01 Aug Chapter 28: Cooking
A few days later Laik’s grandmother invites us all over for dinner. She’s a real sweetheart and a good cook too. Rills, Gian, Laik and I are in her kitchen as she makes dinner.
Rills is cutting up carrots at the kitchen table. “Nana, how do you choose what to make for dinner? Isn’t it hard to… decide?” We all call her Nana.
“Oh no dear, it’s easy.” She gets a glass serving dish down from an upper shelf. “Monday I make pot roast, Tuesday is casserole, Wednesday I make stew, Thursday is leftovers…”
“And you always make the same dish each week? Always?” Rills asks.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I? Laik, get the big pot out for me please.”
Laik finds the cookware cabinet. As he’s wrestling with the nested pots he asks, “And what if you don’t have any leftovers left for Thursday?”
“Your grandfather used to eat like he was about to hibernate for the winter, but not any more. There are always leftovers dear.”
Rills and I smile at each other.
The phone rings. Nana says to no one in particular, “Would you be a doll and get that for me please?”
Laik picks up the phone. “Who are you calling for?” He holds his hand over the mouthpiece. “Nana, someone from accounts is calling for you?”
She gets visibly upset. “It’s those debt collectors, they’re always calling. They say we owe a lot of money from father’s old business—if we don’t pay they said they’ll take the house. I just don’t know what to do about—”
Gian interrupts her. “Nana, how old is the debt?”
“Oh, father’s business closed years ago.”
Gian sticks out her hand. “Give me the phone.”
Laik passes it to her. She listens for a second and then starts in. “Wait, no you listen. First of all, this debt is likely older than the statute of limitations. And second, prove to me you own it. You can’t can you—you just bought a list of outstanding debts from someone else. Who knows how many times that paper has been resold? You don’t have documentation that proves you own the debt and you know you don’t. And preying on defenseless old people—you make me sick. Zero out the account and never call here again.” She hands the phone back to Laik.
Rills’ jaw is on the floor. Laik is stunned. Gian looks around the room and says, “What? My dad was a debt collector.”
Laik is still holding the phone. He leans down and plants a huge wet kiss on Gian. “Love you.”
Laik’s grandmother is sliding chopped vegetables off the cutting board and into the pot. I don’t think she’s aware of what just happened. “I can take it from here sweetums. Now get out of my kitchen, you’re all in my way.”
Laik kisses Nana on the cheek and goes into the living room with Rills. I walk out the front door and sit on the steps. The evening light is fading from orange to a deep blue.
I hear the screen door open and close behind me. It’s Gian; she leans against one of the porch columns.
“You think you know someone,” I joke.
She flattens down a loose chip of paint on the porch handrail. “I remember sitting on my dad’s knee as he called deadbeats to convince them to accept payment plans. He would carefully explain to me how the business worked and the tricks of the trade. I was focused on my toys and only half listening, but I guess some of it sunk in. He was still making calls on the day he died.”
Gian kicks a fallen leaf off the porch. “It was ages ago.”
We hear the sound of pots banging in the kitchen.
“Laik told me about what happened at the office,” Gian says.
“I still feel horrible about it. We hadn’t replaced that glass yet.”
“You knew it was dangerous?”
“Switching it out to safety glass was on the list, along with a million other things. But we’re understaffed, and there are only so many hours in the day…”
“Cevs, you’re being way too casual about this.”
“I can only beat myself up so much over it. It was just a random freak accident.”
“That was entirely preventable.”
I look up at her. “Well I’m not perfect, okay?”
She gets agitated. “Maybe if you weren’t off adventuring and vacationing and skipping work you’d have more time to fix what needs fixing!”
“Well what about you? You take time off too.”
“Yeah, but the hospital doesn’t have a to-do list filled with items that can kill people!”
I hate the way she’s making me feel right now. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine, but as a friend who cares about you I’m not going to let it go so easily.” She walks back in the house and the screen door slams behind her.
Well this dinner is going to be awkward.