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Albino (part one)

I began writing Albino two million years ago. I had an editor then, who lived a few blocks away. We would meet for breakfast on Avenue A, quietly forking into home fries as we discussed the structure of the story - the economy of objects. A dollar bill was not just a dollar bill in this story, it was connected to thought and action, to music and transformation. This was the story that told me there was a whole book to dig into, mining for diamonds in the backwaters of America, turning over the ugliest rocks to better understand relationships between fathers and sons.

Last week, I stumbled across a call for submissions - not for a journal, but for a podcast where the work of new writers was read aloud. I thought back to a reading I had done of just the first few pages of Albino - a messy hero's journey,  a young man and a guitar, a man with loss and regret, a man that still had something to lose. That reading went well, enough that I felt a strange elation stepping off the stage i…

the first

The yarmarka (farmer's market) is about to close. Some of the people are already packing up, offering their last bruised tomatoes at half-price to anyone walking past them.  I am wandering, staring at bunches of herbs, at the same old options - cabbage, pepper, potato, garlic, apple, cucumber. But then I see a pile of peas. The season must have come early this year. I buy a kilo, and some mint. I know what is for dinner. We have not had it in eleven months.

At home, I rip the bag open, showing them to V. She stands by the kitchen table, eyes wide. I crack one open, showing her the little rounds inside. She plucks one out, her pinky pointing to the ceiling.
"Try it." I tell her.
She does, but she does not like it.

I pull out a bowl for them. She jumps up and down a few times. V always wants to help in the kitchen. I pull her to my lap, and we begin pulling them out from the shells. She learns quickly, tossing them with a flourish into the bowl, a few cascading to the floor. She goes down to find them, calling them her sweet little children - calling to those lost peas, with some magic plan for them to roll back to her tiny outstretched hand. And then she climbs back up, grabbing a fresh one from to finish.

I will make a strange pesto from them, halfway between the French pistou and the Italian one, a bastard child recipe of my own that could easily offend grandmothers in two countries, but I know how good it is. The peas will be sauteed very gently in good olive oil with fresh garlic and a pinch of dried chili flakes, just until they are not raw any more. I will blend them with mint and parsley, with pignoli nuts and pecorino, olive oil, salt and pepper. And then some of the pasta water goes in, that is the best secret that should not be a secret. The paste will be bright green, emulsified and luscious. It will stick to the pasta, a jade bath of spring with some sharp white wine to wash it all down.

As the plates are filled, I ask V if she wants some but she wants plain pasta, not even with a little bit of cheese that falls like snow on them. Just olive oil, and she digs her fingers into the slick mess. N is relaxing into hers, and her Mona Lisa smile is back. I have an odd moment of recognition, that these are the first fresh peas V has helped me prepare, that we will be able to do the same thing next year and the year after that. Maybe she will learn the whole recipe from me, making it her own, maybe deleting the chili, maybe using a different shape of pasta. I sip my wine, and stare at both of them the way I always do.


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