Doughnuts and Dilemmas

The summer of 1949 was a time of trial and error for Dr. John Welles as he moved forward in his relationship with diner owner, Bea Turner.  Unbeknownst to the doctor, a secret from Bea’s past was about to spill over into his life and drastically change the course of their association.  Already Bea had begun dealing with the misfortune headed their way, but for Dr. Welles, the decisions he made regarding the woman he loves would resurface years later in a most unwelcome way.

On the day after Bea’s bad luck returned, she tried to hurry her patrons along so she could take action to protect herself.  She offered them homemade doughnuts to take along to their jobs at the railyards, but her plan backfired, and the men stayed around drinking their coffee and eating Bea’s delicious baked goods.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene.  I love a simple cake doughnut unadorned by glazes, frosting, sprinkles, or any topping, but these can be enjoyed however you choose.

Bea Turner’s Homemade Doughnuts

1 c sugar (I used raw)

2 t baking powder

1 ½ t salt

½ t nutmeg

½ t cinnamon

¼ c unsalted butter, melted

1 t vanilla

1 c buttermilk

4 c flour

Peanut oil for frying

I used a stand mixer for this recipe because the dough is quite heavy and sticky.

Combine the sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the bowl of the mixer.  Add the melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined.  Add one cup of flour at a time, mixing well between each addition.  The dough should be soft and sticky but firm enough to handle.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.  Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and heat about one inch of peanut oil to 360° in a large skillet.  (I used my electric skillet to maintain a constant heat, but you can do this in cast iron with a candy thermometer.)

Work with half the dough and roll it out on a floured surface to about half-inch thickness.  Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter.  (You may also use a biscuit cutter, but you’ll need to improvise for cutting the hole.  A cap from a two-liter pop bottle will do in a pinch.)

Gently place the doughnuts in batches in the hot oil using a slotted spoon or bamboo-handled skimmer, sometimes called a Chinese strainer.  Fry for two to three minutes total turning them over a couple of times as they begin to puff.  When the doughnuts are golden brown, remove them from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel or paper bag covered cooling rack.

Warm doughnuts can be tossed in cinnamon sugar, glazed, iced with melted chocolate, and topped with sprinkles.


It’s What Liv Ordered

In May of 1951, diner owner, Bea Turner, was asked to make a birthday cake for Toby Bruce Robishaw who was turning one.  Toby’s mother, Liv, was an extravagant woman who loved to make a show of everything she did.  Her son’s first birthday party was no exception.

The people Liv invited to Toby’s party were simple folk living in the hills of West Virginia.  They had simple tastes and probably expected a simple dessert such as Crazy Cake.  However, Liv used the occasion of her son’s birthday to show off yet again.  The cake she came up with is lovely, but it was completely lost on the birthday guests.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind for the above-mentioned scene taking place in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles.  By tweaking portions of other recipes, I created a cake suitable for the splashy tastes of Liv Barrette Robishaw.

Now don’t get me wrong; the cake is delicious.  It’s not what one would serve at a child’s party.  Here’s a passage from my novel describing exactly what Liv requested of Bea:

Three, double-layer cakes were divided by pillars with plastic circus animals placed in the space between.  Red and blue icing crisscrossed the edges of the cake in every direction.  A handful of colorful flags exploded out of the top layer.  Every inch of the cake not already taken up with decoration had a piece of candy pressed into the icing like a gingerbread house.

Liv’s outlandish request is what prompted Bea to say, “It’s what Liv ordered.”  Bea’s statement was offered as an explanation and apology to the townsfolk who understood completely.

The quantities listed below will make one layer of the cake I described above.

Hazelnut Cake

12 oz. hazelnuts

2 t baking powder

6 egg yolks

5/8 c white sugar

6 egg whites

Toast the hazelnuts in a 350° oven for 10–15 minutes or until lightly golden in color.  Cool completely.  Remove the skins from the toasted nuts by placing in a tea towel and briskly rubbing them together or place them in a colander and swirl them around to remove the skins.  Grind the hazelnuts until very fine.  Add baking powder and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325°.  Thoroughly grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand-held electric mixer to combine the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow in color.  Beat in the ground hazelnuts.  This mixture will be extremely heavy and sticky.

Wash your beaters to remove any traces of fats.  In a separate bowl, beat room temperature egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Carefully whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten the batter.  Fold in another 1/3 of the egg whites taking care not to delate them.  Fold in the remaining 1/3 of the egg whites until no streaks of batter remain.

Gently pour into the prepared 9-inch springform pan.  Bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly tapped.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Cinnamon Crème Filling

1 c heavy cream, chilled

1 c powdered sugar

1 ½ t ground cinnamon

1 t vanilla

Chill a metal bowl and the beaters of a hand-held mixer in the freezer for ten minutes.  Pour the heavy cream into the chilled metal bowl and beat on high speed with a hand mixer until the cream is frothy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Place the bowl of cinnamon crème filling in the refrigerator until needed or use immediately.

Whipped Buttercream Frosting

3 c powdered sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 T heavy cream

2 t vanilla

Beat the butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and one cup of powdered sugar with a hand mixer until they are completely combined.  Add the remaining two cups of powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Blend well after each addition.  The lighter weight of this buttercream frosting is perfect for the delicate hazelnut cake.

You can use this frosting immediately or chill for later use.

Assembling the Cake

Once the cake has cooled completely, cut it in half horizontally.  Place the bottom half (cut side up) on a cake stand  and spread the Cinnamon Crème Filling generously over the top with a spatula or knife to within ¼ inch of the cake edge.  Place the top layer of cake (cut side down) over the filling, taking care to position it correctly.

Using a knife or spatula, ice the top of the cake with the Whipped Buttercream Frosting.  Do not drag the frosting too hard across the cake.  Level the top with icing and proceed to ice the sides until they are completely covered.  Wipe any icing smears from the edge of the cake stand with a clean, damp cloth.  Chill for at least an hour before serving.


SIDE NOTE:  If you’ve never folded egg whites into batter, I strongly suggest you watch the video I’ve provided.  It’s a delicate process, but don’t be daunted by it.  Regardless of how you whip your egg whites, it’s the folding process the chef demonstrates that is of the utmost importance.

The Art of Folding

A Sour and Sweet Situation

a-sour-and-sweet-situation-3The first time Dr. John Welles meets diner owner Bea Turner, he’s entangled in an embarrassing misunderstanding between himself and the town police officer. People in Addison had stopped to watch the encounter, but the situation became unbearable when John spied the voluptuous brunette sauntering toward him and Officer Boyce.

John would come to know Bea quite well in later years, but at the moment, he wished she had chosen another time to deliver a lemon meringue pie to the burly cop. Bea’s laughter upon departure only worsened the doctor’s humiliation; he believed he hadn’t made a good first impression.

When I choose lemon meringue pie for the above-mentioned scene, I didn’t realize how perfectly the dessert complimented what took place. John’s attitude toward life had turned sour, but in the hands of Bea Turner, he would know sweetness again.

Bea Turner’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Single Crust:

1 c flour

¼ t salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced into ¼-inch pieces

½ c cold water with an ice cube

To make a bottom crust, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Work with your hands until the flour and butter combine to make pea-sized pieces. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and work through until you can form a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill for twenty minutes in the refrigerator.

a-sour-and-sweet-situationPreheat oven to 425°. Roll the dough on a floured surface to fit a nine-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges and prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or baking beans. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, remove the baking weights and continue cooking for 10 minute in 5 minute increments or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.


1 cup of sugar (I used raw)

2 T flour

3 T cornstarch

¼ t salt

1 ½ c water

2 lemons, juiced and zested

1 t vanilla

2 T unsalted butter

4 egg yolks, beaten

Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Cook the mixture over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil. Stir in the butter. In the thinnest thread possible, slowly pour the egg yolks into the hot mixture directly where you are whisking vigorously. This will keep the eggs from cooking and becoming scrambled eggs in your lemon filling. Continue cooking while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Strain the lemon filling through a wire mesh sieve to remove any pieces of zest. Pour into the baked pie shell.


4 egg whites

6 T sugar (I used white as the raw is too coarse for this step)

Pinch of cream of tartar

Whip the egg whites on a high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pie and seal at the edges of the crust. Set the meringue in a 425° oven for eight minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool the pie on a wire rack until you can handle the edges of the pie plate and serve warm, or chill the pie in the refrigerator for a couple hours and serve cold.


Tips for success:

Chill the beaters and bowl in which you will beat the egg whites for meringue

That pinch of cream of tartar is what will keep your egg whites from breaking down and becoming watery

If you must buy citrus out of season, and you don’t want to risk pricey eggs and butter on bitter fruit, I suggest a test batch of lemonade to see how the lemons are doing. Another trick if you absolutely must make lemon meringue pie when lemons aren’t in season is a teaspoon of pure lemon extract to help take the edge off. I prefer having faith in my lemons, but that’s not always possible. Makes me wonder why so much lemonade sells in the summer!

Here’s a wonderful article on choosing citrus and when it’s in season

Bean There, Done That

bean-there-done-thatI probably have as many memories of my mother telling me how she ate brown beans and cornbread as a child as she does instances of eating them. From what I understand, the humble meal was a staple among those living in West Virginia who were not financially well-off. Sometimes, they only had sliced white bread with their beans. To hear her tell it, though, you’d think she had eaten a meal fit for a queen such was her childhood love of brown beans and cornbread. Even her cousin, Ellen, and my Great Aunt Edie, also a former resident of West Virginia, speak of the meal as if it was manna from Heaven.

I grew up eating brown beans and cornbread though not with as much enthusiasm as my mother. They were okay, but as a child of the seventies, hotdogs, grilled cheese, and Kraft macaroni and cheese rounded out much of my diet. Besides, I was a somewhat finicky eater as a kid, and my appreciation for brown beans and cornbread didn’t develop until I was an adult. Now when Mom makes a pot of brown beans and a skillet of cornbread, you can bet my family, her cousin, Aunt Edie, and other relatives will trail in throughout the dinner hour to dine on the simple fare.

With all that being said, it just made sense to have Bea Turner serve brown beans and cornbread at the diner she owned. My protagonist, John Welles, had to eat them at least once during his sojourn in West Virginia. Even though the meal is mentioned only once in my novel, I suspect Dr. Welles developed a love for brown beans and cornbread and probably ate them quite often.

The recipe for brown beans is kind of like those for apple pie, meatloaf, or macaroni and cheese. Every family has their version of how the old familiar dish should taste. Often, finances dictated what went into the pot. At its most basic, brown beans were cooked in water with either a piece of salt pork or dollop of bacon grease, salt and pepper. I’m going to provide a recipe that is a little more elegant but not alter it so much that connoisseurs of the dish won’t recognize it.

Bea Turner’s Brown Beans

1 – 2 lb. bag of brown beans

2 – 14.5 oz. cans beef broth

2 – 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth

1 large carrot, diced

1 sweet onion, diced

1 – 2 stalks celery, diced

1 t thyme

1 T parsley

Dash of garlic powder

Couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

½ stick butter

⅛ c olive oil

Cover the beans with enough cold water to allow for absorption and soak overnight. Drain and wash the next day. Place the beans in a Dutch oven with all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Test for doneness at this point, and cook in thirty minute increments until the beans are tender, probably no more than 2 – 2 ½ hours total cooking time.

Ladle the beans over slabs of cornbread and serve.


Bea’s Diner-Open For Business

In the summer of 1948, Dr. John Welles is the newest resident in Addison-on-Gauley, West Virginia. He’s still reeling from his brief experience during World War II, the effects of which will haunt him for many years, and seeks refuge in the small town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. His role as the new doctor provides the perfect camouflage for the emotional scars he carries and allows him to hide behind his mask of professionalism. Only one person in the town can’t be fooled.

Bea's DinerBea Turner, the voluptuous, cigarette smoking diner owner, takes a fancy to John which he returns in kind. They become close during his initial trip into town, an event that makes John the butt of an unexpected joke, and their relationship grows through many hardships and trials. Their love for each other is recognized in town as something akin to marriage. They alone believe they’ve kept their liaison under the radar.

The sassy restauranteur serves John a bacon sandwich and tomato soup for lunch during his first visit. He doesn’t enjoy the meal surrounded by the more gossipy members of the town, but having Bea in his presence eases the awkwardness. The biggest surprise comes at the end of lunch when somehow John gets stuck with the entire check.

Bacon sandwiches are easy to make and don’t require a recipe. Two slices of your favorite bread toasted to your desired darkness, add as many slices of cooked bacon as you prefer, top with lettuce, tomato, and mayo—Viola! Bacon sandwich. I’m sure there are people who choose other condiments, vegetables, dressing, relishes, and those who leave off everything except the bacon. Really, the humble bacon sandwich is a matter of preference.

As for the tomato soup, while the majority of the items on Bea Turner’s menu are homemade, one place she cuts corners is by using good ole Campbell’s Tomato Soup. She is, after all, the only employee in her own restaurant.

I’ll not enter the debate on the sodium levels in canned soups and how Campbell’s added high fructose corn syrup to their soup to appease the American sweet tooth. I’d like to believe that during the summer of 1948, when John visited Bea’s diner, the soup was wholesome and tasty and the can wasn’t lined with bisphenol-A.

As recently as 2012, Campbell’s Tomato Soup still ranked as one of the top ten selling dry grocery items in U.S. grocery markets. It’s fairly healthy, too, for canned, modern industrial food. No fat, no cholesterol, no fake colors or flavors, laced with minerals, iron and Vitamin C. A two-serving can is only 270 calories before adding a bacon sandwich as a side.

There are organic choices on the market now as well as lower-sodium varieties and those made without high fructose corn syrup. Whichever option you choose, remember to add a tasty bacon sandwich, or the traditional grilled cheese, and enjoy your meal.


CoffeeLeonard Summerscale sat like a mannequin in the center of a roomful of chattering diners. Knives and forks slaked against plates, ice swam brightly in glasses of water. Waitresses called orders to the cook before they were halfway back to the kitchen. Above the din of lunchtime in the city, the bell on the door chimed. Only then did Leonard’s face reanimate, as the scarecrow with red hair threw his arm up and navigated his way to where Leonard sat.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Reverend.”

“No problem, Len, none at all. Your message sounded so urgent. What can I do for you?”

“Please, have a seat,” Leonard said, indicating the chair opposite him at the two-seat diner table.

Reverend Bast slid into the grease-slicked, padded chair. The red vinyl cushion released a squeak and a puff from a tear near the edge. Leonard busied himself flagging down one of the waitresses performing an awkward ballet through the narrow aisles; a balancing act of three plates occupied the length of each arm.

“The service is usually much better, much better.”

“Don’t fret, Len. It is lunchtime.”

“Leonard, please.”

“Of course, I’m sorry.”

The harried waitress in a rumpled, powder blue uniform finally appeared at the table. She placed a menu in front of each man, shoved her sagging ponytail off her shoulder, and wiped the back of her hand across her nose.

“What’ll you have, Reverend? There’s a ten percent discount for men of the cloth.”

She jabbed her pencil in the direction of his collar.

“Well, lucky you,” Leonard said. “That should save you a few pennies.”

The Reverend’s eyes scanned the a la carte section of the menu as he mentally replayed Leonard’s voicemail. He was sure invite you to breakfast had proceeded his congregant’s request to talk.

“I’ll have the poached egg on rye toast, black coffee, please.”

As the waitress scribbled on her pad, Leonard waited with fingers steepled. He paused long enough to draw the young woman’s attention, making eye contact with her, before he spoke slowly, deliberately.

“I’ll have two eggs fried hard, and I do mean hard, with the yolks broken, brown, crispy edges, the whole nine yards. Please encourage the cook to properly season the eggs; I should be able to see the pepper flakes but not the salt. Shredded hash browns, toasted thoroughly but not swimming in grease. The ham steak? Is it sugar cured or country style? Oh, no matter–you probably don’t even know what I’m talking about. Wheat toast, hold the butter, cut from corner to corner. Is there mixed fruit jelly on the table? Very good. And decaf coffee. Be sure it’s a fresh pot. I know how long the decaf sits around in a place like this. Also, please bring real cream or at least milk. I despise those little plastic containers of oily, faux cream.”

The waitress shifted her weight from one foot to another. She chewed the inside of her cheek before smiling and saying, “You got it.”

The Reverend straightened jelly packets in the swiveling caddy as Leonard tsked at the waitress’s retreating back. He turned a conspiratorial look upon the Reverend and said, “Well, let’s see how much of that she gets correct.”

“I thought you’d been here before,” the Reverend asked.

“Oh, only a few times with co-workers. They chose to dine here. It’s not the sort of venue I’d normally patronize.”

“So, what can I do for you, Leonard?”

“Yes, the real reason we came. Now I know we haven’t been in your congregation long, and by we, I mean myself and Mrs. Summerscale–”

“–lovely woman, so very helpful in the nursery–”

“–and while we agree with the majority of your theology–”

“–oh, well–”

“–there are a few minor points I’d like to discuss on another occasion, still, I believe we made the correct choice in churches to attend.”

Leonard folded his hands across his stomach and leaned back in his chair. The Reverend remained silent for ten seconds until he understood it was his turn to speak.

“We…do enjoy your presence, and that of Mrs. Summerscale.”

“Ah, Mrs. Summerscale. What a tactful segue you’ve provided, Reverend, for it is the subject of my dear wife that brings me here today.”

Leonard gazed toward the water-stained ceiling tiles and puffed his cheeks, his customary gesture when preparing for a long discourse on a topic of interest to no one but him. His efforts were halted momentarily by the arrival of their coffee followed by several moments of fussily arranging his cup and saucer, requesting an orange coaster to indicate to passing waitresses that he preferred decaf, and polishing his spoon as if for inspection by a Marine Corps drill sergeant.

Clouds of milk lightened Leonard’s coffee to an acceptable shade of taupe, placating the man to his previous state of calm. His voice achieved a stunning decibel of self-importance as he said, “Have you ever really considered coffee, Reverend?”

“I know I’m pretty worthless in the morning before I’ve had mine.”

Leonard’s eyes rose from his cup to contemplate the patches blushing the Reverend’s freckled cheeks. His uneven smile and softened expression conveyed the verdict of I know, I know. The Reverend thought to mention that Mrs. Carrick, the church secretary, always had a fresh pot ready for him prior to Sunday service, but he let it go.

“The average American adult drinks around three, eight-ounce cups per day. That’s 382 billion cups of coffee consumed in America alone every day. I suppose that makes me below average, eh Reverend?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Leonard. You’ve done marvelous things since joining the Board of Elders.”

A twitch in his left eye brought Leonard’s finger to the rescue. His hand in front of his face muffled his sigh.

“I only require one cup of coffee a day, and decaf at that. So many people are dependent upon the addictive qualities of caffeine to sustain them. But for me, coffee is a cup of warm reassurance that I shall succeed at whatever I set my mind toward for the day. That is to say, I don’t require coffee, Reverend, I enjoy it.”

“Indeed. How lucky for you.”

Another pause ensued as Leonard waited patiently for the Reverend to say something, anything, of relevance to the conversation. He came to the young man’s aid with, “As an unmarried man, you couldn’t possibly know the sheer joy of having your wife responsible for providing a fresh pot of coffee every morning. Such is the pleasure that Mrs. Summerscale brings to my life.”

“It’s the simple things, like drinking coffee together, that solidify a marriage. Or so I’ve heard.”

“You miss my point, Reverend: while I enjoy the coffee, what solidifies my marriage, any marriage for that matter, is the consistency with which the ritual is conducted. Therein lays the quality of any relationship. Do you understand?”

The Reverend twisted sideways in his seat.

“And when that consistency is disrupted–well!”

The Reverend twisted in the other direction, mostly to avoid Leonard’s hands thrown up in frustration but coming across the table with the rapaciousness of an eagle’s talons.

“Play nice, fellas. You’re breakfast is here.”

The waitress who placed their food on the table was not the one who took their order. This woman, with face haloed in bad orange foundation and crusted scabs of concealer, smacked down plates of food and topped off their coffee cups with the practiced movements of a seasoned professional. Her abrupt behavior brooked no complaint as the matriarch of the herd lumbered off to refill the cups of other customers, supervising the younger waitresses as she moved, her hosiery sagging around her ankles.

Both men obediently bowed their head to pray. Leonard’s head remained in the position of supplication long after the Reverend said Amen. When he opened his eyes, he caught the Reverend with fork in hand, spearing his first bite.

“You’re a young man yet, Reverend. What are you? Twenty eight, thirty tops?”

“I’m thirty five.”

A waved hand and gravelly snort dismissed the comment.

“See–young yet. Must be that peachy complexion beneath those constellations of freckles. One might even say peach fuzz.”

Leonard barked a laugh around a mouthful of food at his joke and set himself to coughing until his face reddened and his eyes watered. The female elephant, continuing her crisscross migration through the diner, delivered three hearty thumps to Leonard’s back as she passed.

“Thank you, Madam, thank you.”

The pair resumed eating in silence. The Reverend finished his meager breakfast. He sat with a napkin draped over his crossed legs while Leonard, only half way through his meal, restarted his conversation.

“I’ve established some basic but essential points for you, Reverend, and although I’ve applied them to marriage, if you take time to review what I’ve said at your convenience, your earliest convenience, you’ll see that what I’ve instructed also applies to life.”

The Reverend, whether willingly or unwillingly he did not know, remembered nothing Leonard had said prior to his choking fit. He had, however, managed to track the progression of a toast crumb from the corner of Leonard’s lips, into his mustache, watched it disappear once into his mouth, reappear on the tip of his tongue, and miraculously land in the opposite corner where it rode up and down with the movement of Leonard’s chewing.

Leonard mistook the Reverend’s intense concentration as interest and enthusiasm.

“But it is with much hesitation that I must admit to you as…well, if not my spiritual counselor or close confidante…then as a somewhat significant figure in my life that all is not well between me and Mrs. Summerscale.”

“What seems to be the problem?” the Reverend’s mind directed his mouth to say.

The crumb had fallen to Leonard’s chin. The Reverend rooted for it to hang on.

“I can’t quite place my finger on it. Mrs. Summerscale and I have been married for thirty five years, so I’m quite attuned to my wife’s quirks. Still, this event of which I shall inform you came quite out of the blue.”

A knuckle swiped across his chin came to rest on Leonards’ greasy lips. He meant to look thoughtful but only succeeded in redepositing the crumb to the hairless divot on his upper lip. The Reverend clenched his jaw; surely an indication of real concern.

“Exactly two weeks ago, Tuesday, Mrs. Summerscale arose promptly at 5:30 AM and donned her robe as she always does. Then she went to the kitchen to prepare my breakfast. All was well. I finished my bath, shaved and dressed, and descended to join her. Mrs. Summerscale had already placed my oatmeal and cream on the table. She had even stirred in half a cup of dried currants, a pleasant surprise as they are my favorite.”

A sharp intake of breath on Leonard’s part pulled the crumb back to his bottom lip. The Reverend’s brow creased, and his troubled congregant pressed on.

“Just as I was enjoying my first bite of oatmeal, the coffee pot gurgled, indicating that it was done brewing. Peripherally, I watched Mrs. Summerscale retrieve a cup and saucer from the cupboard and prepare my coffee.”

Lips pressed together then pursed shifted the crumb to Leonard’s upper front tooth. The Reverend leaned forward and pointed.

“Now just a moment, Reverend. I haven’t finished my story.”

“Please go on.”

“Mrs. Summerscale approached the table where I sat, and she…she arranged the cup near my right hand as I prefer.”

Leonard’s voice wavered with distress at the memory. The crumb, taking on a life of its own, worked its way across several teeth, moving in an eastward direction, before popping back into the bristles at the edge of Leonard’s lip. The Reverend pressed his balled fists into his mouth.

“And that’s when I saw it.”

The Reverend nodded wildly.

“My coffee was a muddy shade of black.”

“I’m sorry?” the Reverend allowed to slip from behind his bony knuckles.

“Yes, it’s true. You heard me order my coffee today with cream, or at least milk, so you are aware of how I take it. But then so isn’t Mrs. Summerscale aware, abundantly aware, of exactly how I take my coffee. Imagine my utter shock at looking into a cup of plain black coffee served by my wife. I asked her what was the meaning of this, and do you know what she replied? She said, ‘Oh isn’t that how you take your coffee?’”

“I don’t understand.”

“Reverend, really? For thirty five years Mrs. Summerscale has prepared my coffee to perfection. It is a–to what shall I liken it–an intimate knowledge of my very self, a dance between principle partners? For her to suddenly forget, or worse, become quite negligent and offer me a cup of coffee on the other end of the taste and shade spectrum? Why this can only indicate some gross aberration in foundation of my marriage. God forbid I entertain the thought, but do you suppose Mrs. Summerscale is having an affair?”

The Reverend smacked the table with both palms, fingers splayed, causing the dishes, silverware, and salt and pepper shakers to jump in unison. He threw back his head and laughed uproariously for five minutes until the redness in his face surpassed the color of his carroty hair.  All other sound and movement in the diner fizzled to quiet and stillness.

“Oh–Oh really–really, you are too funny, Leonard, too–damn–funny. You old fool. You pompous, cheap, old fool.”

Leonard’s mouth sagged like a mastiff’s; his head turtled into his shoulders at the unwanted attention directed toward himself and the Revered. The Reverend wiped his mouth, neatly folded his napkin, and stood to leave.

“By the way, Leonard. You have a toast crumb stuck in your mustache.”

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