The other evening, I was upstairs, reading John Crowley’s “Little, Big” in the bathtub with a glass of wine. Brendan was downstairs, making basil pesto. I thought this was a fine arrangement, all around.
After a few pages, I put the book down, because it’s too big and heavy to read in a bath and I was feeling lazy. I stared out the window at the trees. I was just thinking how nice it is to look into lush green tree branches from a second-story window when a series of strange noises came up from the kitchen. First, a whirring of some machine I didn’t recognize. Then, a clanking stop to the whirring. And then, immediately, a strangled yell that could only have come from Brendan, because Dingo was lying right next to the bathtub.
“Are you all right?” I shouted down into the sudden silence.
“No,” he shouted back. In his voice was complete certainty.
I leapt from the tub and ran downstairs as fast as I could with wet feet.
Brendan was standing with his hand under the running water of the sink. Then he pressed a wad of paper towel to it and lifted it above his head.
“I don’t want to lose my fucking finger,” he said. “This is bad.”
“What did you do?”
“Stuck my finger in the immersion blender to clear it. Like a total fucking idiot. I accidentally turned it on while my finger was in it.”
“We’re going to the emergency room,” I said. “I’ll be right back, I’m getting dressed.”
“I can’t believe I just did that,” he said.
We went out to the car. I was shaking but trying to stay calm.
“I’ll drive,” I said.
I have a learner’s permit but no license. It’s the fourth permit I’ve had, and I’ve never taken a driving test although I do, in theory, know how to drive.
Brendan drove us the four blocks to the hospital. He got out at the doors to the ER and I got into the driver’s seat and carefully, slowly drove the car into the parking garage and put it into a slot. I left it there, with Dingo in the back seat, and joined Brendan in the ER, where the triage nurse took his vitals (fine) and insurance information (none), asked him how much pain he was in on a scale of 1 to 10 (6 1/2) and then sent him back out to the waiting room to await an X-ray and stitches.
“You don’t have to wait,” he told me. “Go home and order some pizza. I don’t think we’re having pesto tonight. I’ve lost my appetite for it.”
We both laughed.
I went out to the parking garage and got into the car. Dingo sat bolt upright in the back seat; I could see his wide eyes staring at me in the rear view mirror.
“It’s okay,” I told him. “I know what I’m doing here.”
I’d had a full glass of wine earlier in the bath, and I was still shaking from the shock of Brendan’s accident. Even so, I managed to get the car out of the parking spot and began spiraling around the parking garage, looking for the exit. I was going the wrong way, it dawned on me, so I executed a three-point turn without hitting anyone’s bumper and took us down and out of there. I crept onto the quiet hospital lane. It was raining. The windshield was fogged. I turned on the thing I hoped was the wiper: it was. Brendan’s legs are much longer than mine; his chair was so far back I had to extend both arms and legs to drive, and I couldn’t find the thing that moved it forward. Dingo stared at me the entire time I drove, as if willing me not to screw it up.
Wishing for a movie soundtrack, something both heroic and suspenseful, I muscled that Subaru through empty quiet streets, four blocks, all the way home, without getting lost or getting into an accident. And I managed to turn into the alley and park it in the garage. At a slight angle, but I got the job done.
The kitchen looked like the scene of a vegetal crime: dark green pesto was spattered everywhere. I took a picture of the immersion blender on my cell phone and sent it to Brendan: its round blade guard was caked in green sludge. It looked evil.
“Throw that fucking thing away,” he wrote back.
I threw it out instantly. I covered the bowl of half-made pesto with plastic wrap and stuck it into the fridge. Then I called the pizza place on the corner.
Three hours later, he came home with seven stitches in his finger. He hadn’t cut through to the bone, luckily, but he was in a lot of pain and ready for cold pizza and a lot of wine.
“Look at the cupboards,” he said. “They’re splattered in blood.”
So they were. It looked as if someone had been quickly and deftly murdered there. With a wet sponge, I wiped it off. Because our cupboards are made of a space-age substance called melamite, the blood came off with a single swipe. It was the first time I hadn’t cursed this yuppie kitchen we inherited from the previous owners.
With a mezzaluna, not an immersion blender, chop several large handfuls of fresh basil as finely as you can. Do the same with a medium handful of pine nuts. Crush two cloves of garlic and mince. Stir together, add salt and a lot of grated pecorino romano cheese and generous amounts of olive oil. Mix well, and toss with hot spaghetti. Blood optional.