“So you’ve persuaded the famous Narcissa to join us,” I said.
It was our word tasting Zoom chat, and a few of us had already assembled – including Maury, whom I was addressing. But Narcissa was not there yet.
“Yes,” Maury said. “I did tell her when it was, and she’s usually punctual – oh, that must be her.” He looked to the side and picked something up. His phone. It had apparently vibed with a message. “Oh dear.”
“She won’t be joining us?” I said.
“No, she will, anon, but this makes me wince just a little.” He held up his phone so we could read the text message: “Sorry – will connect in a minute. Spent the afternoon pouring over cookbooks.”
Jess, in her frame, peered, then sat back. “Pouring. Oof. Good thing Margot’s not here.”
“Narcissa is usually more attentive to spelling,” Maury said. “Most odd.”
Arlene, looking over Jess’s shoulder, said, “It should be poring without a u, right?” Jess looked up at her and nodded slowly.
“Perhaps she’s saying she can live with or without u,” I said, and then sang a little quote from U2: “With or without you, ohhh…”
“More like can’t live without u,” Jess said. She had a point.
“So does this have to do with pores,” Arlene said, “like…” She held her sleeveless forearm forth to the camera.
“No,” said Maury, “that’s from Greek; this is not.”
“Germanic,” I said. “Related to peer and, somehow, I think, to spoor.”
“I’m not sure there are any real traces to connect it to spoor,” Maury said. “Just suggestive resemblances.”
“Anyway,” I said, “an old root for looking closely, examining. Not related to the word for flowing fluid.”
“It’s kind of amazing that the spelling hasn’t converged with that kind of pour,” Arlene said.
Jess looked at her. “It seems like that’s what it’s in the process of doing.”
“That was an alternate spelling in earlier centuries, too, when the spellings were less fixed,” I said.
Arlene giggled. “I just… what do people think they’re doing when they spell it that way? Do they think their attention is a fluid, and they’re pouring it over the books, or…”
She was interrupted by the boo-bleep of another person connecting. A woman, probably over 40, with carefully large hair, carefully bright lips, carefully shaded eyes, and carelessly loud glasses, appeared among us.
“Hello, Narcissa,” Maury said. “I take it you’ve been planning some cooking?”
“Hello!” Narcissa said. “Hello, hello,” she said to the others of us. “Not just planning, Maurice. I made a bundt cake, some zabaglione, and, just now, a cosmopolitan.” She raised a coupe with red liquid in it and red lip prints on it and had a sip.
“I wouldn’t think that would require too much bibliotechnical spelunking,” Maury said.
“Not at all,” Narcissa said. “Quick and dirty.”
Maury nodded. “…You said you had been poring over cookbooks.”
Narcissa looked at him over the top of her glasses – the ones on her face and the one in her hand. “Maurice.” She held up a finger, set down her glass and disappeared for a moment. She returned with three books, each one open to some spot in the middle. She held up the first: it showed a recipe for bundt cake, apparently well used, with batter droplets and smears on it. She set that down and held up the second: its glossy recipe for zabaglione was bedaubed with a streak of something frothy. She set that down and held up the third: a little red hardcover displaying a recipe for a cosmopolitan, with red liquid still dripping off it. She set that down and retook her seat. “I need a decent cookbook holder. Every time I work with liquids I end up getting some on the book.”
“Quick and dirty,” Jess said.
“Two of my favourite adjectives,” Narcissa said. “And that is why, Maurice, I said I had been pouring over cookbooks. Really, my lad… you’re usually more attentive to spelling.” She smiled slightly and raised her glass.