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LYDIA'S ORANGE BREAD

by

Bruce Holland Rogers


Wash four oranges, unless you have just broken up with Jamil Becker, in which case to hell with washing them. Peel them. Set aside the sections to eat while you're cooking. Put the peels in a sauce pan with one teaspoon of baking soda and enough water to cover. Boil the peels for ten minutes.

Drain, and rinse in cold water. Scrape away the white part of the peel. Cut the orange peel into slivers, unless you have just broken up with Jamil Becker, who has very long eyelashes for a man, dark eyes, and a mouth made--as other women have said about the mouths of other such men--for kissing and lying. In that case, think about the woman you saw him with last weekend and keep cutting the peel until the slivers are reduced to specks and the specks are reduced to mush.

Preheat the oven to three hundred and fifty degrees.

Candy the orange peel by boiling in one cup of sugar and one cup of water until reduced to about one-third of the original volume. If you're using a candy thermometer, what you want is the hard ball stage, but candy thermometers, like some men, can't always be relied on. One-third of the original volume is a better guide. Trust you eyes.

Set aside the candied peel.

Mix two tablespoons of melted butter, two eggs, one cup of sugar and one cup of milk. You can use an electric mixer, but if you have just broken up with Jamil Becker, do this step by hand. Vigorously.

Sift together a pinch of salt, three tablespoons of baking powder, three and one-quarter cups of flour. Add the wet mixture to the dry. If you've broken up with Jamil Becker, pause here to cry, then get angry and tell yourself to get over it already. Remind yourself that baking something complicated always makes you feel better. Add the orange peels and one cup of chopped pecans.

Spoon into two greased bread pans and bake for one hour.

When the loaves have cooled, slice them and you're done, unless you have just broken up with Jamil Backer, who has apparently forgotten that he gave you a set of keys to his apartment. In which case, put the sliced loaves in a paper bag along with four softened sticks of butter, drive to his apartment while he's at work, and let yourself in.

Step over the clothes on the living room floor. Pet the cat.

Go to his closet and take out the cream-colored silk shirt you bought him for his birthday and lay it on the bed. Butter a slice of orange bread and put it butter-side down on the shirt pocket. Butter some more slices and put one in the breast pocket of each of his suits. Put a slice and an extra pat of butter under his pillow.

Open the drawers of his dresser, leaving a buttered slice under his socks, under his undershorts. Close the drawers. Hide a slice inside a lampshade, where the light will warm it and melt the butter onto the bulb.

Open the sealed but unmailed letter on his kitchen table, addressed to his college buddy, Randy. Read the sentence where Jamil complains about his girlfriend. Reread it to be sure he means you. Find a pen, scratch out the word "paranoid" and write above it the word "prescient." Scratch out "a little spooky" and write above it "dangerous." Put the letter back into the envelope, along with the apartment keys. Put the envelope inside your purse to mail on your way home.

Leave buttered slices between CD cases, behind the refrigerator, in the fireplace, on top of the television. Make a butter sandwich with two slices and push it into the slot of the VCR.

Pet the cat again. Mash orange bread and butter into many little balls and put them in her food dish. Watch her gulp these down too fast. She won't be able to keep them down for long. Carry her to the sofa and pet her until she's good and settled there.

On your way out, collect your iron and your blender, which he had said he would return. Remember that he had also said, "Lydia, I wouldn't look at another woman," which was your first clue because what man can honestly say he wouldn't even look?

One last time before you leave, pet the cat. Her tongue is sticking out a little. She doesn't look good, but she'll feel better soon. You both will.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Bruce Holland Rogers' short stories have won a Pushcart Prize, two Nebula Awards, and a nomination for the Edgar. His work has been published in various magazines ranging from commercial to very experimental, and has been translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, Czeck, Polish, Japanese and Farsi. For more of Bruce's short stories, check out his information www.shortshortshort.com.








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