SERIAL FICTION: D.U.O. (Chapter 5)
This is the final chapter of D.U.O., the latest serial fiction by Brewerytown’s own Michael Ferrence. Click here for CHAPTER 1, CHAPTER 2, CHAPTER 3, CHAPTER 4.
As soon as the butter and oil began to shimmer, I dropped in a handful of slivered onions. The technique has changed, the ingredients have improved, but the experience is the same as it’s always been. I took a sip of my beer, pulled the pierogis from the boiling water just as they began to float, and one-by-one placed them gently on a tray. I’ve found it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to properly caramelize onions. I’ve researched and experimented with various methods over the years, widely accepted shortcuts, none of which resulted in better flavor or texture than the right balance of fat with the precise cut with the perfect temperature, a good pan and a modicum of patience. Set everything up for success and get out of the way. It’s well worth the effort and the wait.
Dutten showed up just as I placed the first batch of 5 potato filled pouches into the screaming pan.
A minute and a half per side. I said. Any more and they’re too crispy, any less and they’re chewy. 3 minutes altogether and they’re as good as it gets.
“How are you?” He said. “Good to see you.”
Doing well. Have a seat. It’ll be ready soon.
It had been 4 years since Dutten erased anyone, 7 since I started cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is based on the cognitive model- the way that an individual perceives a situation is more closely connected to his reaction to the situation than the situation itself. In reconstituting Dutten, I borrowed from several psychotherapeutic modalities: positive psychology, compassion focused therapy, Gestalt, mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy, motivational interviewing, dialectical behavior therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, solution focused therapy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy. No pharmaceuticals. I have found no scientific evidence that drugs cure unhelpful cognition, mood, functioning, or behavior. In my experience, we have absolutely no clue exactly what these drugs are doing to people. We like to think we know, and the overabundant prescription of drugs for the purpose of mental health remediation would indicate otherwise, but there is no telling, no definitive way to scientifically, reliably identify what effect this is having on a person’s physical and mental state. Dutten and I met several times per week, at my office, in the dining room of D.U.O., and worked tirelessly to turn things around. No shortcuts. This work takes time. And on this night, we would not work; we would celebrate how far we’d come.
“Comfort food at its finest.” He said, pointing to the spread. “Not what you’re used to serving here.”
Not at all. But still so damn good.
We talked a lot about how far he’d come, how far we’d both come. He said I saved his life more than once, and that he would always owe me, that he would always consider me a friend.
You don’t owe me anything. Think of me however you’d like, I’m just happy I could help. This wasn’t easy. And, obviously, I couldn’t have done it alone.
He laughed and finished his beer.
I stood up to get him another.
“Sit. Eat. I’ll get it.”
As I stared out across the dining room, smiling, Dutten walked into the kitchen, opened and closed the refrigerator, and mumbled something about wine.
Sure. Take whatever’s there. Doesn’t matter.
I got up and walked to the front of the house, and looked out the window at the pinkish orange sunset stretching over the city. You see this sky, and this supermoon? I said.
It’s humongous. You see this thing? It’s the only time we’ll see the moon this close for 30-some more years.
I turned around and he wasn’t there, not at the table, and not in the kitchen.
The basement door was cracked so I went down.
Dutten stood with his head down, facing the wall, looking into his hands.
Dutten. I put my hand on his shoulder. You all right?
He turned around slowly, gripping in his right hand a broken-off hammer-head.
“What the hell is this?”
Michael Ferrence has written 3 novels, dozens of short stories, and hundreds of Hall of Fame caliber rock songs. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Julia and son Jack, and works as a teacher. Read more from Michael at www.milkfuzz.com. •