On a recent Saturday afternoon during an autumnal walk at the cottage:
Beast: Let’s talk about your birthday.
Foodie: Uh, okay. But it’s still a bit away.
Beast: I’ve already got you your present.
Foodie: This was my present! All I wanted to do was visit the cottage before it was closed for the winter.
Beast: Well, I got you something else. [Pause] It’s a House of Cards-endorsed rowing machine.
Beast: Just like the one Frank Underwood uses.
Foodie: [Pause] Did you just think of that joke right this instant?
Beast: Yes, I did.
Foodie: That’s really good.
Beast: We really should have brought the bear bells.
Foodie: We’ll be okay, right?
Beast: You know what to do in case we encounter a bear, right?
Foodie: Not really.
Beast: The first thing you have to remember is either make yourself as tall as possible or as little as possible.
Beast: Secondly, make a lot of noise or be very, very quiet.
Beast: Finally, move slowly away from the bear or run for your life.
We arrived at the cottage late on Friday night. I opened up a bottle of red and the Beast poured himself some J&B. He got a fire going and I, after alphabetizing the Cottage DVD collection, chose the classic 1990 thriller Pacific Heights, starring Matthew Modine, Melanie Griffith and Michael Keaton, to watch. He fell asleep 20 minutes in.
The next morning while I made a strada with sausage, red pepper, basil and Gouda, based mostly on this recipe, the Beast tended the fire. After our walk, we read. I got caught up on back issues of the New Yorker and he started Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky.
Around 6:00 p.m., we opened up a bottle of white wine and finished it while eating Saltine crackers smothered in butter and topped with a slice of very orange Cheddar and singing Karaoke from YouTube videos. There was a lot of Queen and Elton John, plus The Thong Song.
After snacks, we took out our rib eye steaks that we secured for this trip from the fridge and let them come to room temperature while we played Trivial Pursuit. Or rather, a variation of the game: the first person to answer 50 answers correctly, wins.
Foodie: We finished the white wine. Want to finish the red I opened last night and then we’ll have the Barolo with dinner?
Beast: Yes. Are you ready?
Beast: What hymn did John Steinbeck reference in the name of his novel, The Grapes of Wrath?
Foodie: How in the hell should I know. Kumbaya?
Beast: I don’t even need to look at the answer. It’s from the Battle Hymn of the Republic: “Mine eyes of have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/He’s tramping out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.”
Foodie: Unbelievable. Okay smart ass, what actress became a member of the Pepsi Cola board of directors?
Beast: I don’t know.
Foodie: How in the hell don’t you know that? It’s Joan Crawford.
Beast: How did you know that?
Foodie: Uh, because I’ve seen Mommy Dearest like a dozen times?
Beast: What is the keeping and training of birds of prey called?
Beast: It’s Falconry, but I’ll give it to you.
Foodie: Damn straight you’re giving it to me. Oh my god this is so easy that it hurts me. You are getting all the easy questions and that’s why you’re winning: What was the name of Little Orphan Annie’s dog?
Beast: I don’t know. Trigger?
Foodie: SANDY! How can you not know that?
Beast: Uh, because I’m male? Okay, what’s 70 per cent of 70?
Foodie: Am I allowed to use a pen and paper?
Foodie [approximately three minutes later]: 49.
Beast: Not bad! But it’s 48. How did you get to 49?
Foodie: It just felt right.
Beast: All you had to do is take 10 per cent of 70, which is seven, and then multiply that by seven.
Foodie: Ugh. What Ray Bradbury novel is named after the temperature at which paper burns?
Beast: Oh god. Uh, Fahrenheit 431. No 451.
Foodie: Final answer?
Foodie: 451, jack ass.
Beast: I can’t believe you’re not giving me that after I gave you ‘Falconering’! Okay. Who wrote the poem The Road Not Taken?
Foodie: Walt Whitman?
Beast [shaking head in disgust]: Robert Frost.
Foodie: Oh boy. Here’s another freebie: What’s the claim to fame of Captain Edward J. Smith?
Beast: I have no idea.
Foodie [shaking head in disgust]: Ugh, he was only the captain of the Titanic, which sank on Apr. 15, 1912.
Beast: How do you know that?
Foodie: My brother and I were obsessed with Titanic lore as children.
Beast: Before the movie came out?
Foodie: Before James Cameron’s Titanic, yes, but not before A Night to Remember. Okay, who was the prosecuting attorney in the Scopes Monkey Trial?
Beast: William Jennings Bryan.
Foodie: That’s just really impressive.
Beast: No it isn’t.
I used a cast-iron pan to cook our rib eyes. And I must say, yours truly did a pretty good job of turning them out a perfect medium rare. We decided on sides of green beans and roasted Brussel sprouts because we’d really carbed out on snacks. We settled on Dances with Wolves to watch with dinner, even though it feels like we just watched it. (My vote was either Gladiator or The Godfather.)
We slept in like teenagers the next morning–until 10:30 a.m. We ate the rest of the strada and then canoed across the lake and went for another autumnal walk.
A train passed us. And even though it wasn’t going very fast, it was exhilarating. Equally as thrilling was peeing outside.
Back at the cottage, we finished our game of Trivial Pursuit. The Beast was the first to get to 50, thereby winning the game–by a hair.
We knew it was time to leave. We tidied, collected our things and loaded up the car. The Beast went down to the cottage to gather the last of our stuff while I waited at the top of the steps, under a canopy of trees. I stood still, resisted checking my Instagram to see how many likes the video of me lip-syncing The Thong Song got, and closed my eyes.
There was only the sounds of the lake lapping up against the shore, the trees rustling in the wind and, every now and then, a bird would sing.