Now, miles from Manhattan, Bibi vowed to push all thoughts of Candy Danzinger out of her mind. She quietly made her way down to the kitchen, needing her cup of coffee as much as she needed to feed her compulsion to wipe down the kitchen counters with the fresh pink sponge awaiting her grip on its spiky little plastic altar. Flipping on the lights, Bibi was startled to find her small granddaughter peering into the opened refrigerator.
"Lord, child, what you be doing up out of your bed this early in the morning? Close that door!"
"I'm hungry, Grandmamma," Penny said as she continued to hold the door open with her skinny left arm.
"Now that be because you didn't eat any dinner last night, child...why you not eat the chicken curry I make last night? All you eat is the roti!"
"It was too spicy! I just like plain chicken, like McNuggets!"
Oh, but this child worried Bibi. Such waste! Such a little American! What sort of country produces offspring who prefer colorless lard-encrusted turds to beautiful pink chicken lovingly prepared fresh by their Grandmamma? Last night after another dinner that Penny refused to even try, Bibi brought the girl into the kitchen, her head hot with frustration and laid out all of the ingredients for the girl to see. The slinky of thin gold bracelets on her right arm shook in harmony as Bibi slammed the ingredients for chicken curry one by one on the freckled counter. Onions! Clink! Tomato! Clink! Garlic! Clink! Bay leaves! Clink! Cinnamon! Clink! Cloves! Clink! Paprika! Clink! Curry powder! Clink! When Bibi demanded that Penny sniff each one, that she feel the fleshy firmness of the tomato, and run her fingers through the silky powder of the curry, Penny weakly pretended to gag.
Bibi blamed the landscape. As a child she grew up racing down a gleaming white concrete sea wall, against a back drop of the Atlantic Ocean. After school she would eat green mangoes sprinkled with salt and pepper and the sticky juice would creep down her chin leaving her with an imaginary beard that her mother would gruffly wash off. She lived in a neighborhood of houses painted like the colors of a child's Easter Basket, trees swooping over property lines, fences unheard of. In America, the children started their day staring at a flat tapestry of red, white, and blue, in cinderblocked rooms painted the color of dirty dishwater, arms folded against their chests, isolating their hearts from one another. Here they built buildings out of sooty yellow limestone, the children subsisted primarily on white foods, the best colors were made electronically. Penny, Bibi's first and only grandchild, represented everything that Bibi sacrificed by moving to New York: Penny had opportunity but it was not in her to truly appreciate it.
"Come girl, come sit with Grandmamma and have some cereal while I make my coffee." Bibi got a box of corn flakes and a single paper filter down from the cabinet shelf above the coffee pot, took a clean bowl and spoon from the drying rack, and got the plastic jug of milk and ground coffee out of the refrigerator. Penny sat on a wooden kitchen chair with her legs tucked up under her pink nightgown and pulled at a loose thread from the yellow chiffon curtain that framed the window. Bibi filled the bowl half way with the cereal, spooned out three piles of coffee into the filter, poured milk into the cereal, and wiped the spoon off on her nightgown and dunked it into the cereal bowl before delivering it to Penny.
"Grandmamma, can you tell me about Mad John again?" Penny asked as Bibi poured water into the coffee maker.
Now that Penny was a vocal five-year-old, Bibi contemplated if she should oblige the girl's wish. Penny's mother, Angelique, constantly critiqued Bibi for filling Penny's head with stories of deranged lunatics from the past. For Bibi however, the stories were her only way of showing Penny what a weird and unpredictable world they existed in. She needed Penny to know that life was not so easy; not so easy to just "go with the flow," as they said in America.