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From Whence

In the early morning of December twentieth in their little house on the outskirts of the northern California coastal town of Mercy, the resident trio of Delilah, Nathan, and Celia sit at the dining table listening to heavy rain drumming on the roof, Nathan having green tea, Celia and Delilah coffee.

Nathan is eighty-eight and feeling chipper this morning after a good night’s sleep. Dressed in old brown corduroy trousers and a black long-sleeved T-shirt, his hair snow white, he’s thinking of taking the mutts Chico and Gypsy for a walk once the rain lets up, which he guesses will be in the early afternoon. After fifty-eight years of living in Mercy, Nathan’s guesses about the weather are rarely wrong.

Celia is Nathan’s wife. She is eighty-two and was a nurse for forty-five years until she retired simultaneously with Delilah coming to live with them fifteen years ago. She is still in her nightgown and bathrobe, her long black hair full of gray, her winter days filled with cooking and reading and spending time with Nathan and Delilah and their friends, her hopes of late pinned on Delilah marrying Gabriel Fernandez, a charming fellow and good friend of their family.

Delilah is twenty-eight and the only child of movie star Margot Cunningham who died eight years ago. Unmistakably the daughter of her famously beautiful mother, Delilah is also still in her nightgown and bathrobe, her brown hair longer than it has been in several years, though only a boyish bob. This morning, after a lifetime of wondering, she is both excited and fearful about the possibility of finally discovering who her father is.

Last night Delilah and Nathan and Celia went with Gabriel to a party at the home of the very British Constance and Joseph Richardson next door to Ziggurat Farm where Delilah is the main home school teacher and Nathan and Celia are the honorary farm elders. Gabriel and Delilah are not yet lovers, though they are wildly attracted to each other and love spending time together.

At the party, Raul Neves, chef and owner of Ocelot, a renowned restaurant in Mercy, and his wife Caroline, Delilah’s close friend and the manager of Ocelot, gave a slide show of their recent honeymoon in England and Portugal. One of the slides was of Raul’s deceased mother Beatrice. In the photo, which was taken when Beatrice was thirty-five, her resemblance to Delilah is exact down to the finest details.

And because Delilah knows Raul met her mother Margot on a few occasions twenty-nine years ago, now that she’s seen this photo of Beatrice she is convinced Raul is her father.

“Fortunately,” says Nathan, going to put a log on the fire, “Raul is a wonderful person and you like him and he likes you. Much better than discovering your father is some obnoxious lout you can’t stand.”

“You would think so,” says Delilah, groggy from lack of sleep because her mind won’t stop gnawing on the possibility of Raul being her father, “except how will Caroline feel if I ask Raul to have a DNA test to see if he’s my father? They just got married and she’s pregnant with his child. She might be devastated.”

“Caroline loves you,” says Celia, getting up to make more coffee. “She’ll want to know the truth as much as you. So will Raul. They’re both strong people. Don’t worry.”

“Life is far more mysterious and fantastic than we could ever imagine,” says Nathan, gazing into the flames. “Raul and Caroline must have noticed how much you resemble his mother and done the math. They’re probably wondering the same thing. And if he’s not your father, oh well.”

“So do I just call him up and say, ‘Hi Raul. Delilah here. Shall we go have a DNA test and see if you’re my father?’”

“Would you like me to call him?” asks Nathan, returning to the table. “I’d be happy to.”

“Would you?” says Delilah, feeling childish and overwhelmed.

“Of course,” says Nathan, going to the phone. “Why else did I reincarnate?”

*

A half-hour later, Raul and Caroline arrive with a day-old pumpkin pie.

Fresh coffee is made.

After everyone expresses joy over the much-needed rain and the deliciousness of Raul’s pie, Caroline, tall and lovely and married and pregnant for the first time in her life, cuts to the chase.

“The first thing I said when I saw that picture of Beatrice was how much she looked like Delilah. And Raul…” She turns to her husband. “You tell.”

“When I first looked at that old photo,” says Raul, ruggedly handsome, his hair a tangle of gray, “I couldn’t see what Caroline was seeing. The photo is very small and the images I have in my mind of my mother are from much later in her life, so it never occurred to me she looked like Delilah. But when I saw the picture projected on the big screen, it was obvious.”

“So…” says Delilah, feeling incredibly shy around Raul, “will you… would you… can we have a DNA test and see?”

“If you’d like,” he says, smiling warmly at her. “But I know you’re my daughter. And it makes me happy in a way I never knew I could be happy.”

*

Twenty minutes later, Raul and Delilah are sitting side-by-side in the otherwise empty waiting room of the Mercy Hospital lab, Delilah feeling six-years-old, Raul feeling pleasantly ancient.

“Did my mother seduce you?” asks Delilah, innocently. “Or did you seduce her?”

Raul ponders the question and says, “When we’re done giving our blood, I’ll tell you what I remember. But not here.”

“Raul Neves?” says a young woman in blue scrubs calling from the lab entrance. “Ready for you now.”

“Can we come in together?” asks Raul, smiling at the young woman. “We’re finding out if I’m her father.”

“Oh,” says the young woman, pleased by Raul’s frankness. “Sure.”

*

Driving back to Nathan and Celia’s house from the lab, they stop at a vista point to watch the parade of storm-driven waves rolling into Mercy Bay.

“Your mother summoned me to her hotel room,” says Raul, striving to remember his tryst with Margot. “It was the night of the last time she came to my restaurant. Each of those times, there were three or four, I came out of the kitchen and spoke to her at her table, something I don’t often do, but your mother was a big star and so very beautiful and I was thirty and full of myself and had a faint hope of adding her to my trophy list. You do resemble her, you know, though not as much as you resemble my mother when she was your age.”

“Did you like my mother?” asks Delilah, who found Margot emotionally impenetrable.

“I was hypnotized by her,” he says simply. “But I didn’t know her. She was fantastically alluring, but not warm, not effusive. In our chit-chat at her table we discovered we were both thirty, so maybe that was a bond.”

“So you went to her hotel room. More than once?”

“Just one time,” he says, closing his eyes to remember.

“You don’t have to tell me more if you don’t want to,” she says softly.

“I don’t mind,” he says, opening his eyes and smiling at her. “I understand why you want to know. I would like to know how it was when my father and mother made me. And now that I have opened this page of my memory I remember when your mother opened the door of her suite I was pleased to see she had changed out of her fancy clothes and was wearing a sleeveless black top with spaghetti straps showing off her beautiful shoulders and arms, and a short red skirt showing off her beautiful legs, and her hair was down and she was barefoot, her toenails painted red, and she was impossibly beautiful. We sat together on the sofa and she drank hard liquor and I had wine. I don’t recall what we talked about. My restaurant, I suppose, or the movie she was making. I don’t remember, but I know we spoke for quite some time and she had a beautiful deep voice, as deep as Caroline’s. Then she told me…” He hesitates. “I don’t know if I should tell you this. I’m only just now remembering what happened.”

“You don’t have to,” says Delilah, though she wants him to.

“No, I’ll tell you. Maybe it will help you understand her. I don’t know.”

“Whatever you want,” says Delilah, closing her eyes.

“She told me she wanted me to pursue her and she would try to elude me. She said when I caught her she would fight to get away, even though she wanted me. I remember she said, ‘I hit hard. So be ready.’”

Now he remembers everything.

“She said, ‘I want you to overwhelm me until I have no choice but to surrender.’ I said, ‘But this is not my way. I would never force a woman to have sex with me.’ And she said, ‘Then you should go.’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ But then I looked at her and saw how sad she was, so lonely, and I said, ‘Or maybe you will let me be gentle with you, and also strong. Maybe you will like that, too.’ She looked away and said, ‘No. Gentle doesn’t work for me. Just go.’ So I got up and bowed to her like a monk bowing low to a statue of his god. I don’t why I did that, but I remember it felt good to bow to her like that. And then I told her it was a pleasure meeting her, which in a strange way it was, and then I walked to the door and she came running after me and wrapped her arms around me and we kissed, and then she took me to her bed.”

*

Early the next morning, a Thursday, Raul and Caroline lie abed talking about the myriad things they need to do today before they open Ocelot at five this afternoon.

“I wish Andrew was not so dour,” says Raul, speaking of the new cook in the kitchen. “I keep thinking he’ll lighten up as he gets more familiar with everything, but he remains so deadly serious, and deadly seriousness does not work well in my kitchen.”

“Shall I resume the hunt for another cook?” asks Caroline, wishing they didn’t have to get up just yet, the day cold and dreary.

“I suppose so,” says Raul, tired of breaking in new employees, life in the hinterlands a difficult fit for many professional cooks accustomed to city living. “And I’ll speak to Andrew. I keep waiting for him to relax, but maybe he needs a little prompting.”

“I hate to say this, but I think he’s intimidated by Maurice,” says Caroline, speaking of Raul’s longtime sous chef and assistant.

Raul sighs. “Maybe so. Maurice has become a mean old man, and that won’t work in my kitchen either.”

“I can’t imagine your kitchen without Maurice,” says Caroline, who has never been intimidated by Maurice because no one intimidates her. “Can you?”

“I can,” says Raul, getting out of bed. “Whenever he goes away for a vacation now the kitchen is much happier. But what can I do? He’s been with me for twenty years.”

“Yes, but if he’s the problem…”

“He’ll have to change or go,” says Raul, putting on his bathrobe. “I’m making breakfast. Stay in bed my darling. I’ll call when the coffee is ready.”

“I don’t want to be apart from you,” she says, getting out of bed and embracing him. “I’ll come with you.”

“Before we found each other,” he says, looking into her eyes, “I couldn’t imagine letting Maurice go, but now I can because I have you and our baby and Delilah and all our friends I never had before.”

*

Seven days later, the twenty-eighth of December, Delilah and Celia and Nathan give lunch to Constance and Joseph Richardson and Daisy and Michael Darling and their almost-two-year-old daughter Jenna. Michael is Caroline’s older brother, an ornithologist, Daisy is the author of a novella entitled Women Farm that Delilah has illustrated with exquisite pen and ink drawings, Joseph is a landscape painter, and Constance is a writer of bestselling murder mysteries; and they are all members of the Ziggurat Farm collective.

When Celia’s incomparable chicken enchiladas have been devoured, everyone deploys in the living room with pie and coffee, Celia sitting in the rocking chair with Jenna on her lap, a fire crackling in the hearth.

Constance taps her mug with her fork. “We have news.”

Momentous news,” says Joseph, nodding in agreement with the adjective.

“So do I,” says Delilah, bouncing her eyebrows. “You go first.”

“Arnold Winfield called from London yesterday,” says Constance, gazing intently at Daisy, “to tell us he is head over heels in love with Women Farm and wants to bring out a lavish clothbound edition in September and hopes very much that you and Delilah will come to England for a couple weeks of publishing-related events.”

“Including,” says Joseph, raising a declarative finger, “a show of Delilah’s original drawings at the Onyx Gallery in London, which is a coup of epic proportions, the Onyx an apex gallery. I can only dream of my paintings hanging there.”

“Oh my God,” says Daisy, bursting into tears. “I can’t believe it.”

“Congratulations, honey,” says Michael, hugging Daisy. “England here we come.”

“Mama cwy,” says Jenna, pouting. “Dome cwy Mama.”

“She’s happy,” says Celia, bouncing the little girl. “Happy tears.”

 “Arnold’s initial offer was 10,000 pounds with 80% to Daisy and 20% to Delilah,” says Constance, beaming at author and illustrator, “but I jiggled him up to 20,000 pounds. You can arrange the split however you like. That’s entirely up to you.”

“Thank you so much, Connie,” says Daisy, going to Constance and hugging her.

“Thank you, dear, for writing such a masterpiece and allowing us to show it Arnold,” says Connie, delighted to be the agent of such a fortuitous collision of writer and publisher. “A match made in heaven.”

“And what is your momentous news, Delilah?” asks Joseph, feeling certain she can’t possibly top Arnold Winfield publishing Women Farm.

“Well,” says Delilah, standing with her back to the fire, “I’m sure you all remember the picture of Raul’s mother from the honeymoon slideshow.”

“Gorgeous woman,” says Joseph, remembering the shimmery green dress clinging to those admirable curves.

“I thought she looked like you,” says Michael, who finds Delilah surpassingly lovely.

“I thought she was you at first,” says Daisy, still breathless from the news of her novella finding a publisher, never having published anything before.

“So… what about Raul’s mother?” asks Constance, smiling curiously at Delilah.

“Well it turns out,” says Delilah, looking at Celia for courage, “and we just got the results a few days ago, that I resemble Raul’s mother because… she’s my grandmother.”

“Raul is your father?” says Daisy, mouth agape.

Delilah nods. “He is.”

“Dear God,” says Constance, placing a hand on her heart. “How is this possible?”

“Well,” says Delilah, laughing through her tears, “when Raul was thirty and had just opened his restaurant in San Francisco, my mother dined there a few times and they had a fling, the result of which was me, though Raul never knew, nor did my mother know who the father was because she was quite promiscuous at the time. And though I knew Raul had met my mother long ago, it never occurred to me they might have been lovers until I saw that picture of Beatrice.”

“Raul never suspected?” says Joseph, staggered by this astonishing turn of events. “Never saw the resemblance?”

“Not until he saw that picture of his mother projected on the screen,” says Nathan, gazing fondly at Delilah. “Then he knew.”

“So the morning after the slide show,” says Delilah, continuing the story, “Nathan called Raul and he and Caroline came over, and then Raul and I went to the hospital lab and got our blood drawn, and five days later… voila.”

“Have you told the farm folks?” asks Constance, in shock—Raul a god to her and Delilah her favorite person in the world right after Joseph.

“Raul and Caroline are telling them even as we speak,” says Delilah, smiling at the thought of her dear friends gasping in amazement.

“So now what?” asks Michael, dazzled by the unfathomable workings of the universe.

“So now I’m going to change my last name to Neves,” says Delilah, giving Constance a hug. “And my middle name to Beatrice.”

*

On a cold clear night in January, Delilah and Gabriel are necking in the living room—Nathan and Celia long gone to bed—when Delilah stops the kissing and says, “Make love to me?”

“Shall we go to a motel?” asks Gabriel, eager to please his beloved. “I would take you home, but my mother and sister are there.”

“No, my love,” she says, getting up and holding out her hand to him. “Here. In my bed.”

“But we might wake Celia and Nathan,” he whispers, taking her hand.

“If we do,” she says, leading him to her bedroom, “I assure you they will be delighted.”

fin

Just Love

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Beauties

Raul Neves is one of the most famous chefs in the world. Born in the Portuguese coastal city of Aveiro, Raul is the ruggedly handsome son of a fisherman named Goncalo and a waitress named Beatrice. Goncalo was lost at sea when Raul was seven. A year later Beatrice married the owner of the restaurant where she worked, and Raul gravitated to the restaurant kitchen where he proved to be a culinary prodigy.

At fifteen Raul went to work in the kitchen of a fine restaurant in Lisbon, and at seventeen became sous chef in an excellent Paris restaurant. His rise to culinary stardom was only impeded by his uncontrollable temper, and when he was twenty-three his fight with two men in a bar was judged a felonious assault and resulted in Raul serving two years in a French prison.

Upon his release, he returned to Lisbon and underwent a year of intensive psychotherapy, the fruits of which were the cessation of his violent outbursts and a new way of thinking about life. He moved to London, established himself as a premiere chef, and then moved to San Francisco where his spectacular cuisine and his appealing persona made the restaurant estuaire famous and launched Raul’s second career as the paramour of movie actresses.

When Raul was fifty-two his mother died and he became severely depressed. He decided he had to get out of the city, any city, and accepted the offer of a wealthy couple to create a restaurant in the remote northern California coastal town of Mercy, the restaurant to be housed in an exquisitely restored two-story Victorian perched on the headlands overlooking Mercy Bay. That restaurant is the peerless Ocelot, the name coming to Raul in a dream.

*

On a fine spring day in the middle of May, Raul and the movie star Kristen Carlyle cruise two miles inland in Raul’s new red Tesla up a winding road to Ziggurat Farm, home of Philip and Lisa and Marcel and Andrea. Marcel and Philip are both part-time waiters at Ocelot, and Andrea and Lisa are masters of the Ziggurat Farm organic vegetable and flower garden, source of much of the produce and flowers used by Raul at his restaurant.

Raul and Kristen are going to lunch at the farm—Philip a superb cook, Marcel a maker of exquisite wine, Andrea also a fine cook, Lisa a charming hostess—forty people expected for Nathan’s eighty-fifth birthday party, Nathan’s life deeply entangled with the lives of those who live on the farm.

“What a beauty,” says Kristen, as they turn off the highway onto the farm drive. “Must be worth a fortune.”

Kristen, twenty-eight, a busty brunette known for her steamy sex scenes in violent thrillers, has enjoyed her brief affair with Raul but has no illusions about their liaison lasting much longer.

Raul, who is twice Kristen’s age, has never seen any of Kristen’s seventeen movies because he prefers books to movies, particularly the classics, his current endeavor A Tale of Two Cities.

“This is a farm of beauties,” says Raul, parking amidst the other vehicles. “Beautiful women, beautiful men, beautiful children, beautiful dogs, beautiful cats, beautiful flowers, and incomparable vegetables. I would live here if they’d let me, but I’m afraid to ask for fear they might say No.”

“Are you serious?” asks Kristen, wrinkling her famous nose.

“Always,” says Raul, tired of Kristen after their few days together, their intellects and senses of humor severely mismatched.

“I didn’t know that about you,” she says, thinking she’ll end things with Raul tomorrow or the next day so she can get home to Los Angeles and rest for a couple weeks before a long shoot in New York. “You seem so easy going.”

“I am seriously easygoing,” he says, smiling at her. “Come. Let us go consort with the beauties.”

*

Raul and Kristen are greeted at their car by a mellow old hound named Jung and a friendly Golden Retriever named Alexandra, the dogs followed by two girls in summery dresses: Vivienne, a darling nine-year-old with shoulder-length brown hair, and Irenia, twelve, her long black hair in a braid festooned with white carnations, her face so lovely to Raul he has to take a deep breath to calm himself every time he sees her.

“Bon jour Raul,” says Vivienne, avidly studying Kristen. “You remember Irenia, don’t you?”

“Of course,” says Raul, bowing to Irenia. “How are you?”

“Very well, thank you,” says Irenia, who is learning to speak in the manner of the children of Ziggurat Farm, their vocabulary and conversational style influenced by years of tutelage from two verbally flamboyant upper crust Brits. “May we perchance know the name of your most attractive companion?”

“This is Kristen,” says Raul, turning to Kristen. “Kristen this is Vivienne and Irenia.”

“Are you British?” asks Kristen, easily fooled.

“Alas, no,” says Vivienne, sighing dramatically as she thinks of Constance and Joseph who moved back to England several months ago. “We are but pale facsimiles.”

“We have come to inform you that hors d’oeuvres and wine and grape juice are being served in the garden,” says Irenia, admiring Kristen’s dangly diamond earrings. “Lunch to follow in the farmhouse.”

So the quartet of humans and the two dogs make their way along the path bordered by lilacs and lavender and rose bushes to the magnificent terraced vegetable and flower garden where the guests are gathered around two picnic tables in the dappled shade of a live oak, most of the women in dresses, most of the men wearing colorful shirts, Marcel and his ten-year-old son Henri playing accordions at a distance from the gathering to add ambience but not interfere with the myriad conversations.

Raul seeks out Andrea, the boss of the garden, and gives her a hug and a kiss before he gestures expansively to the burgeoning vegetables. “I cannot wait to pilfer from this magnificence. My God how things have grown since just last week.”

“I’ve got employees now,” says Andrea, pleased Raul came to her first. “The children all want to work in the garden now that Irenia works for me on weekends.”

“Raul,” says Philip, approaching with Irenia’s father and mother—Boris tall and big-bellied, Maria plump and a foot shorter than he. “I want you to meet Boris and Maria, Irenia’s parents.”

“A pleasure,” says Raul, shaking Boris’s hand, both men large and strong. “I recognize you from the garage. You revived my dying Mercedes and then I sold it and bought a Tesla.”

“Tesla,” says Boris, with a thick Russian accent. “I am just now learning to fix these electric cars. I am trained mechanic not electrician.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” says Raul, bowing to Maria. “May I present to all of you my dear friend Kristen.”

“Hi,” says Kristen, giving everyone a little wave. “This place is amazing.”

“You are movie star,” says Maria, gazing open-mouthed at Kristen. “We just see you in movie with Dylan James.” She looks at Boris. “What was name of movie?”

Madness?” guesses Kristen, having made three movies with Dylan, Madness their latest.

“Yes,” says Boris, emphatically. “Madness. You were… you were…” He frowns, his English vocabulary failing him.

“A psychotic prostitute,” says Kristen, matter-of-factly. “And it wasn’t the first time.”

“Yes, you are crazy person,” says Boris, growing uncomfortable. “Very crazy.”

“Wine?” says Philip, coming to the rescue. “Grape juice? Yummy nibbles, as we call hors d’oeuvres around here? Follow me.”

At the picnic table, Raul kisses Daisy on her forehead, Daisy a curvaceous gal with reddish brown hair in a summery yellow dress holding her two-month-old baby girl Jenna.

“May I?” asks Raul, miming rocking a baby.

“Of course,” says Daisy, carefully placing her baby girl in Raul’s big hands—Raul the reason Daisy and her husband Michael came to Mercy eight months ago, to dine at Ocelot, and now they own the house and property contiguous with the farm and hope to live here for the rest of their lives.

Raul gazes into the eyes of the infant and feels his life turn upside down.

*

As the fabulous luncheon draws to a close—the revelers seated at four large tables filling the farmhouse dining room and much of the living room—Nathan and Celia’s daughter Calypso stands up and clinks her wine glass with a spoon to ask for silence.

“Now is the time to say whatever you’d like to say to Nathan,” says Calypso, a nurse at Mercy Hospital where she helped deliver the farm children Arturo, Henri, Vivienne, and the new baby Jenna. “I’ll start.”

She turns to Nathan who is sitting at the head of a table with a view of all the guests. “Papa. When I was thinking about what to say today, I remembered when I was sixteen and you got angry with me for taking the car without asking permission. And I realized that was the only time you ever got angry with me. In fifty-two years.” She starts to cry. “You are the kindest person I’ve ever known. Right after Mama.”

When the applause dies down, Celia’s brother Juan, a portly fellow in his seventies, stands up. “Amigo. I want to tell everyone how you hired me to prune trees with you fifty years ago when I really needed a job. We had two little kids and no money and the rent was due. After my first day of work you gave me four hundred dollars and said, ‘This is your signing bonus. I’ll want you to play shortstop and third base.’ So… after you saved us, what could I do? I had to introduce you to my sister.”

When the laughter dies down, Henri stands up.

“Every week,” says Henri, who is ten and not the least flustered by speaking in front of forty people, “the thing Arturo and Vivienne and I look forward to most is going to your house after school to write with you and have piano lessons with Delilah.” He looks at Arturo, who is eleven, and Vivienne, nine. “Now we’d like to recite a poem we wrote for you.”

Vivienne and Arturo join Henri, the trio standing shoulder to shoulder.

Arturo: One day Henri asked you ‘What exactly is a poem?’ and you said exactly is a tricky word, and asked us the question, only without exactly and ending with to you.

Henri: ‘A poem,’ said Arturo, ‘is words telling stories or describing something.’ And you replied, ‘How is that not prose?’

Vivienne: ‘A poem is poetic,’ said Henri. ‘You know. More musical than plain prose and less concerned with punctuation.’

Arturo: Then Vivienne said, ‘Though lines of poems don’t have to rhyme with each other, they usually do inside themselves.’

Vivienne: ‘So maybe,’ you said, smiling your biggest smile, ‘a poem is lines of words sounding sweetly to the poet.’

The children sit down to loud applause, after which Delilah, one of Mercy’s great beauties, her brown hair very short, her green Ziggurat Farm T-shirt tucked into baggy brown trousers, goes to the upright piano at the far end of the living room and says before playing, “Dear Nathan, I could never put into words what you and Celia mean to me, so I thought I’d play the story of meeting you and coming to live with you twelve years ago.”

A virtuoso pianist, Delilah plays three minor chords to begin, expresses the chords again with their separate notes played in quick succession, plays those separate notes again and again until they begin to vary and grow into a rapturous melody supported by an intricate rhythmic pattern of bass notes, the song resolving into single notes and ending with three comically major chords.

Amidst shouts of Bravo, Delilah hurries back to her seat next to Celia who is sitting next to Nathan, and when the applause subsides, Philip stands up and says, “An impossible act to follow, but someone must, so…” He gazes at Nathan and takes a moment to quell his rising tears. “As of today we’ve gotten seventeen good reviews of my cookbook, and nearly all of them use the words poetic and lyrical when speaking of the writing, which is entirely due to your helping me rewrite my original text. You will deny this and say you merely helped me see what was already there, to which I say, ‘No, Nathan, you breathed magic into my words just as you breathe magic into our lives every day.’”

*

After the many accolades for Nathan, the party continues and Raul leaves Kristen speaking to Delilah and sits down beside Nathan at the dining table.

“I would like to give you a birthday gift of supper at Ocelot for you and Celia and Delilah,” says Raul, who had no idea Nathan was so important to so many people in the community.

“I won’t say no to that,” says Nathan, who is greatly relieved to just be one of the partygoers again and no longer the center of attention. “Philip tells us the food is quite good, and he’s no slouch of a cook.”

“He’s brilliant,” says Raul, enjoying Nathan’s jest. “I can assure you I will steal several things I learned from eating his food today.”

“My wife Celia is quite the cook, too,” says Nathan, his eyes twinkling. “We’ll have you over for chicken enchiladas and fish tacos some time.”

“Nothing would make me happier,” says Raul, taking a deep breath. “May I tell you something that happened to me today?”

“Yeah,” says Nathan, who hears the beginning of a poem that goes something changed him today, something he never expected.

“When I took Daisy’s baby in my hands,” says Raul, feeling he might cry, though he hasn’t cried since he was a young man, “and I looked at her face, she wasn’t seeing me at first, you know, but then she focused on me and our eyes met, and I felt certain I was holding the container of a soul who lived before. And whether this is true or not, in that moment I realized the folly of living alone as I do, save for sexual liaisons that never last, and I felt desperate to find a wife and have a child and live with them until I die.” He laughs incredulously. “Or maybe I’m just losing my mind.”

“Or maybe the universe was showing you what love is,” says Nathan, liking the sound of that.

“And what is love?” asks Raul, his heart pounding in anticipation of Nathan’s reply.

“Love is devotion to the miraculous nature of the other, whether the other is a baby or a tree or a woman or a wave breaking on the shore.”

*

Three weeks later, on a sunny day in early June, Raul and his assistant Maurice, a large man with a shaved head, are in the vegetable garden at Ziggurat Farm with Andrea seeing what they might harvest for the restaurant today and what will soon be ready to harvest. As they consider the burgeoning broccoli, a small blue pickup truck pulls up to the barn and a woman jumps out and strides to the garden gate.

“Hello,” she calls, her voice deep and confident. “I’m Caroline Darling, Michael’s sister. Daisy said if I missed their driveway, which I apparently did, I should come here and someone would help me find my way to their house.”

“Oh Caroline. Welcome,” says Andrea, turning to Raul and Maurice. “Excuse me a moment. I’ll be right back.”

Raul guesses Caroline is in her thirties, though she is forty, and he finds her enchanting. Tall and athletic with short brown hair, she’s wearing a sleeveless blue T-shirt showing off muscular arms, khaki shorts revealing long muscular legs, and leather sandals—an amazon with only a spear missing from her ensemble.

*

A few mornings later, Raul comes alone to Ziggurat Farm to get lettuce and eggs and cases of wine for his restaurant. But before he loads his truck with produce, he walks the path to Daisy and Michael’s house to visit baby Jenna as he does every week now in his newly acquired role as Jenna’s godfather.

On the path, he meets Caroline walking with Daisy and Michael’s new Golden Retriever pup on a leash, on their way to the farmhouse where the pup—Figaro—will play with the farm dogs while Caroline has tea with Lisa and Philip.

“Bon jour Caroline,” says Raul, bowing to her before kneeling to receive the puppy’s kisses. “How nice to see you again. Have you joined the collective?”

“At least for the summer,” she says, finding him formidably attractive.

He stands up and looks at her, finding her surpassingly lovely. “And after the summer?”

“Not sure,” she says, wondering if they might have a fling. “Did Daisy tell you I’m on sabbatical from the University of New Hampshire? I’m a botanist. We’re a family of scientists, Michael and I and our brother Thom, our parents entomologists.”

“Insects?” he says, hoping he’s guessing right.

“My mother butterflies,” she says, nodding. “My father beetles.”

“My father was a fisherman, my mother a waitress,” he says, liking everything about her. “Scientists, too, in their own way, and I suppose I am a scientist of food.”

“So I’ve heard,” she says, feeling pleasantly dizzy.

They part ways saying they hope to see each other again, both feeling hopeful of sex with the other.

*

In the many-windowed living room of Daisy and Michael’s house, Raul sits in a rocking chair holding baby Jenna and listening to Daisy talk about her novel she’s planning to rewrite.

“I wrote three novels before this one,” says Daisy, taking yet another picture of Raul with her baby. “I know the first three were practice and nothing anyone would want to publish, but this one… I think the story is so compelling and…” She frowns. “I don’t know. Something’s missing, something I can’t figure out.”

“Have you shown your book to Nathan?” says Raul, making a goofy face at Jenna and waggling his head to make her gurgle in delight.

“What a good idea,” says Daisy, feeling daft she didn’t think of that.

“I would be happy to read your book, but I know nothing about writing,” says Raul, looking up from the baby. “I dictated my memoir to a writer who concocted the book, and I pay people to write my recipes from my scribbles and then I polish them before they go to the publisher. But you’d better hurry. Nathan is eighty-five. Time does not go backwards.”

“I can’t tell you how happy we are that you’re our friend,” says Daisy, gazing in wonder at Raul. “We came here to eat at Ocelot, and now…”

“Now I am your daughter’s doting godfather,” says Raul, feeling he has finally arrived, to paraphrase Stevie Wonder, exactly where God wanted him to be placed.   

fin

Here Somewhere