Pirates of Pamlico Sound: Chapter 12

🏴 Present day * Kill Devil Hills.

I feel like we’ve been at Hurry Curry for a hundred years, Jaya,” Jayne said during the post-lunch-rush lull. “We own the place, right? Doesn’t that mean we’re entitled to a vacation once in a while?”

Jaya looked around to make sure his employees were out of earshot. “Jayne, this is business,” he explained. “We have commitments, right? House, utilities, the business, two cars, six employees.”

Jaya picked up a cloth and began idly wiping down a prep table. “I know that Jaya, but …”

“And that’s just in this country.” Jaya continued rattling off expenses. “We send your parents 10,000 rupees a month, we send my parents 10,000 rupees a month. Can we afford to just throw in the towel at this point?”

“But we work seven days per week on Hurry Curry, Jaya. How many days per week do we work on Jayne/Jaya?”

“What do you mean, my love?” said Jaya. “I thought we were in this together. One day everything’s fine between us and the next you’re completely unhappy with your life.”

“I’m not completely unhappy, of course,” she said. “I’m just feeling a little bored, I guess. Same thing day in, day out. Don’t you long to spice things up a bit?”

Jaya looked surprised. “Spice things up? My darling, we own a curry house. It doesn’t get any spicier than that.” He walked away into his office.

Jayne followed him inside and closed the door. “Well then, what do you think about pirates?” she asked.

“What are you talking about? A baseball team?” He began counting the day’s cash receipts and preparing the daily bank deposit.

“No, I mean like traditional pirates,” she said, placing her foot onto his desk jokingly. She began to act as though she were holding a sword. “Buccaneers, corsairs, swashbucklers.”

“Okay, okay,” Jaya said with a laugh, brushing her foot from his desk. “What can I say? If we must watch that bloody film again to get it out of your system, then we simply must watch it again. What ever happened to Bollywood, anyway? Have you lost your taste for Hindi movies?”

“Jaya, this isn’t about that movie,” she said, adding, “although, I wouldn’t mind seeing that again, now that you bring it up.”

Jaya looked up, bewildered. “Then what is it about?”

She turned and walked out of his office. “I’ll tell you later, perhaps” she said as she walked away.

Jaya shook his head, perplexed, and turned back to his paperwork.

After the dinner rush, Jaya decided to surprise Jayne by arranging for their employees to close. This was something that happened relatively rarely during their first few years. And then it happened frequently once they became established. And then it became rare once again as they became more and more busy. Even today, Hurry Curry was pretty much the only place to find decent Indian food on the Outer Banks. Once the word spread, they began to thrive — especially during the peak season.

Changing their routine, though, had caused a bit of confusion. When they reached their home, Jaya had just locked the car when he realized that he’d forgotten the bag of food that he had set aside as their dinner.

“I’ll just run back quickly,” he said.

“That’s okay,” Jayne said. “I’ll just make some dahl, okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” he said, unlocking the door to their home. “Thanks.”

They went inside and walked into the kitchen. It was never too enjoyable to return home to a kitchen after working in a restaurant all day. But, Jayne sensed a small window of opportunity to get Jaya into the jacket.

“Do you want to thank me truly?” she asked.

“Of course, dear. What can I do? Chop something, rinse something … what?”

“Well,” she said, pointing into their living room. “See that jacket on the chair?”

“Yeah, what is that?”

“Oh, it’s just something I borrowed from Bernice.”

Jaya walked toward it and picked it up, examining it a little. “Oh,” he said, with a glimmer of understanding, “so this is what the pirate conversation was all about earlier.”

“Exactamundo,” she said, reaching for the pressure cooker. “So, do you want to thank me for making dinner?”

“Hmm … That all depends,” he said. “What do you want?”

“I’ll make it easy on you,” she answered. “All you have to do is put on that jacket and let me see what you look like in it.”

“That’s all? It seems too easy, like this is some sort of trick. Or, I’ll put this on and then twenty people will show up for a surprise party.”

“There’s no party, Jaya,” she said. She began pouring some dried lentils into a measuring cup.

“Then, how is this thanking you?”

“Call it a cheap thrill if you must,” she answered. “I’d just like to see you in that. So, you get to thank me for making dinner and it’s totally painless for you as well.” She turned to the stove top and poured a few tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pot, unsure as to whether he might actually take her up on the suggestion.

Suddenly there were two men in the living room, in a figurative manner of speaking. There was the man who had been there the whole time — Jaya, Jayne’s husband of many years who loved his wife very much but who lived his life as though it were a race to succeed as an entrepreneur. This man was still present physically, of course. But, in a sense, there was another man in the room as well now — the man Jaya had become upon donning the jacket. Moments after inserting is right arm into the sleeve, he found that the success or failure of his Hurry Curry establishment mattered almost not at all.

It was this second man who walked into the kitchen, approaching his wife at the stove. He stood close behind her, his body in contour with hers as she tended the sautéing onions, garlic, and garam masala, which wafted their scent upward to envelop the couple in perfumed spiciness. She smiled to herself as she caught a glimpse of their reflection in the glass of a nearby cupboard, imagining herself a willingly captive slavegirl aboard a pirate vessel. What might this pirate do to her, she wondered.

He kissed her neck and it was like a broadside blast of the ship’s cannons, weakening her knees. It became difficult for her to tend to the evening meal, but she managed to add the lentils, the water, and the last few remaining ingredients. The pirate behind her began to assist in the effort, whispering a bit of factual information about the inner workings of pressure cookers — but in a flirtatious manner so that the normally mundane facts he uttered sounded more to her like age-old secrets passed down through generations of seafaring gypsies.

“The pressure cooker,” he said quietly, guiding her hands over the pot’s top with his own, “has a built-in locking mechanism for safety. And yet, the unenlightened masses avoid this type of cooking, as these cookers carry a reputation for … explosions.” He stressed the word “explosions” in a louder whisper, issuing a second broadside blast from the ship.

“But for those in the know,” he continued, “the pressure cooker is a miraculous device. Ours has a built-in valve to show the internal … pressure.” He stressed the word “pressure” as she turned to face him, leaning back onto the stove dangerously close to the flame.

He leaned in closer and continued his descriptive essay. “As the internal pressure rises inside, the external valve … rises.” He stressed the word “rises.” “And, in time, you learn to maintain this level of internal pressure almost … indefinitely.” He stressed the word “indefinitely” as they opened the hatch to their imaginary ship and descended into the dark hold below.

When the dahl was fully cooked, Jaya reached up from the floor and turned off the heat. A few minutes later, the couple mustered the energy to stand up from the linoleum and compose themselves. Jaya flipped open the manual steam release valve and super-hot pressurized steam loudly whooshed and sputtered bits of dahl for perhaps a half a minute before dying down to a low hiss lasting another thirty seconds or so. When the pressure had completely disappeared, it was safe to open the lid and any lentils that had been dry as stones only twenty minutes prior were now soft and fully cooked.

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☠️ Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog called “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He’s also contributes to various Medium.com publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. “Chapter number” background photo atop piece is adapted from “Light Reading” by Martin (Flickr, Creative Commons).