I sit in my office listening to the smoke alarm chirp. Or cheep, more accurately. It's a high-pitched sound, more piccolo than sparrow.
The house isn't on fire (I don't think). Nevertheless, the fact that I'm sitting here writing rather than dragging the step stool upstairs to change the battery speaks volumes.
Outside, a neighbor's A/C buzzes. It's still summer after all, and San Jose's hot.
I hear a siren in the distance and for a minute I wonder if my house really is on fire.
Weee ongggg. Weee ongggg.
But soon, it fades. The EMTs are off to save a different person in a different house, one who's doing something more dangerous than sitting at her computer.
Cheep. Buzz. Weee ongggg. Cheep. Buzz. Weee ongggg. Cheep. Buzz. Cheep. Buzz. Cheep. Buzz.
The trees outside my window are still very green, except the tippy tops. The tops cast a yellow glow as the wind nudges them towards the sun. A few birds glide about, and when they talk, I'm finally sure they're speaking a different language than the smoke detector. They're chirping; it's cheeping.
Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Cheep. Buzz. Chirp.
A gate creaks open. It's not mine, but I hear it. My street's L-shaped, and I'm nearish to the L's right angle, so when something happens in that spot, I can hear it when my window's open.
Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Creak. Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Creak. Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Creak.
I nibble Cheez-Its. One after another after another. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
It's not my fault.
We had a block party on Monday, and someone left a huge container of Cheez-Its behind. My husband was the last to clean up, so he brought in all the trash and leftover food. He transferred the Cheez-Its to a zip-top bag and put it where I could find it. Or at least where I could see it and not unsee it once I'd seen it.
He's a good man.
I haven't eaten Cheez-Its in years.
They taste like orange salt.
I picture an orange sea, somewhere far. On its banks, tall pillars of Cheez-It salt wait to be hand-harvested. The seafaring salt-harvesters all have orange fingers, much as I do now. Like henna. But instead of fading over time, the color deepens.
Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Creak. Crunch. Cheep. Buzz. Chirp. Creak. Crunch.
I finally get up.
To quiet my mind I change the soundtrack.
I mute the smoke detector, the birds, the A/C, the siren, the gate, and finally, haltingly, the Cheez-Its.
I choose the chop of a knife, the click of a gas stove, the sizzle of oozing brie as its insides melt, splattering the red-hot base of my trusty cast-iron pan.
Recipe for Squash Blossom Quesadillas with radicchio, avocado and brie
A skosh bitter and creamy from both brie and avocado, these slap-together, end-of-summer quesadillas make quick work of any squash blossoms still scattered throughout your garden. I'm partial to corn tortillas, but small flour tortillas will work just fine.
Olive oil cooking spray, or a light brushing of oil
Eight 6" corn tortillas
A handful of squash blossoms, gently cleaned, rough-chopped
1/4 small head radicchio, cored, shredded crosswise
1 scant cup diced brie (about 4 ounces)
1 small avocado, thinly sliced
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until hot but not smoking.
On a work surface, generously coat the tops-only of all 8 tortillas with cooking spray (or lightly brush with oil). Flip 4 of the tortillas over; these will now be the bottoms.
Depending on the size of your skillet, you can make all 4 quesadillas at once, or work in batches.
Transfer the tortilla bottom(s) to the skillet, sprayed-side down. Top with one-quarter each of the squash blossoms, radicchio, brie, and avocado, making sure not to pile the filling too high. (Extras can be stirred together to make a unique salsa or little salad.) Cover with the tortilla tops, sprayed-side up.
Cook about 5 minutes total, flipping once and pressing gently on the tops with a spatula, until the cheese melts and both the top and the bottom are golden brown. Let stand for 1 minute before slicing into wedges.