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Happy Thanksgiving from Gilchrist Aviation!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day, whether in the US or elsewhere! On this Thanksgiving morning I thought I'd share a piece from Silver Bullet, Gilchrist Aviation's Thanksgiving morning in 1932, eighty years ago.




Lewis was surprised to see lights on in the kitchen at six am on Thanksgiving morning. Nobody else in the household was an early riser on the best days, and on a holiday he didn't expect anyone else to be stirring before nine, including Alma. Even more surprising, it was Stasi in the kitchen, her hair pinned up and a big baggy shirt on over her black dress, the coffee already made in the coffee pot and perking on a back eye while she ground something in the coffee grinder. Lewis pushed the door open and went in. "Good morning."

She looked up. "Hi, Lewis." She turned the grinder over, shaking out the white powder into a big mixing bowl.

Lewis went to get a coffee cup out of the cabinet. He wouldn't have bothered to make it just for himself, but if there was some he might as well. He glanced back at the mixing bowl, already full of about three times as much powder as would fit in the coffee grinder. "Almonds?" he said.

Stasi looked pleased, lifting up a big sack of them and refilling the grinder. "Almonds," she said. "For the cake. It needs almond flour and there isn't any to buy anywhere, so I'm grinding it myself just like my father always did."

"My mami did too," Lewis said, pouring a cup of coffee. "She said it was better anyway. For Pastelitos de Boda."

"Wedding cookies," Stasi said.

"Yeah." Lewis leaned back against the edge of the stove. "You speak Spanish?"

"Menu Spanish," Stasi said, grinding away. "I lived in Tijuana for a while."

"Rough town," Lewis said.

Stasi snorted. "Tell me about it. You ever been to Tijuana?"

Lewis nodded. "Oh yeah. I'm from San Diego, so sure. Lots of times. Though Mami wouldn't let me go down there when I was a kid. She said it was no place for a decent boy with all the gambling and horseracing and whores. It just got worse with Prohibition." He took a drink and then put the cup down. "I did one job as a hired pilot right after the war, bringing in booze for a bootlegger. Got shot at taking off and landing, and I said enough of that! No way I'm going to get shot at when I'm unarmed just to haul in somebody's load of whiskey from Mexico when I wasn't even getting a cut! Not without shooting back."

"Yes, well." Stasi didn't look up. "There's a lot more than booze coming in, darling. I finally got out of Tijuana by paying a guy to bring me along with his load. Otherwise I suppose I'd be buried there now."

That was risky business, risky for the guy and whoever owned the plane. "How much did you pay him?"

Her eyes never left the almonds. "I don't recall, darling."

"Oh." It occurred to him what kind of payment it might take, and a flush began to climb the back of his neck. He opened the icebox hurriedly, looking for the turkey. "So you don't have any papers?"

"Of course not," Stasi said. Her voice was perfectly even, so maybe he was just imagining worse things than the truth. "I'm completely and utterly illegal." She dumped another cup of almond flour in the mixing bowl and stood up. "Get me the milk while you're in there, darling."

Lewis passed her the glass bottle from yesterday -- no milk delivery this morning, since it was Thanksgiving and even the milkman got Thanksgiving off. He manhandled the turkey out and onto the other end of the table, all twenty eight pounds of it. "What are you making anyway?"

"An almond torte," Stasi said with satisfaction. "Six thin layers of almond cake with light chocolate frosting between each one and vanilla cream on top."

"Golly," Lewis said. He cut the trussing on the turkey with his pocket knife. "That sounds complicated."

"It's more impressive looking than complicated," she said, stirring the milk in gently. "Now, a Dobos torte is complicated. It's the caramel sheets for the top that are tricky. Vanilla cream is simple."

Lewis looked up from the turkey. "You really can bake."

"It's my one respectable skill." She glanced over at Lewis arranging the turkey in the biggest roasting pan. "And where did you learn to cook?"

"I was the baby," Lewis said. "And it's a good thing I did learn, because Alma can't boil water and Mitch can just about make breakfast on a good day." He tied the drumsticks neatly with twine and got out the earthenware jug of olive oil. "This is just the way my mami did it. She always brushed the skin of fowl with olive oil because that would give it the beautiful brown color and keep it moist inside. And two lemons and a fresh chile for the cavity, but I don't have any chiles so just the lemons today."

Stasi watched him with interest as he stuffed the turkey. "Are your parents alive?"

Lewis shook his head, but the memory was more fond than painful. "No. My father died when I was three. My mother passed on a few years ago. She was a wonderful woman, God rest her soul. My two older sisters are living, though. Both in San Diego. I have eight nieces and nephews." He looped the kitchen twine about to close the cavity. "My family's been in San Diego forever, since a soldier named Segura married a conversa in 1780. It's all there in the mission church -- her baptism, their marriage, Christenings for thirteen children, their deaths. We think she was a Kumeyaay Indian, but of course there aren't good records of that or of her original name. She was baptized Maria Consuela." Lewis shrugged. "A lot of mestizos in Alta California. But that was a hundred and fifty years ago, so who knows?"

Stasi was looking at him with utter fascination. "I never heard any of that when I was in San Diego."

Lewis shrugged again. "People think we all got here yesterday. But my family's been American a lot longer than Alma's. Her father came from Ireland fifty years ago." And who knows where Stasi had come from. Probably not Russia. That her father baked was the most he'd ever heard her say that he actually believed. He carefully didn't look at her as he dabbed olive oil over the skin of the turkey. "Do you have family?"

"I don't know." She got up, going to pour herself another cup of coffee, her back to him. "I don't know if they're still alive or not. But if they are…. If they are, they probably don't want to hear from me. I haven't exactly led an exemplary life."

"Still," Lewis said, looking for the right words. "You're their daughter."

Her back was to him, straight backed in front of the window over the sink, Mitch's big old work shirt over her dress to keep it clean. "The last thing my father ever said to me was that if I left I was no longer his daughter. I don't expect he's changed his mind. Whether he's alive or dead."

"That's rough," Lewis said.

"My father was a righteous man, and God gave me to him for a trial," she said. "But he's probably dead, and I'm not. And I certainly prefer it that way."

Lewis nodded even though her back was to him. At least his mother had been proud of him. She'd been so proud when he'd won the DSC in France, though not nearly as happy as when he'd come home -- her boy, an officer and a gentleman and a hero. Her memory would always be warm to him. He had nothing to regret. And Stasi -- well, she really didn't have anyone, did she? He was a lucky man, with a wife and friends and a good job that he loved, and if God didn't see fit to give them a baby, nobody got it all. He and Alma were both forty two. It was probably just too late. But they had each other and all the rest of this strange family, and so there was room at the table for anyone who wanted to sit down.

"I'm glad you're not dead," Lewis said.

She turned around quizzically.

"Who'd make the almond torte if you were?"

Stasi grinned. "There is that."

"And I could use some help with the rest of the dinner too," Lewis said. "Since Colorado Springs was the town closest to the crash site, and Rayburn and his guys are stuck here for a few days until they can salvage their plane, Alma asked them all to Thanksgiving dinner. So that's four more people than I'd expected. Can you make mashed potatoes?"

"Can I make mashed potatoes, he asks!" she implored of the heavens, or at least of the ceiling. "I can make mashed potatoes you would grovel and beg for!"

"Ok," Lewis said. "You're on. If anyone grovels and begs for your mashed potatoes, I'll give you a dollar."

"Deal," Stasi said, holding out her hand.

Lewis shook it. "Deal," he said.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
kickstand75
Nov. 22nd, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
loved it the first time, loved it again. :) Lewis is just so adorable.

Happy thanksgiving to you and yours today. --k
jo_graham
Nov. 22nd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Yes but you saw it as a Sekrit Prereader! :)

Lewis is adorable. I have to admit, I love Lewis to pieces.

Happy Thanksgiving!
kickstand75
Nov. 22nd, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
I'm such a nerd, b/c the first thing I thought was the Gandalf quote "Is it secret, is it safe?" when I read your reply.

jo_graham
Nov. 22nd, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
Hee! It is Sekrit! :)

Are you working tonight?
kickstand75
Nov. 22nd, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
short answer is no, thankfully! :) Sent you a pm.
lferion
Nov. 22nd, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
This is such a lovely scene, warm and full of caring.
jo_graham
Nov. 22nd, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I love them dearly, and Lewis is such a good guy.
tielan
Nov. 23rd, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
So much heart and soul.

Happy Thanksgiving!
jo_graham
Nov. 23rd, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And Happy Thanksgiving to you, even though it's entirely the wrong season for you! :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )