A Taste of Reality

On Sunday morning last, I woke to find a breakfast tray on my bedside table with Giles nowhere in sight. It was most peculiar...

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Phoebe Wyoming | Illustration by Guy Junker

kitchen illustrationOn Sunday morning last, I woke to find a breakfast tray on my bedside table with Giles nowhere in sight. It was most peculiar, as Giles detests clearing crumbs from my sheets and insists on more decorous dining at table. As I sat up and bit into toast points slathered in paté and poached eggs with hollandaise and chervil and quaffed from a delicate pitcher of Green Eye Openers, I wondered what could be afoot.

Soon after, I settled down to my iMac and the slew of Phoe-mails I receive daily from far-flung friends and shady pharmaceutical reps. A new message had come in from a business cohort of Giles, and my earlier suspicion crystallized into something more sinister. In my state, I accidentally clicked on the message, which opened without hesitation, almost begging me to read it.

“Great Mother-of-Pearl!” I exclaimed to no one in particular. Giles had been asked to be a contestant on one of those reality cooking TV shows where sweaty, sleep-deprived chefs toil in front of a panel of foul-tempered judges who throw around phrases like “mise-en-place” and “mouth-feel.” I grabbed a little silver bell and tinkled excitedly.

Giles appeared at the door of my boudoir, looking sheepish, which I forgave because his modesty was genuine, and because breakfast had been so unimpeachable. The man is a marvelous chef, and his cuisine has been thoroughly processed by many notable social butterflies, all who claim to love it.

“Giles, darling, your big break!” I enthused, caught up in a not-unfamiliar tizzy of glitz. I am a naturally supportive person, and I was thrilled for Giles and his success. I also knew that seeing someone driven to the brink of a breakdown on national television had an almost universal appeal. “Of course we’ll get you on the first flight to New York!”

“But, Miss . . . ” Giles began as he moved into my inner sanctum. “I’ve decided not to compete.” His answer was as short as he is, and he managed to irk the panooge right out of me.

“Why ever not?” I demanded, feeling entitled, which I’ve noticed is a very fashionable and unpleasant tendency these days. “What could possess you to turn down such a golden opportunity to fulfill your promise? Is it fear? Self-doubt? Threatening phone calls from Emeril?” I found myself getting steamed.

“It’s just that . . . ” Giles attempted to interject, but I was on a roll. I lunged for the TV remote and flipped the set on with a deft motion of my wrist.

“Look, darling—practically every station devoted to cuisine!” I flipped through channels quickly and managed to come up with a history of the prune danish, Rachael Ray grunting “MMM-yummy!” for the umpteenth time (over what looked like a platter of deep-fried meadow muffins), a commercial that featured fruits and vegetables harassing a sad chocolate-chip cookie, and a man talking earnestly about draining his nuts. I had all I could do to focus on the matter at hand, but I continued my bullying.

“Tripe!” I pronounced. “You simply must reconsider, man! You are better than all of them! If you don’t go on, perhaps I will!”

I thought I’d make a fine addition to any reality program. I am one of the most fascinating people I know. I am TV, I realized. And at least with Phoebe Wyoming, there’s always something on.

But Giles, as is his habit, switched the channel off just as I was starting to enjoy the program. “I couldn’t leave you,” he stated simply, and despite my irritation at his interruption of my fantasy, I calmed a bit. “And I don’t want to be away from Maui. We came here to leave that kind of chaos and stress behind. I enjoy our quieter life here, and wouldn’t trade it for fame or fortune.”

This kind of eloquence from Giles was rare, and I knew he had, in fact, thought the situation through. He believed in himself as much as I believed in myself and, of course, in him. As prone to the fantastic as I am, my dear Giles is my reality, bless him, and I suppose I’m grateful.

“I wouldn’t trade it away either, darling,” I said gently, and rose to give him a quick squash. The faint odor of the kitchen clung to his jacket, and my tummy grumbled. “Now, shall we have some lunch?”

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