They were used to George acting strange because, well -- he was George. But lately, particularly the past few days, he'd notched it up a few levels, hunched over his computer muttering to himself, a notepad at his side as he furiously jotted things down. One day, he walked in with a mountain of books that nearly arced over his head; the next, he came in with an enormous sheaf of photocopied pages, trying to read them as he walked up the stairs, a higherlighter pen cap sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he shakily ran the fluorescent tip over the page. The refrigerator door became populated with cryptic notecards, scrawled with things like Shop with the mean lady clerk has the best eggs and To raisin or not to raisin? That is the question. Mitchell walked in one afternoon to find George with his head crammed in the oven, though Annie quickly reassured him that George was just cleaning it. Bits of grime flew out from his spirited scrubbing like dirty hail.
Then Mitchell noticed two days circled on George's calendar, and Annie saw that there was a new number added to George's life list that said Rosh Hashanah? and when he wasn't around, they exchanged looks, wondering. They'd also noticed that the past few months it seemed like something had unwound inside of George, that little tidbits about life before he'd met them would slip out -- and he wouldn't immediately tighten up afterwards, the way he had before, as if the remembering had been physically painful for him. Annie held her breath when George said the words my mother, and Mitchell teased her afterwards when she exhaled in a great whoosh, reminding her that she didn't even need to pretend to breathe. But the next day he went into George's room and casually started leafing through The Guide to Kneading. Annie didn't make fun when she caught him; she picked up Bread for Beginners and sat next to him, her legs crossed, cooing over the beautiful pictures.
And if they both happened to come home early on the first circled date, well, that wasn't too unusual, and it certainly wasn't strange that they both went to investigate when they heard George banging around the kitchen, opening and shutting cabinets like he was beating out a percussive call. It was only natural that Annie offered to pour the flour while George stirred the eggs, oil, yeast, sugar and salt -- he only had two hands, after all, and no one had ever accused him of being too coordinated. Mitchell was hopeless at kneading, although he gave it a valiant shot; Annie walked her fingertips over his bare knuckles, commenting that they looked naked without his gloves. George methodically referenced dozens of different recipe books and his wall of notecards; they unanimously decided on raisins. He popped a few into his mouth with a bright smile, glad to have that settled. Mitchell laughed at the long list of pros and cons he'd written up, but Annie said she thought it was wonderful.
Somewhere in the middle of their meandering conversation while the dough was rising, George talked about his family for seconds that turned into minutes, and minutes that turned into stories. He laughed when he recounted the wonderful smell of Friday afternoons, and Annie and Mitchell listened, forgetting to wonder why George still steadfastly looked away every time they passed a synagogue. It wasn't long before it was time for raisins, and the resulting round was lightly dusted with thirty fingerprints.
The smell that filled the house was indescribably wonderful.
"It's a new year," George said solemnly and happily when the bread was done, and in his gentle grip it broke easily into three pieces.