even more worrisome than the sport itself, Marla and I agreed, were Arch's
new teammates: an unrepentant gang of spoiled, acquisitive brats. Unfortunately,
Arch thought the lacrosse guys were beyond cool. He spent hours with them,
claiming that he "forgot" to tell us where he was going after practice.
We could have sent him an e-mail telling him to call, Arch protested,
if he only had what all his pals had, to wit, Internet-access watches.
Your own watch could have told you what time it was, I'd told him, when
I picked him up from the country-club estate where the senior who was
supposed to drive him home had left him off.
Arch ignored me. These new friends, he'd announced glumly, also had Global
Positioning System calculators, Model Bezillion Palm pilots, and electric-acoustic
guitars that cost eight hundred dollars--and up. These litanies were always
accompanied with not-so-tactful reminders that his fifteenth birthday
was right around the corner. He wanted everything on his list, he announced
as he tucked a scroll of paper into my purse. After all, with all the
parties I'd booked, I could finally afford to get him some really good
And no telling what'll happen if I don't get what I want, he'd added darkly.
(Marla informed me that he'd already given her a list.) I'd shrugged as
Arch clopped into the house ahead of me. I'd started stuffing sauteed
chicken breasts with wild rice and spinach. The next day, Tom had picked
up Arch at another friend's house. When my son waltzed into the kitchen,
I almost didn't recognize him.
His head was shaved.
"They Bic'd me," he declared, tossing a lime into the air and catching
it in the net of his lacrosse stick.
"They bicked you?" I exclaimed incredulously.
"Bic, Mom. Like the razor." He rubbed his bare scalp, then flipped the
lime again. "And I would have been home on time, if you'd bought me the
Palm, to remind me to tell the guy shaving my head that I had to go."
I snagged the lime in midair. "Go start on your homework, buster. You
got a C on the last anatomy test. And from now on, either Tom or I will
pick you up right from practice."
On his way out of the kitchen, he whacked his lacrosse stick on the floor.
I called after him please not to do that. I got no reply. The next day,
much to Arch's sulking chagrin, Tom had picked him up directly from practice.
If being athletic is what success at that school looks like, Tom told
me, then maybe Arch should take up painting. I kept mum. The next day,
I was ashamed to admit, I'd pulled out Arch's birthday list and bought
him the Palm pilot.
Call it working mom's guilt, I'd thought, as I stuffed tiny cream puffs
with shrimp salad. Still, I was not sorry I was making more money than
ever before. I did not regret that Goldilocks' Catering, Where Everything
Is Just Right! had gone from booked to overbooked. Finally, I was giving
those caterers in Denver, forty miles to the east, a run for their shrimp
rolls. This was what I'd always wanted, right?
Take my best upcoming week, I'd explained to Marla as she moved on to
test my cheesecake bars and raspberry brownies. The second week of April,
I would make close to ten thousand dollars--a record. I'd booked an upscale
cocktail party at Westside Mall, a wedding reception, and two big luncheons.
Once I survived all that, Friday, April the fifteenth, was Arch's birthday.
By then, I'd finally have the cash to buy him something, as Arch himself
had said, really good.
"Goldy, don't do all that," Marla warned as she downed one of my new Spice-of-Life
Cookies. The buttery cookies featured large amounts of ginger, cinnamon,
and freshly grated nutmeg, and were as comforting as anything from Grandma's
kitchen. "You'll be too exhausted even to make a birthday cake. Listen
to me, now. You need to decrease your bookings, hire some help, be stricter
with Arch, and take care of yourself for a change. If you don't, you're
going to die."
Marla was always one for the insightful observation.
I didn't listen. At least, not soon enough.
The time leading up to that lucrative week in April became even busier
and more frenetic. Arch occasionally slipped away from practice before
Tom, coming up from his investigative work at the sheriff's department,
could snag him. I was unable to remember the last time I'd had a decent
night's sleep. So I suppose it was inevitable that, at ten-twenty on the
morning of April eleventh, I had what's known in the shrink business as
a crisis. At least, that's what they'd called it years ago, during my
pursuit of a singularly unhelpful degree in psychology.
I was inside our walk-in refrigerator when I blacked out. Just before
hitting the walk-in's cold floor, I grabbed a metal shelf. Plastic bags
of tomatoes, scallions, celery, shallots, and gingerroot spewed in every
direction, and my bottom thumped the floor. I thought, I don't have time
I struggled to get up, and belatedly realized this meltdown wasn't that
hard to figure out. I'd been up since five a.m. With one of the luncheon
preps done, I was focusing on the mall cocktail party that evening. Or
at least I had been focusing on it, before my eyes, legs, and back gave
I groaned and quickly gathered the plastic bags. My back ached. My mind
threw out the realization that I still did not know where Arch had been
for three hours the previous afternoon, when lacrosse practice had been
canceled. Neither Tom nor I had been aware of the calendar change. Tom
had finally collected Arch from a seedy section of Denver's Colfax Avenue.
So what had this about-to-turn-fifteen-year-old been up to this time?
Arch had refused to say.
"Just do the catering," I announced to the empty refrigerator. I replaced
the plastic bags and asked the Almighty for perspective. Arch would get
the third degree when he came down for breakfast. Meanwhile, I had work
Before falling on my behind, I'd been working on a concoction I'd dubbed
Shoppers' Chocolate Truffles. These rich goodies featured a dense, smooth
chocolate interior coated with more satiny chocolate. So what had I been
looking for in the refrigerator? I had no idea. I stomped out and slammed
I sagged against the counter and told myself the problem was fatigue.
Or maybe my age--thirty-four--was kicking in. What would Marla say? She'd
waggle a fork in my face and preach about the wages of success.
I brushed myself off and quick-stepped to the sink. As water gushed over
my hands, I remembered I'd been searching for the scoops of ganache, that
sinfully rich melange of melted bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream, and
liqueur that made up the heart of the truffles.
I dried my hands and resolved to concentrate on dark chocolate, not the
darker side of success. After all, I had followed one of Marla's suggestions:
I had hired help. But I had not cut back on parties. I'd forgotten what
taking care of myself even felt like. And I seemed incapable of being
stricter with Arch.
I scanned the kitchen. The ganache balls, still wrapped, sat pristinely
on the marble counter. Next to it, my double boiler steamed on the stovetop.
OK, so I'd already taken them out. I'd simply forgotten.
I hustled over to my new kitchen computer and booted it up, intent on
checking that evening's assignment. Soon my new printer was spitting out
lists of needed foodstuffs, floor plans, and scheduled setup. I may have
lost my mind, but I'd picked it right up again.
"This is what happens when you give up caffeine!" I snarled at the ganache
balls. Oops--that was twice I'd talked to myself in the last five minutes.
Marla would not approve.
I tugged the plastic wrap off the globes of ganache and spooned up a sample
to check the consistency. The smooth, intense dark chocolate sent a zing
of pleasure up my back. I moved to the stovetop, stirred the luxurious
pool of melting chocolate, and took a whiff of the intoxicatingly rich
scent. I told myself--silently--that everything was going to be all right.
The party-goers were going to love me.
The client for that night's cocktail party was Barry Dean, an old friend
who was now manager of Westside Mall, an upscale shopping center abutting
the foothills west of Denver. I'd previously put on successful catered
parties at Westside. Each time, the store-owners had raved. But Barry
Dean, who'd only been managing the mall for six months, had seemed worried
about the party's dessert offering. I'd promised him his high-end spenders,
for whom the party was geared, would flip over the truffles.
Maybe I'd even get a big tip, I thought as I scraped down the sides of
the double boiler. I could spend it on a new mattress. On it, I might
eventually get some sleep.
I stopped and took three deep breaths. My system craved coffee. Of course,
I hadn't given up espresso entirely. I was just trying to cut back from
nine shots a day to two. Too much caffeine was causing my sleeplessness,
Marla had declared. Of course, since we'd both been married to the same
doctor--consecutively, not concurrently--she and I were self-proclaimed
experts on all physical ailments. (Med Wives 101, we called it.) So I'd
actually heeded her advice. My plan had been to have one shot at eight
in the morning (a distant memory), another at four in the afternoon (too
far in the future). Now my resolve was melting faster than the dark chocolate.
I fired up the espresso machine and wondered how I'd gotten into such
a mental and physical mess.
Innocently enough, my mind replied. Without warning, right after Valentine's
Day, my catering business had taken off. An influx of ultrawealthy folks
to Denver and the mountain area west of the Mile High City had translated
into massive construction of trophy homes, purchases of multiple upscale
cars, and doubling of prices for just about everything. Most important
from my viewpoint, the demand for big-ticket catered events had skyrocketed.
From mid-February to the beginning of April, a normally slow season, my
assignments had exploded. I'd thought I'd entered a zone, as they say
in Boulder, of bliss.
I pulled a double shot of espresso, then took a sip and felt infinitely
I rolled the first silky scoop of ganache into a ball, and set it aside.
What had I been thinking about? Ah, yes. Success.
I downed more coffee and set aside the porcelain bought-on-clearance cup,
a remnant of my financial dark days. Those days had lasted a long time,
a fact that Arch had seemed to block out.
When I began divorce proceedings against the ultra-cute, ultra-vicious
Doctor John Richard Korman, I'd been so determined that he would support
our son well that I'd become an Official Nosy Person. Files, tax returns,
credit card receipts, check stubs, bank deposits--I'd found and studied
them all. My zealous curiosity had metamorphosed into a decent settlement.
Wasn't it Benjamin Franklin who'd said, God helps those who help themselves?
Old Ben had been right.
I bathed the first dark ganache globe in chocolate. OK, I'd replaced marital
bitterness with bittersweet chocolate and bitter orange marmalade, right?
And my life had turned around. Two years ago, I'd married Tom Schulz.
As unreal as my newly-minted financial success might seem, I did not doubt
the miracle of my relationship with Tom, whose work as a police investigator
had actually brought us together in the first place. Tom was bighearted
and open-armed toward both Arch and me. So far, Tom and I had passed the
tests that had been flung our way, and emerged still together. In this
day and age, I thought, such commitment was commendable.
And yet, I reflected as I placed the sumptuous truffle on a rack to dry,
one of the reasons I'd been so happy about my sudden financial success
was that I'd vowed never to depend on Tom's income. My earnings were now
on a par with Tom's. After the money battles with The Jerk, financial
independence was a phenomenon I'd sworn to attain and keep. Unfortunately,
before marrying Tom, my profits had stayed in a zone between Can feed
Arch and keep gas in van to Going down fast; write for law school catalogs.
I rolled ganache balls, bathed them in chocolate, and set them aside to
dry. Scoop, bathe, set aside. Marla could grouse all she wanted; I savored
my new success. I was even considering purchasing a new set of springform
pans, since I'd already bought a new computer, printer, and copier, not
to mention new tableware, flatware, and knives--a shining set of silver
Henckels. I relished no longer renting plates, silverware, and linens!
I laughed aloud when I finished the twentieth truffle, and made myself
another espresso. The dark drink tasted divine. No wonder they called
financial solvency liquidity.
from Chopping Spree by Diane Mott Davidson Copyright 2002 by Diane
Mott Davidson. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced
or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.