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To pass the time we played Monopoly. Exactly two hours later I was building hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place and Harry was in jail. I sent him out to the kitchen to check on the incubator. He came back looking pleased. Without a word he picked up the dice, shot doubles and got out of jail.
"How are things in the incubator?" I asked.
"The baby is dead," said Harry. He was right. The yogurt looked drizzly—just like my mother's lemon meringue pie. Harry took me out to dinner and a movie.
In the days that followed I continued to attend, though on a purposely erratic schedule, my judo classes. I came and went at odd times, sometimes missing Lady Goliath by only minutes. Word filtered through to me that she was perfecting her inner-thigh throw, the uchimata technique seldom used by ladies. She had no way of knowing, of course, that I had a new technique, too; that my intestinal tract was awash daily with carrot juice, that my digestive juices were grappling with muscle-building proteins, that in the end her inner-thigh throw would be no match for my toasted tiddley-winks.
There had been, I confess, a slight accident with the aduki beans. I had set them on top of the refrigerator to soak one night, and had, unfortunately, forgotten they were there. Out of sight, out of mind. I am too short to see the top of my refrigerator. When the water became stagnant, filling the kitchen with a terrible odor, the beans had to be discarded and the room aired. No matter. I had never looked or felt better. My eyes were bright, my cheeks glowing. Harry said it was the pink light bulb I had installed over the mirror in the bathroom, but I knew it was the escarole sifted through my mixed greens.
It was two weeks after the yogurt fiasco that I was hard at work in my kitchen again. This was Operation Vegetable Juice. In a paperback handbook that had come with my two-speed blender some years before I found a recipe for Sunshine Cocktail. My blender was old and creaky, but I thought it capable of cranking up a little juice. I chose the simplest combination, passing up the more exotic beverages listed, such as the Mocha Bounce, the Prune Cider Teaser, the Polka-Dot Punch and the Fresh Plum Smoothee. The Sunshine Cocktail required mundane ingredients: a carrot scrubbed and cut into thirds, one-fourth of an apple with core and peeling, half a banana, a stalk of celery with leaves, one half-inch slice of unpeeled cucumber, a fourth of a lemon with peeling, a fourth of an orange without peeling, a one-inch square of green pepper, a teaspoon of raisins, a teaspoon of salted nuts and two cups of pineapple juice. When I got through there were a lot of wounded vegetables lying around.
Following instructions carefully, I poured the pineapple juice into the blender and dropped in the pieces of carrot, turning the switch to high speed. Nothing happened, but a thwack on the side of the blender got it started, slowly. The carrot swam around in the juice, looking like Jacques Cousteau in an underwater movie. In went the other ingredients, one by one, and the blender picked up speed. "Continue to blend until the ice is melted," I read. The body of the recipe had made no mention of ice. Better late than never. I took three cubes out of my ice tray and tossed them into the blender, which was now groaning like a man pushing boulders up a hill. Then I clapped on the lid. As the ice hit the blades I heard an explosion, and a fine spray of pineapple juice traveled upward. It was the root beer thing all over again. The lid of the blender shot in the air, clung to the ceiling momentarily, then dropped to the tile floor. Sunshine was running out of a wide gap at the bottom of what was left of the container. Then the doorbell rang. It was George, the building superintendent. Like most caretakers of Manhattan apartment houses, George has limitations. He has, in fact, a wooden leg and two fingers missing from each hand, but there was apparently nothing wrong with his hearing.
"I was out in the hall," he said, stumping after me as I returned to the scene of the disaster. Then surveying a wide streak of pineapple juice that was sliding down the wall, he said, "Oh, are you painting the kitchen?"
That evening in judo Lady Goliath finally caught up with me, sidling unnoticed onto the mat.
"About our match," she said. I gave her my most winning martial smile. "I'd love to," I replied, "but as you can see I'm about to work out with this 6-year-old and...."