My 8 year-old was up to his usual tricks with his line of questioning during the walk to the bus stop this morning. First, he asked, “Dad, what is Crisco?” Trust me, this question was out of the blue. I can’t even imagine how that question would ever not be out of the blue. I don’t cook with it. I don’t know anyone else who does. I don’t put it in my hair. If someone else chooses to, that is their business. And I don’t believe Everett has developed a taste for I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners or other TV shows of that era in which the word “Crisco” might be included in the script. In fact, I wasn’t even sure how to answer the Crisco Question. I caught myself wiggling my lips a bit to try to form a word, having a tough time pushing air up from my lungs to my mouth. My brisk pace cut in half as I struggled for something sensible to say. Fortunately, my wife Hilary jumped headlong into the breach. As my head swirled in my moment of vulnerability, I vaguely heard her say the word “shortening,” and I knew that we would survive this. Nevermind that my inner Rainman was now wrestling with the different meanings of “shortening,” and how they don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. Or do they?
Regardless, I picked my pace back up, relieved that Hilary knew how to trot out the word “shortening” without skipping a beat, such that Everett did not likely see me staggering from his Crisco body blow. Equilibrium now restored.
Once we arrived at the bus stop proper, however, the second shoe dropped. Everett asked, “Dad, what is a finder’s fee?” Now, I know what a “finder’s fee” is. That wasn’t the issue here. The issue was the close proximity in time between the Crisco Question and the Finder’s Fee Question. Under a minute. Maybe less. So that meant that Everett somehow was connecting the two words. This was not out of the blue. Nothing out of the blue about this.
But what was the connection? Where in the hell did he hear this? Read this? Get offered this? Was he tipping his hand to some God-awful school playground prank to which he was privy? I don’t recall seeing any substance on any of his clothes or in his hair that, upon reflection, could have been Crisco-esque in origin. Then again, I don’t take a hard look. And most stains are good news — suggesting that he actually did brush his teeth, did wash his hands this week, or did eat what he was supposed to eat from the school lunch. So I have to concede that he could have walked into our house with a Crisco mohawk, and I may not have noticed.
And I’m not sure, but isn’t this type of “shortening” frowned upon in cooking nowadays due to some mouse studies? Our kids’ school is all about organic gardens, composting, and sourcing food locally. So I can’t fathom that Everett would pay or be paid a finder’s fee for delivering up a barrel of Crisco to the school kitchen. That would be scandalous. Not the finder’s fee part, but the idea that someone at school was cooking with Crisco. There would need to be a school-wide email from the head of school with a heartfelt apology and firm reassurance that our kids are safe. That someone was fired. And that a thorough search of the area found that NO CRISCO ever made it onto school grounds.
As all this ran through my head, the school bus rolled up silently. The kids were all sucked on board as if by some sort of powerful vacuum, scrambling up the stairs. I managed a weak — and basically rhetorical under the circumstances — “Ev, um, are those two questions somehow connected??” But by then he had been sucked up into the bus, halfway to his seat, and I could not decipher his facial expression through the tinted windows. Why are the windows tinted? As far as I knew, as the bus squeaked away from the curb, Ev was now passing a huge vat of the shortening around to his fellow students, who slathered themselves up with it, crazed. And slapped dollar bills into my 8 year-old’s outstretched palm.
I expect a call from school any minute now. Is that the phone ringing??
Thanks for reading.