Tonight I made a beef stew. I poured a bit of oil into a heavy pot and waited for it to get hot. While I waited I put a bit of flour in a large bowl with some salt and pepper and then threw the beef cubes in and tossed them until they were well coated. When the oil was hot, I added the beef in two batches, watching the edges curl and the flour darken and the spatters of oil and fat fly out and land. I turned my back on the beef and chopped an onion into medium dice and then I minced four cloves of garlic. I pulled a tube of tomato paste out of the refrigerator and rolled it up like toothpaste until it squirted out the top. The beef was browned in two batches, removed and sitting on a plate, the oil in the pot the burnt bits of beef then more oil and the onions and the garlic and the tomato paste stirred all together until fragrant. I poured some water in, then, and scraped up the brown bits (my favorite words italicized, if you didn't notice) and added the seared beef and cut in half many fingerlings and the few parsnips still, still sitting in the fridge old yet not withered not aged still crisp cut into two inch sticks and put them all in some more salt and pepper and put the lid on the pot and put the pot in the oven where the whole mess of it cooked for over an hour until the beef fell apart with a fork and the fingerlings melted in the mouth like butter and the parsnips like butter and the broth rich but not too rich and very redolent.
Last week I went up on a stand in a courthouse in a city to make a rebuttal. I had been accused of something of many somethings and there was nothing left to do but tell a story the only story I have to tell, actually, the story the truth the truth the story. I described a tree in my backyard where each day I pluck diapers the diapers my daughter needs to keep her dry to keep her clean. The diapers grow on this tree and have grown on this tree for the twenty years we have lived in this house, faithfully they've grown through seasons this tree these branches releasing their fruit to my hand with the gentlest of tugs and faithfully I have tended the tree, cut back its branches and fed the earth from which it has grown so that it grows the diapers that keep my daughter dry and keep my daughter clean. Never has there been a day that the tree was empty of diapers and each day I've gone to the tree and thanked the tree and reached up for its diapers. The branches of the tree bow toward me they are gentle so gentle they provide the diapers that keep my daughter dry and keep my daughter clean. I lay my hand on the trunk while I reach I steady myself while I reach by laying my hand on the trunk and sometimes my cheek and the trunk is rough against my cheek, is harsh against my cheek but the branches bend easily and the diapers release they fall softly into my hand my other hand that reaches for one, for one diaper through all the days and all the seasons the tree bears fruit, I said. Or diapers, I said. I meant. I meant diapers, the diapers that keep my daughter dry that keep my daughter clean.