The Grass is Singing (Doris Lessing)

The arrival of the golden triangles broke my concentration. I had pretty much come to the conclusion that all of my favorite restaurants have vowel-ending names. My stomach had been rumbling pretty loudly as I scrolled through my favorite eateries in my mind. These golden triangles -- samosa filling inside egg roll wrapping folded like a flag -- are an addiction from Mandalay. Bambule, Udupi, Fado, and Costa Elegre all end in vowels, too. I was trying to decide whether Siri's truly matched the hypothetical pattern when the delicious appetizer arrived.

Sadly, the golden triangles were accompanied by my imaginary friend Bertie.

"Wow, this place is twice as big as it was in College Park," Bertie said and dipped a triangle into the orange-colored sauce. Mandalay originated in College Park, but were forced to new digs in Silver Spring because of, well, simple gross stupidity on the part of College Park's leadership.

"And it still fills up," I said and moved the plate closer to myself.

"Look, I need your help," Bertie said after he had made a second triangle disappear. I merely raised my eyebrows. "Yeah, see, I've got this radio gig to review a book."

"Oh?" I said, more surprised by this than by anything he has ever said. "What book?"

"The Grass is Singing, by Doris Lessing," he said.

I pulled the orange-colored sauce away from him, too, and asked, "What are you going to say about it?"

"I was thinking of starting like this: 'In a fit of drug-induced psychedelia not seen since that Naked Lunch guy and Hunter Thompson shared a trunk in Del Rio, Ms. Lessing presents the inner barkings of people we just cannot understand.' But I have changed my mind."

"Ah," was all I could summon up.

"Now, I think I'll go with the science fiction angle," he said. No matter how often I vow to myself not to play along, he just says things that leave me not choice but to respond.

"SF angle?" I ask, squeakily.

"Yeah, I'll go, 'This is a nice attempt at humanity's inability to feel at home in an alien landscape, what with the grass singing all night long and all. But in the end this is merely a pale imitation of The Songs of Distant Earth."

While I stared at him (mouth open, no doubt) trying to figure out where to begin, he snatched my last golden triangle.

"So, you, uh, need me to, what? Maybe tell you that The Grass is Singing cannot be an imitation because it came out 36 years before Clarke's book?" I sputtered. "Or is it that you need to be told that it can't be an imitation because IT ISN'T EVEN SCIENCE FICTION? Or, perhaps, just maybe, you need my help in understanding that The Grass is Singing was actually a brave work about race relations and colonialism written in the '50s by a colonial white woman?" I paused for breath. "Did you even glance at the book?"

"Of course not," he said, seeming somewhat surprised that I might ask. "My shtick is going to be that I'm reviewing books by the title alone. It works much better if I haven't read the book."

I shook my head, which was pretty difficult because I was also trying to hold it firmly with both my hands. "So, what is that you need me for?"

"A ride," he said. "Can you give me a lift to the station tomorrow?"

"Uh, I guess," I muttered. Why can't I get a gig at a radio station?

"Great," he said. "I've been thinking about one of your favorite restaurants. Why don't you pick me up there?"

"Which one is that?" I asked.

"Moby Dick," he said, then left me alone with my broken restaurant taxonomy. Darn those kabobs, anyway.

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