The box was never opened. I could feel my sister’s regret and see the sweat trickle down her cheeks as we walked through her back entrance passed bowing sunflowers, and passed the grill. Dad bought the grill rotisserie bar for Laurie’s birthday a year ago. I think he was more excited than she was.
“This is the best way to cook in the summer. Steve can play ball with Kevin, and you can toss a salad while the chicken or roast turns on the grill and cooks perfectly even. You’ll love it,” he said as she crumpled the wrapping paper. But she wouldn’t know if she loved it since it hadn’t moved or been dusted since last June.
Dad was ready and willing to drive to the nearest Wegman’s Market to buy meat for the perfect barbequed roast beef. I could practically see him salivating. But we were the guests.
As a dairy farmer, Steve, Laurie’s husband, had a freezer full of chopped cow and pig. He quickly stopped Dad. “Nah, don’t go to the store. We’ve got plenty out back.”
He returned in a few minutes with a hunk of wrapped pork tenderloin in his arms, handed it to Dad, and drove off in the truck to his farm down the street.
First problem: Geometry. The farm cut meat was uneven—shaped more like a lopsided rectangle, a rhombus. My dad had a bad feeling about the shape. So did I. Laurie was used to the eccentric shapes and handwritten labels. I worried if my kids would eat it. They never tried pork, but I hoped the barbeque flavor would make it taste more familiar.
Sure enough, it didn’t turn around evenly on the rotisserie like a round supermarket pre-packaged roast. It kind of cuh-clunk clunked around as the thick part turned faster than the thin part. We hoped for the best as Dad shut the lid. Maybe it would work?
Meanwhile, I helped Laurie chop cucumbers while watching the grill through the window. The sky had turned to sherbet over the Adirondack Mountains in the distance. With all the clunking, the grill sounded like it was about to blast off . . . and it looked ready to blast off when smoke escaped through the cracks and fogged my view.
“Dad, come here,” Laurie called. “Something’s wrong with the grill. It doesn’t usually smoke like that.”
Dad would need a mask and goggles to finish cooking. Then we heard the thud. A thud is never good coming from inside a gas grill. “What was that?” I asked, trying not to start a panic.
We all rushed outside, and Dad lifted the lid. Flames shot up two feet high. Dad turned off the gas, and the flames calmed down. The poor slab of pork had fallen off the rod, shriveled, and burnt to a crisp—like a supersized version of the blackened marshmallows I toasted that dropped into the campfire.
Second problem: The grill worked so hard trying to turn the crooked piece of meat that the motor died. So much for barbequing all summer. Who would tell Steve that we killed the grill? And . . . what would we eat now?
The cookout turned cook-in as Laurie zapped some more pork in the microwave and broiled it in the oven. When the kids came in and asked what we barbequed, Dad chewed his lip, and Laurie answered, “Chicken.”
The kids all ate the pork “barbequed” in the oven and called by its alias. Sometimes better not to know. Even Dad got over his disappointment. Steve returned from the farm and revived the grill. After twelve hours of milking four hundred cows, he was happy to eat no matter how it was cooked. I don’t eat pork, oven-cooked or barbequed, so I ate cereal—but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that peace was restored; we were all fed and could enjoy the rest of our visit in the land of the cows and summer barbeques.
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