Wednesday, October 28, 2009

only pie, and nevermore...

Yesterday I felt the need to make a pie.
An apple pie to be exact.

So I pulled out my handy-dandy 1950's "Meals Men Like" recipe book my mother gave me when I first moved from home. It's true; that's the title. At the time I wasn't sure if it was because it was a great cookbook, or my mother's way of saying, "You're on your own now. Find yourself a mate. This, my dear, is the way to do it."

Over the years this cookbook has lent itself to finding me many 'mates', even a husband. But it turns out the cookbook is the best cookbook. Basic meals done right. It even teaches you how to time it perfectly so you can have the kids washed, and yourself primped before your husband gets home from work for dinner.

It does.

Apparently the print is too small for me to read those words. I guess my feminist eyes can't seem to make sense of the random words placed into sentences. But I can attest to the great recipes inside. Fact: I still have the cookbook. I do not, however, have the husband.

On page 23 of this fine manual of cooking is the recipe for the "Best Ever Apple Pie". I've made it several times. You can tell the recipes that I like because of their not so clean pages. While gathering the ingredients I realized I was in need of more butter. I headed out to the grocery.

Going there is normally a mundane, routine event.

I drive several blocks east, cross a bridge, over the tracks, make a left hand turn...Bam, you're there.
Uneventful. Just like a trip to the grocery store should be.

But then I drove home...

One my way back to my house I came across three large black birds. Ravens. They were just sitting in the middle of the roadway. I slowed down as I approached, figuring they would fly away.

They did not.

I swerved around the cluster of feathered freaks looking at them out my drivers side window. Two continued about their business pecking at something invisible in the road. The third met my eye and continued to watch me, knowingly, as I drove by.

When I looked in my rear view mirror it had turned and was still watching me as I placed distance between me and them. I could see it like a Stephen King novel or movie, the car moving in slow motion while MOID (Music of Impending Doom) played in the background.

That was weird. It made the hair stand up on my neck and arms.

What would you do if something really bothered you? When your mind starts playing all kinds of horror scenarios because of something you just saw? Why, yes. Nancy likes to pull out her complete Borzoi Edition of Edgar Allen Poe, the amazing master freakazoid.

Many years ago, a friend gave me the complete works of Edgar. It's still one of my favorite gifts. 1423 pages of macabre poetry. It's beautiful and tormented and fabulous all in a messed up way. His words tweak something in my mind. His poetry single handedly made me decide on psychiatry as a major in college.

So after my encounter with the subtly, yet terrifying blackbirds, I made my pie and them poured myself a glass of wine. I lit a fire, grabbed a blanket and snuggled into the sofa for a good read. Of Poe. The Raven to be specific, it seemed rather fitting. And then my second favorite, The Tell-Tale Heart.

I slumbered off with the heat of the fireplace and the snoring of my big dog at my knees. And then my keen ears heard the sound. A faint 'Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock'. It was very quiet, yet I could hear it.

I asked my daughter in the other room, "Can you hear that? It's driving me crazy!"

"What?, she replied.

"That sound. Incessant ticking. You can't HEAR that?"

"No Mommy. There's no sound."

So I settled back in to read a few more pages. One of the cats came to laze on the comforter under my chin. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. I looked around. Where could that damn sound be coming from?

I got up and followed the sound. Stealth like, hoping to catch whatever it was that was disturbing my restful evening. I went into the kitchen; the sound became fainter. Dining room? Non-existent. Living room; very strong.

I proceeded up the stairs to the second floor. As I ascended the sound dissipated. Quieter. No longer there. So I headed back down. As I neared the base of the stairs the sound increased. There it was, the southwest wall. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

I don't own a clock. Not a ticking clock. They drive me insane. The only clocks I own are digital. Or Swiss movement. So there IS no ticking sound. No tock.

But that's what I heard.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Pull it together Nancy. Those birds sure did make an impression. Geez, was the wine that potent? The story that great? What the hell's up with this clock noise?

I fluffed my pillows, poured a new claret and turned the page. And I read:

"Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came a rapping.
And so faintly you came a tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you. "Here I opened wide the door.,---
Darkness there and nothing more."

Those lines got me thinking about the actor last year at Cedar Point. Every year they put on a Hallow Weekends. They stay open until the last weekend in October. There are haunted houses to attend, they dress up the grounds in spooky attire and you can still ride all the coasters and rides. It's just a fun time had by all.

Last year at the glass blowing gallery they had a singular actor that recited Edgar Allen Poe. Not your normal fare at Cedar Point. But it was really well done. He was amazing. Freaky. Spooky. Talented and dark.

I was in love.
I wanted more.
I went to every performance. I thought it brilliant.
Usually those not riding coasters at Cedar Point are having their portraits sketched, or buying carved candles or branded leather. Not sitting in a dark glass blowing arena watching a performer. Totally. Freak. You. Out.

After each performance I wasn't sure whether to shake his hand or bolt for daylight. I shook his hand. I needed him to know that his performance wasn't wasted. On those that didn't know what Poe is/was. On his brilliant macabre. His tone. His dementia.

When I sat and read my Poe, I thought about those Ravens.
And then I thought of my pie. And my iPod. Cue song.

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these sunken eyes and learn to see. All your life..."
There's that damn noise again. "What the..."

I jumped up and rushed toward the sound. Here, out in the driveway, is my dog, with the pie pan licking it incessantly. Trying to get every last bit of the pie from the tin.

That's the sound.

And, there's my pie. Or what's left of it.

The sound is the damn tin hitting the tree with every lick and then bouncing back to the pavement.

My first thought? "Boy, is that dog going to have gas tonight" and "I'm going to have to make another pie." But he did seem to enjoy it. The cookbook is for "Meals Men Like". Notice it wasn't the female dog who gluttonously ate the pie.

Problem solved. I can chill.

But still, how do you explain the crows?
That still freaks me out...



  1. Wow! That is a really interesting story. You're an amazing writer. I love it that the ticking sound was the dog finishing off the pie :) Cute. A meal for a man, I guess, since he's a boy dog.....

  2. Hmmmmmmm.... Apple pie. I now have a craving. Thanks : ). Birds freak me out. I think it's because I was forced to watch Hitchcock's "The Birds" as a child. Eeeeek!

  3. Wow, what a freaky story! I really hate it when stuff like that happens to me, like a few days ago when I was CONVINCED there was someone else in the house with me. (Turned out the tenant in the flat downstairs had come home... what I thought was my door opening was actually his door. Not a very interesting explanation lol.) But anyway, sorry I tend to lurk without commenting - even if I don't leave a comment, I can assure you I read every one of your posts. Thanks!!!

  4. So my first kneejerk reaction (without thinking about it), was 'Gawd, what a horrible book. Do women really think like that?' My instantaneous second reaction (also, without thinking about it), was 'Hm. Wonder where I can get that book...'

    What does this say about me?!


  5. LOVE this post! I have a black bird story.....

    at the time, I did think of that the dog got the pie! ;o)


  6. We are enjoying a piece of applie pie right now!
    And my dog is interfering, as usual.

  7. Explain the crows? Perhaps there’s a metaphor here…

    “…all your life
    you were only waiting for this moment to arise”

    Love that song and your ability to make mere words dance!

  8. You are too funny. When you said it was the dog eating your apple pie I laughed out loud. Don't know about the birds, maybe you should read "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock next...that may have your answer, but I hope you're ready for it!

  9. Freaky and Funny - a perfect Halloween story!

  10. Sounds like a cross between Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and EAP The Raven. Wow! What a night!! You brighten up any day that I read your page!! You are awesome! Happy Halloween!

  11. I feel the same way about crows and all the farmers have told me they are ridiculously hard to shoot because they seem to know you are aiming at them. We have a gang that come beat up our chooks for their eggs and scraps....and if we are late taking the scraps out they come bang on the windows....very spooky...reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'....if you watch the original black and white you have to laugh at the acting (over acting) but it is still spooky despite the lack of special effects!

  12. The crow was obviously trying to warn you that your pie, which you hadn't made yet, wasn't safe. A psychic crow?

  13. The picture you posted is of a Crow not a Raven. A Raven has a V shaped tail, a crow has the straight across tail.

  14. I think America would be a better place if women just abandoned this whole "liberation" nonsense and were issued your cookbook at birth.

  15. @Judge - I agree. IT knew what was going to happen. Actually I knew what was going to happen. I should know by now that you have to place ANY food stuffs high enough and back enough for a 120lb dog, that can practically stand on the counter, not to get it.

    @Carlos - I will print a copy of the cookbook off for you. YOU can give it to future Mrs. Carlos's. You make me laugh...

  16. I am freaked out about it and I am not even there!! I would have driven right off the road, I am sure. Glad that the dog enjoyed your pie though!

  17. Now that is a story to tell! I gave a collected works of Poe to my little sis for christmas last year :) She's at that age where all the macabre things in the world are the coolest. Teenagers. What can you say?

    I haven't read any of EAP's work in such a long time. I need to revisit those wonderful books :)

  18. I, too, love Poe. My youngest daughter's name is Anna so, of course, she loves Annabel Lee and will have me read it over and over and explain all the phrases and vocabulary (she's 7). She likes the "can ever dissever" line the best. I loved your own version of Tell Tale Heart. I felt as if I were watching a scary movie telling you--the actor-- to not go up the stairs alone, but we know the actor never listens. And I want apple pie now. Thanks!

  19. Creepy. Sorry about the pie. dang dog!

  20. Great story! But I'm hoping to hear an update soon about your dreamy moving man. :-)

  21. I enjoyed a slice of pumpkin cheesecake while reading your post this evening. It's not really a pie but more of a pie/cake hybrid. I'm not sure if it was your story or the hybrid baked goods or a combination of the two, but suddenly it feels like Autumn has arrived. Nicely done, as usual my friend.

  22. Ah, very good haunting little did your dog get your pie?

    much love

  23. Wow, you had a Poe day. Much better than a poor day.

    Okay, first the crows. I am TERRIFIED of birds. I am not sure what I would have done.

    Secondly, I LOVE Poe. Considering the chain of events, do not read Cask of Amontillado this week.

    Thirdly, "All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free."

    Finally, the pie surely was delicious and your dog is eternally grateful. (I know the gas was kicking!)


  24. I'm glad your story had a happy ending. :) You had my attention from the beginning. It does indeed sound like something from a Stephen King novel. :)

    Glad the dog enjoyed the pie!

  25. Crow 1 was saying 'Wot d'you wanna do?'
    Crow 2 'I dunno. Wot d'you wanna do?'
    Crow 3 'Let's ask this nice lady - she looks as if she know's what she wants to do! Too late, she didn't stop!'

    (As per the crows in Jungle Book)

  26. I am so pleased you have that 1950s cook book. Maybe there's hope for you as a dutiful and obedient woman after all. ;)

  27. I love this, Nancy! I'm in Alaska where ravens rule this state during the cold months. They are brilliant birds who will amaze you with their ability to entertain themselves. So you can bet the 'one bird' was thinking something about you as you passed, but chances are it was trying to figure out how to snag a free ride off your bumper. They are total partiers!
    My husband is native American and he will tell you to interact with a raven anytime you can. They are good, and they'll make you laugh.
    Great, great post!

  28. Hi Nancy! Ah yes, crows and ravens; I can never tell them apart. There's an old country saying, though - "If you see a lot of ravens together, they're crows. And if you see a crow on its own, that's a raven". Spooky stuff with the noise in the house, so bless the pooch for scaring you near halloween! Noise like that gets under my skin. It wouldn't be the first time I'd wandered along a corridor and through several closed doors to find a clock very quietly ticking. Preternatural hearing, if you'll excuse me the Lovecraft. My sense of smell is similar. *eerie music* We control the horizontal. We control the vertical... Anyway, loved the entry! Indigo

  29. Perhaps another pie IS in order, but this time take a page from old King Cole's book, instead of that archaic cookbook? It would solve the crow problem, at least.

  30. The ravens in the road would have really upset me. Great post for the weekend! I'm glad it was just the dog and the pie tin. Sad to say, female dogs are just as gluttonous.
    I've got to get me that cookbook. Love the title.

  31. @ Buffy - I'll look next time to see what kind of tail it has. All I know it was big, and black with even blacker eyes that stared at me.

    At that moment, I asn't even aware it HAD a tail!

    I'm going to have to Google it so I know next time. Hitchcock managed to destroy my bird watching days...

  32. The black bird knew you didn't need those calories anyhow. ;)

  33. yaa... when something bothers me, i just cant get it out of my mind.. it sucks big time.. and leaves me depressed..

  34. That was excellent!

    Had no idea where it was going, and seemed to cover about four different things.

    And like some reverse episode of Scooby Doo, it was the dog that did it after all.

  35. I have just started following your blog and you are an amazing writer. Love the ending. Thanks for sharing!

  36. When ravens don't move there is something wrong with the universe!!! That would freak me out too...I'd be waiting for the phone to ring with some horrible news!

  37. Sick of Apples (canned way to many last year).

    I love Cookbooks and that one sounds interesting! I would love to look through that.

    Poe and Crows...I Love it! I entranced as I read. I like Poe but the crows not so much; maybe the Black Crows (a music band).

    Anyway i have enjoyed your posts the past week. You keep it real and interesting :)

  38. TYPO....That sentence was suppose to read I was Entranced as I read....Brain working faster than fingers can move across the keyboard!!!!

  39. Until I read the end of this post, I was going to suggest that it sounded like you were in a Stephen King novel.

  40. I'm just gonna forget about the birds and let that wonderful song stick in my head all day! "Lalalalalala, I can't hear your tick tock, damn dog, lalalalalala."
    Loved this!

  41. What a perfect post for Halloween time! Now I want to go home and read my Poe book.

    Maybe the crows sensed the upcoming death of your pie?

  42. I was a little worried you were gonna leave us hanging....that we'd never know what that tick-tock sound was.

    You've more patience than I, Nancy! I wud've gone verbally ballistic on that dog! Apple pie preparation is arduous!!!

  43. Great post. Marginally amused by the cookbook.

  44. A man is a lot like a dog, he will eat almost anything you leave on the table.

  45. What a perfect story. Thank you. BTW, I also have what I consider the absolute best Apple Pie recipe (from my mother of course). Glad to share if you are interested.

  46. @Stacey - My dog is 110lbs. (well about 115 NOW!) but he stands pretty tall when he wants. If he gets on his backlegs he stands about 5'6", so he just smelt it, wanted it, and figured a way to get it.

    I wonder if he got the cat to help him push it a little closer...

    @Matthew - Obedient. Bah. That's funny...

    @ JulieJeffs - YES! Shott me over your mom's! I always like to try new ones! Especially if they are tried and true. Nuthin' like an apple pie...

    Thanks to ALL for youir excellent comments! I forgot to tell you about the black cats...that'll have to wait till next time.


  47. This is a great story! I am so glad you figured out the ticking sound. I would have lost my mind! I can not stand that sound either... ravens, crows, buzzards- they all creep me out. Sorry to hear about the pie though- apple is my fav!

  48. I love Poe, too! My middle name is Lenore, so as you might imagine, I have a special affinity for The Raven.

    Great story. Thanks!

  49. Sorry what? I kinda zoned out there after the words "apple" and "pie" side by side...

    I'll have to read whole thing to find out where the crows came in after I've been past the store for baking supplies.... I NEED PIE!!

  50. saw a raven just idling picking at whatever on the road today on my way home from getting my headlight fixed. It didn't seem to mind the ruse of cars crossing the intersection until a jeep went across to the east and i was going north.

    But the bird flew away, never saw me, and I am not haunted!

  51. Ok was wondering where it all was going, yet also enjoying the ride, and the depiction of the dog tin was priceless after all that tension had built up. Where can I get a copy of that cookbook?

  52. I love how you inflect humor with drama and suspense - what a great crescendo and climax! Hilarious pup too :)

  53. I love the site. You have a lot of good posts here. I have a site as well that provides inspiration and guidance to people around the world. I was wondering if we could do a link exchange, so we can tell our visitors about both of our sites. Let me know.


  54. My friend, Jen, turned me on to your blog...glad she did because you are rather awesome!

  55. OooOOOOoooooOOOOOoooo! A perfect, "get-in-halloween-mode" post. I can't say anything more witty that what has already been said, but I couldn't read this and not post. It demanded recognition from yet another fan! :o)

  56. Wow. You are an amazing writer, and that, that was definitely an incredible story you just wrote...about your day. Your seemingly, not so typical day. Thanks for sharing your writing Nancy. And can I ask a question? Are you a psychiatrist now? Or did you just study it? I'd really like for you to read my blogs. Especially if thats what you studied in college. Comment and let me know what you think of my blog if you do happen to decide to go read it. Thanks!


  57. Hey, your new posts aren't showing up on my reader!!
    This was fun; those birds would've freaked me out too. But I would have been way madder at the dog...

  58. Greeeaaaaat story! That was a good read, I'm usually impatient and don't read clear through a post but you had me at Raven!!!

  59. Personally, I think the black birds were stalking you and your pie, seeking revenge for their four-and-twenty compatriots who were baked in such a pastry oh so many years ago.

    Just a theory.

  60. Oh, Edgar. I still think The Cask of Amontillado might be my favorite Poe story. It gives me chills every time I read it.

    Condolences on your pie.

    And I need to find this cookbook!

  61. BRAVA dear girl!

    This post had me glued to your every word!

    What a great storyteller you are!

    Hey...I happen to love Ravens/Crows. Strange, I know, but I find them such a beautiful bird. Loved the photo you used for this post.

    As I was reading this, I couldn't help but think of Alfred Hitchcock's movie...The Birds!


    Damn, and I was just going to ask if you could send me a piece of that apple pie!!

    Happy Halloween!


  62. Great story! I am so glad that I stopped by.

  63. awesome read! amongst the cheesy, commercialized crap this holiday has given into, this was a nice refreshing read. i'd rather spend today with a bit of poe and blackbird freakiness than much else. hope your dog enjoyed his pie!

  64. I really LOVE reading your blogs. They always make me smile:) I don't smile very often as of late so thank you!!! You could really take your stories and put them into a book!

  65. Awesome! Long ago (couple of months) I posted about memorizing poetry. In addition to the ones I mentioned I've memorized "The Raven", too. So of course this post hit home for me on so many levels! The verse you quoted is actually my favorite, but may I just say,

    "Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
    Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
    This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
    Merely this, and nothing more.

    Back at you! And I hope you made another pie! Sometimes I love and adore watching the birds outside my window, but the crows and the ravens really do creep me out!

  66. I love it that the ticking sound was the dog finishing off the pie :) Cute. A meal for a man, I guess, since he's a boy dog.... Work From Home

  67. That sounds like the perfect, book-in-front of a fireplace, spine-tingling day. And the dog eating that delicious apple pie is absolutely tragic.

    Just discovered your blog and enjoyed it very much! If you're interested, I just started my own this week-

  68. Hi, Nancy. I'm a newbie to your page, having only started to follow you after you became a Blog of Note--an award you very much deserved! I am an English teacher, so of course my heart soared when I read the part about Poe! I love him, too! This story made me laugh out loud!

  69. I saw one of those 1950's books a while back & laughed my head off! So glad I wasn't living in those times.
    I love a good scary story. Poe is awesome. I have a book of poetry from Charles Baudelaire. It's some very dark stuff, translated from french, I believe. Check it out.

  70. Delightful story. And so much like Halloween - our senses are pricked up and we are looking at everything with a heightened sense of awareness. And then, it's just the dog licking the pie plate after all.
    The raven just knew a good thing when he saw it!

  71. I wish I could write like you. I really do. This post was incredibly well put-together! I was laughing and had chills all at the same time. If I could shake YOUR hand, I definitely would! :)


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