tea towel, nodding his agreement.

“Yes.”

“I did, I er, did go. To the job centre. Again.”

Sandra looked up expectantly.

Hugh spread his hands. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Suitable, I mean. Nothing suitable.”

“If it pays money, it’s suitable,” Sandra muttered.

“Mustn’t lose sight of the big picture, as it were. You know, the right job, best career move.”

Sandra sat down wearily. “Oh, Hugh. What are we going to do? I know you want a career, but, right now, it’s a job you need, just a job. One that pays money. One that pays off the overdraft.”

“Mmm, know what you mean.”

“Do you, Hugh? ‘Cos I wonder sometimes. You’ve had this great Public School Education. The Stiff Upper Lip, English Gentleman, Posh University kind of stuff, but, really, has it prepared you for living in the real world? Has it taught you how to put meat on the table? Has it dickie-bird!”

“Meat on the table, yes, see what you mean. Dickie-bird,yes, about that…” He sniffed the air, “Sorry, back in a mo. The meat. Need to do some stirring.” and disappeared into the kitchen.

“Smells nice.” She sat up, alarmed by sudden realisation. “How? Where did you get the money for meat? We can’t afford…”

“Sold the picture…” Hugh shouted.

Her eyes flew to the empty place on the wall.

“My grandmother’s painting! You sold my grandmother’s painting!” She was on her feet, her anger reignited.

“Don’t come in,” he yelled as she started to push open the kitchen door.

“You sold my grandmother’s painting!” She shouted, her forehead against the door, her fist banging it in frustration. “You had no right!”

“Hunger!” he shouted back. “Hunger gave me the right.”

“It was mine.”

“It was ugly,” he asserted as he squeezed through the door, barring her entry to the kitchen.

“It was mine.”

He looked helplessly at her. “We needed food.”

“I was bringing food.” She held up the carrier bag. “Bread, cheese, pasta.”

“Macaroni cheese?”

She nodded.

“Yes. Yes, I see. The thing is, actually, well, I’m, well, I’m sort of fed up with macaroni cheese, as it happens.”

“But…”

Hugh took off the goggles and ran his fingers through his untidy hair again, reinforcing his air of perpetual bewilderment. “And I was, I was sort of, I was fed up with that hideous picture staring down at me all day.” He tossed a petulant glance in the direction of the offending, now absent, painting.

“It could only stare down at you all day, if you were here all day!”

“Yes. Of course. Yes. Well, it seemed the ideal solution: killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Instead of Capercaillie on the wall, we’ve er, we’ve sort of, sort of got chicken in the, in the, er, wok, so to speak…” his voice trailed off the way it often did, though he smiled shyly at his own wit. “You’ve got to admit it was a particularly ugly painting,” he added bravely.

“It was my painting.”

“Chicken and potato casserole with stir-fried vegetables? Lots of peppers and mushrooms? Garlic?” he cajoled, waving a hand in the general direction of the smell of cooking.

“Painted for me by my grandmother.”

“Spring onions. Ginger. Oh, hell! Something’s burning!” He dashed in to the kitchen again. “Don’t be cross about it, darling,” he called back through. “Think of it as, well, as sensible use of resources, so to speak.”

“Why couldn’t you have sensibly used some of your own resources? Oh good grief! What on earth is all this for?”

“I told you not to come through.”

“How many are you expecting for dinner?”

“Just, eh, just us.”

“But there’s so much! All these peppers!”

“I thought it seemed a lot,” he frowned. “But that’s what the recipe said,”

“Which recipe? Let me see.”

He lifted the book to show her.

“Feeds four,” she read out.

“Oops!”

“Oops, indeed. But, even for four, it’s an awful lot.”

He took the recipe back and pointed to the ingredients list. “Look, four chicken breasts, fourteen ‘oz’ of potatoes. ‘Oz’, I knew that was ounces,” he informed her with some pride. “And I knew sixteen ounces equals one pound, so I weighed out nearly a pound, well, a bit over, actually. The thing is, potatoes are quite big and the last one put it over, but take it out and it was too much under.” He shrugged, his face screwed into a ‘what-else-could-I-do’ sort of expression. “Then a couple of peppers and onions, a bag of mushrooms, four ounces of…”

“But I don’t have ounces on my scales!”

“Yes, you do. ‘Course you do.” He drew them over. “See?”

“Grams and Kilos!” She showed him. “It measures in grams and kilos. You’ve cooked a kilo of potatoes, four chicken breasts and there are several kilos of vegetables chopped up here.” The sweep of her hand indicated the heaps of vegetables covering every available work surface in their little kitchen. “For two of us.”

He scratched his head. “I wondered how it was all going to fit in the wok.”

“Well, it’s not, is it?” she said, weariness giving an edge to her voice.

“No, I suppose it’s not. Sorry!” He shrugged his apology like a child caught in some minor misdemeanour. “What, er. What do you, er, should I?”

Sandra sighed. “Let me get my coat off.”

“Sorry,” he said again, his large brown eyes begging her forgiveness.

How could she be angry with this gentle, schoolboy of a man? “Oh Hugh,” she said, drawing him into her arms. “What are we going to do?”

“I thought, perhaps eating might be a good idea?”

And, in the end, the meal was delicious—that evening, the next evening and, in various forms, another three after that.

 

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sharonscorde
    May 28, 2013 @ 11:55:02

    Hahaha., that was worth waiting for, Christine. I’ve grown to quite like Hugh!

    Like

    Reply

  2. marianallen
    May 28, 2013 @ 14:50:50

    I don’t know. I think I might have brained him with a skillet, if he’d sold MY painting. He has an endearing way about him, but basically selfish. Another of your wonderful, full, round characters! Love your work!

    Like

    Reply

  3. jorobinson176
    May 30, 2013 @ 14:12:52

    Ha haaa! What a guy. He has to be gorgeous to get away the way he does. Love it! 😀

    Like

    Reply

  4. cicampbell2013
    May 30, 2013 @ 14:14:39

    Hugh…think Hugh Grant…got it?

    Like

    Reply

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