I shrank down behind the kitchen table. I’d been preparing the dough for a pie, a prickly-pear pie—her favorite, when she’d burst in like a gale, shaking the newspaper as if crackling her own thunder and held it up, front page forward.
“Have you seen this? These reprehensible lies?”
I hadn’t. How could I? Besides all the business work, she had me up with the sparrows, flitting from task to task, dusting, sweeping and worrying that I wouldn’t complete my work before she awoke.
I lifted my eyes above the table’s edge and shook my head.
“Of course you haven’t. Up before dawn, clacking and scratching at the lamps and floorboards, your room lights on past midnight. Do you even sleep?”
I made a face, sometimes.
“Come out from behind there and read what this says, that right there.” She poked a swollen-knuckled finger nearly through the paper. “… Another business failure of Madam Plechett. The city solicitors have closed the books on Plechett’s books. Bah!”
I suppressed a smile at the repetition. I might have used just such a trick in some past essay, but now marked the treatment as tainted. “Is it true?” My question puffed out a spritz of flour dust.
“I said come out from there. True?” She harrumphed then snatched up the paper and snapped it professionally. Except that there was a kink in the fold and when she slapped the sides together the assembly crumbled rather than prayed shut. She open and closed it twice more, the motion fanning a cloud of flour into the air. “What are you making in here?”
“Oh, not that again.”
“But, I thought it was your favorite?”
“That’s the trouble with you, Claudia, you’re always behind the times.” Madam Plechett, a coating of flour peppering her burgundy housecoat, turned to leave. “Of course it’s not true. If it were true, I’d have fired you ages ago.”
“You can’t fire me.”
She snapped around. “What did you say?”
“I volunteer, remember? So that I can learn the trade, the publishing trade.”
Madam Plechett worked her eyebrows around this information. I thought she’d eventually chew a hole through the side of her cheek. I rose with my newly found backbone, my defiance propped upon the dust in the air. She seemed to waver then, a veil of confusion passed over her like a distressed spirit.
“So you are. And have you?”
“Have I what?”
“Have you learned anything of the industry in your time pestering me here?”
I took the pastry scraper and pulled together the loose dough. I let my hands begin to delicately knead the opaque lard into the pile. With my forearm I brush a loose strand of hair away from my face and looked into her eyes. “I’ve learned that I do not want to be a publisher. However,” I pressed both palms down to flatten the mixture and leaned forward. “I have learned that we all have stories to tell. Each and every one of us.” I relaxed and pulled over the pie tin. “And I intend to tell them. All of them.”