“Turn it up,” Lola yelled from the kitchen.
With the Hosers International tv show blaring, Lola felt able to turn inward. She was devising a way to get the falafel to be both crispy but not grimy. Baked things meant to be fried didn’t always translate. Lola guessed that with a few tablespoons of coconut oil remaining she would have to suck it up and use canola – which as many helpful doctors on the internet advised was poison.
She turned on the exhaust fan.
On the back burner sat the double boiler, the metal bowl that the dog had only used once for his water bowl, the doobie in gauze, and the butter. Another advisor on the internet, maybe not an MD, suggested that she cook it as long and as low as possible. At least 2 hours.
While planning the falafel she did not think to cover the butter as it changed state.
She had enough fava beans to last until another intifada in Lebanon. Christianity had had its way, Islam had probably peaked. Jews: who knew? Maybe the Middle East version of Amazons would be the new thing.
She had the fresh parsley. Garlic. The coriandre frais. Pois chiche and cumin. The Donner and Blitzen.
She garbled it all together in batches since the food processor was bite-sized.
A fragrance of sage wafted her way. The patches of white on the dog’s front paws peeked at her from round the corner where he lay. A new tv show on. Paris homes for millionaires. “Jesus,” Freddie said. “The money they’re saving, bargaining, timing, coulda put a second story here. New septic even.”
She put the mix into the freezer to give it shape. She made another pot of Earl Grey. She forced herself to drink some ice water first. The butter had a green tint to it.
She would put the falafel into the hot coconut oil first to give it crunch. Then she would bake it to get rid of the moisture.
Freddie asked her, “When is lunch coming?”
Since she had to make more budder for the dog anyway, she decided to make something nice for lunch. Usually they didn’t go all out until dinner. “Soon,” she said. She looked up. “Is that Amsterdam?”
She noted the hooks on the tops of the tall, narrow, leaning buildings on the screen. “I love Amsterdam,” she said. Freddie muttered, “Yeah, bunch of hosers.”
Lola pulled butter off the ringer and set it on the chopping block. She pulled the mix out of the freezer and set to shaping it into 47 perfect balls. The oil was ready. The oven light still on. She felt an exclamation of heat punch her in the face. She turned the exhaust up.
She could tell the dog was panting from the way his arms moved. She walked over to him and cracked open the window near him. The top of his head was fluffy, her favorite part to pet. His bobo had grown. She had spent 2 weeks going to sleep crying. “It’s just a dog,” she chided. “My dog.”
In the far distant past, Lola had gotten stoned a few times to interesting results. Colors and movement and entire operas. The day after was always a reckoning. Where was I? What actually happened?
How did other people do it on a regular basis?
When the dog was given a few months to live, she decided to let him try it. “The Monkey will know where to get it,” Freddie had said.
Freddie came back with a huge bag. They read every self-help guide. They took notes. They kept to a schedule and watched the dog every day to see if he still had the fight in him. He looked forward to the budder. He hated the pills.
Lola pulled the bobbing falafel bits out of the oil, soaked them on a paper towel, and then put them on a sheet for the oven.
“I’M STARVING,” Freddie said. “Can’t I have just a couple right now?”
“Hold the phone already,” she said.
She took the metal tongs, opened the oven door, and flipped the falafal over so it would bake evenly.
She made a tahini sauce. She washed the lettuce. She chopped some slices of onion. She put some flour tortillas in the oven to soften.
The couple on tv were looking for a second home somewhere in the Caribbean. All the walls in one house were lemon yellow. She pulled the gauze out with the tongs and squeezed all the butter out, careful not to get grounds in it.
Her hands were shaking. Freddie came in from smoking outside. The dog still panted hard. She looked at the clock to see it was almost dinnertime.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Look at the time.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to TELL you,” Freddie said, taking the plate of falafel.
Lola put some cooled budder on her dog’s good paw. His ears flickered in anticipation. And then he licked the budder from his paw. “Good boy, good boy,” she said.
She joined Freddie on the couch with her plate. She waited until a few more bites in. She made a face. “Horrible,” she said. “What the hell is this?” She looked at her sandwich like she had found a catcher’s glove in her food.
Freddie said, “What were you actually doing the 6 hours it took you?”
Freddie looked closer, deep into Lola’s eyes, and then started laughing. “You’re stoned! THAT’S what took you so long. What I don’t get is you didn’t do anything different, did you? It’s like you used different ingredients and called it ‘Falafel’.”
Lola shook her head. “Everything the same. I used the same stuff. Just baked it too, which I haven’t done before. Why aren’t you stoned?”
Freddie laughed. “Trust me. If I were stoned you’d know it. You had the fan on. But you didn’t use the lid.”
Lola said, “Holy merde mother of jihad. I don’t understand why this is the worst falafel in the world. But it is.”
Freddie said, “Then Wah. Opp. Ind.”
Lola held up her hands. “I don’t know Wah-hoppin. But this is a lesson in how not to make falafel.”
They laughed nervously and forced their lunch down.
The dog pulled to his side to relax in the haze, the sounds of his parents exclaiming, the smells of things gone wrong.