Alison could never admit to her boyfriend Dan that she once got fired from a job because she hadn't cooked rice properly. The truth was, and Alison always blushed when she thought about it, the truth was, that Alison had no fucking idea how to make rice.
Her mom, Valerie, never taught her how and Alison never thought to ask even though the rice her mom served at home had to be covered in blobby layers of breadcrumb-filled Becel margarine or with squirts of soy sauce.
Alison always thought that's how rice was supposed to be made; with a good dose of distracting, sweet flavours.
The day Alison got fired, she was contemplating whether to have sex with her boyfriend Steve.
They had been dating for three weeks and Alison had given Steve a total of four blow jobs, all in the basement of Alison's mother's home. Alison always called the house she lived in her mother's home and not her home because whenever her mom yelled at Alison on the phone to come home after being out too late with Steve she would say "Damnit Alison, you get back to my house RIGHT. NOW."
As Alison boarded the Mississauga Transit bus at Meadowvale Mall, she thought, If Steve doesn't ask me to be his girlfriend tonight I definitely won't have sex with him for at least another few weeks. She frowned. I wonder if he will get tired of just getting blow jobs.
She looked at her smudged reflection in the bus window: Her plain brown hair curled at the end as if she had just dipped it in water. She searched for a hint of exotic colour in her brown eyes but was disappointed, again. She tilted her chin up to hide the subtle but growing second chin and sucked in her cheeks. She was 17 going on 25 and she wished she had a boyfriend to make her life complete.
When she got to Mrs. Crawley's house Alison was in a panic. What if Steve is just playing her? Does he even want to have sex with her? Ohmygawd is he gay???
Alison whipped out her cell phone and was about to call Steve and beg him to be her boyfriend but she stopped. She could wait until tonight when she saw him in person. It would be harder for him to say no if she was giving him a handjob, right?
She punched in the code that opened the door to Mrs. Crawley's house and walked inside. Quiet. Alison had no idea what she was doing there.
Mrs. Crawley was a 76-year-old blind grandmother who lived with her daughter, Clarice and her husband, Bill. Mrs. Crawley, blind Mrs. Crawley, lived on the third floor of the massive semi-detached home in a small room that was covered in paintings of Jesus on the cross, Jesus resurrected, close-up Jesus with a crown of thorns, baby Jesus and Jesus as Elvis Presley.
Alison called up the stairs, "Mrs. Crawley? It's Alison." She waited a beat and then went up the stairs to Mrs. Crawley's room. As expected, Mrs. Crawley was sitting on her rocking chair, thumbing through her bible.
"Alison, get me my slippers," she croaked. Alison inwardly groaned, found the slippers and tugged, bended and pulled at the slippers until they fit Mrs. Crawley's misshapen feet.
"I want you to read to me downstairs and prepare dinner," said Mrs. Crawley, who started to shuffle her way to the staircase.
"Sure thing!" Alison said, in what she hoped sounded cheerful but was afraid came off as crazy.
Maybe she was crazy to still be working here. After all, this wasn't what she signed up for when she applied to work payroll at a small company that supplied personal support workers for the elderly, disabled and plain old batshit insane.
But when her boss told her that an employee had just quit and they needed someone to fill her place right away, Alison shrugged when she found herself going to Mrs. Crawley's once a week for four hours at $8.00 an hour to read her the bible and prepare her meals.
Alison wasn't religious. She went to Sunday school once when her mom had to drop her off at the church in Toronto early before a choir practice. Alison didn't listen to the word of God that day because she was too busy trying to remember the lines for the song "Angel of Death" that she was supposed to perform that day.
The chorus went like this:
Angel of death flying overhead,
Crosses of blood on the door shine red,
Death to the firstborn of man and beast,
this is the night of the Passover feast,
Angel of Death pass by.
Alison wondered whether Mrs. Crawley would appreciate it if she sang her some bars from that song. She thought better of it.
Mrs. Crawley sat at the kitchen table. For a blind woman, she was really good at knowing exactly where everything was in the house, Alison admired. Mrs. Crawley also remembered every verse of the Bible and which page her favourite quotes were, much to Alison's chagrin.
"Make the rice and chicken first and then read to me," demanded Mrs. Crawley. "All you have to do is put the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes and then rest it on the table."
Alison nodded. Silence. "Oh, yeah, no problem" she gulped. Into the oven the bird went, and into the pot went the rice. Once again, panic calmly drizzled over Alison's body. Ok, she thought, just add a cup of water and then a cup of rice. Or is that two cups of rice? Or is it one-and-a-half cups? She poured in what she thought was a reasonable amount of water and stirred and waited and waited and stirred.
After 10 minutes of stirring and waiting, the water level seemed to not have moved an inch. Is the water supposed to evaporate? What is the rice supposed to look like? She looked at the clock again. 20 minutes. It has to be cooked. She thought the water level had gone down a little bit. She drained the water and put the rice on a plate for Mrs. Crawley.
"What is that smell?" Mrs. Crawley asked. Oh shit, the chicken. Alison pulled out the bird and immediately noticed the big black spot on the breast. Nothing that blindness and a knife can't fix.
She arranged the chicken and rice on the plate and brought it to Mrs. Crawley, sweat pouring down her back and chest. Mrs. Crawley sniffed it, then tasted the rice. "Is it cooked?" she asked. "Of course!" squeaked Alison. A pause. "Do you cook at home?" she asked. "Oh, all the time," said Alison while shaking her head.
She felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. Steve.
"Babe, gotta cancel 2nite sry."
Alison sighed. At least she wouldn't have to give a blowjob. She sat down at the table and opened the Bible.