Sheila's Secret Sauce


I was an unseasoned nineteen year old, when my Aunt Sheila and her psychic girlfriend deposited me like a sack of flour on her friends’ front porch in Central City, Colorado.  They were a couple of “old gay rednecks from the hill country,” Barrel chested Harry would say while running Texas-sized fingers through his mop of brown hair.

“Speak for yourself, you old queen,” his partner Bob would reply, tittering about, while Harry swatted at him like a June bug.

They operated Saddle Bag Bakery, in the center of the old mining town on Eureka Road nestled in a crevice along the ridge of the Rockies. The only remaining gold came from the pockets of super-sized tourists gasping in the rarified air, who would shell out a few bucks for a cream cheese and strawberry jelly pastry and tromp through a tour of The Lost Gold Mine, following a skinny teenager with a battery powered lamp (yours truly).

Sheila and I had been turned out of her tidy Denver home by my aunt’s partner, who in a fit of jealous rage lobbed a pot over the fence at Sheila, barely missing my head. “Cook your fucking fetuccine alfredo for your new truck driver girlfriend,” she shouted, insulting both my aunt’s signature dish and her saucy new girlfriend.

Sheila cupped her hands around a lighter, picked up the pot and then calmly said with cigarette perched in the corner of her mouth, “I paid a lot of money for this.” You could talk smack about any number of things, but when it came to her cooking, the buck stopped here.

“I suppose I should have seen that coming,” Sheila said.

Or maybe? Her psychic, truck driver girlfriend, Stella, should have.

And so I found myself living with two gay bakers while my aunt searched for a new place to live, until 
one night I was awakened by the rustling of sheets and the scrape of a toenail desperately in need of a pedicure against my leg.

“Bob?” I stuttered, “You’re in the wrong bedroom. Where’s Harry?”  I was woefully innocent. 

“He’s down at the shop baking,” he said, snaking an arm around my waist.

And then it dawned on me that Bob had not made a logistical mistake.  I was like a Hostess Twinkie that he could not resist.

“You should join him,” I said and watched him sulk out of the bedroom like an old dog denied a table scrap.

After wedging a chair beneath the doorknob for the rest of the night, I placed a call to my aunt the next morning and that afternoon we moved into an unfurnished apartment with a couple of mattresses on the floor and a brand new set of expensive baking dishes in the kitchen.

“Where’s Stella?” I inquired.

“Didn’t last,” Sheila said while pulling out a pot. “Besides, now I’ll get to spend more time with you.”

“Honey, why don’t you make us a couple of vodka tonics, while I prepare my secret sauce,” she motioned towards the freezer door.  When I turned around with glasses in hand, Sheila was unscrewing the top of store bought alfredo.

“This’ll be our little secret,” she said.

That evening we dined on paper plates under the shadows of the Rockies, sharing stories and getting sauced.  If food truly is a metaphor for love, that summer, I got my fill.

         
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