(This is Part II of an earlier post about taking on technology one blog and bonbon at a time.)
I put on my black vinyl gloves, picked up the gun and took aim. When it was over there would be a terrible mess to clean up, but it was clear there was no other way. Still, I was afraid to squeeze the trigger, afraid that once I did I’d lose control completely and destroy everything in sight. I had become a casualty of my own reckless ambition, my own determination to master something I knew nothing about, something best left alone by us amateurs and pretenders. My mimicry was about to catch up to me, I knew, but now, the gun in my hand, the target readied, there was no other way. “This is it!” I announced, and squeezed the trigger.
Nothing happened. Unless you count the air. A steady blast of air shot through the airbrush, but the muddy-colored cocoa butter just sloshed idly around in its little glass jar, as if it were napping. What was I thinking, teaching myself to use an airbrush? I might as well have taught myself brain surgery, what with these teeny tiny little hoses no bigger than neurons and itty bitty screw caps better suited to a Barbie doll’s hands than an actual human.
The very thought of my own foolish efforts to figure it out as I went along just made me angry, and so I squeezed the trigger again and this time I really meant it. The air blasted from the airbrush and I went at it, covering every nook and cranny of that hapless polycarbonate mold with fresh-blasted canned air, absolutely convinced that just because I couldn’t see it, it didn’t mean the cocoa dye wasn’t coming out. But it wasn’t coming out.
“You’re just wasting air,” Mira said, clearly bored and unimpressed. “The cocoa butter is probably clogging it.” Naturally, such an astute observation was hardly what I wanted to hear. I wanted her to say, “The cocoa butter is probably hateful and the airbrush designed by Norman Love to be impossible for anyone but him and Christopher Elbow to master so the entire world’s population will believe they alone hold the secret to making the world’s most exquisite chocolates.” But she didn’t say that. She just said I should unclog the nozzle.
“No, it’s not that!” I snapped like a psychotic step mother. “I melted the cocoa butter to a hundred degrees, it can’t clog. This thing is just useless!” I unscrewed the cap, shook it silly, squinted and held it up to the window light and peered inside the little nano-sized tube and cursed. It has been said, by Buddhists mostly, that we humans do not become angry at things, but only at people, as if that’s silly. Obviously, anyone who buys that nonsense has never assembled a three hundred dollar bookshelf with enclosed toy ratchet set or tried to operate the remote control the cable company supplied. I’ve seen grown men smash power tools with claw hammers and grown women wrestle vacuum cleaners into submission. I even knew a professor of religion who tossed his computer out of a third story window during a momentary crisis of faith. If I was a thing in the path of a human I’d be damned sure to act properly or face the sad fact that my molecules might soon be misshapen. People might get mad at other people, but when we get mad at things, we go insane.
And so it was that I decided in the sliver of a second that if this airbrush didn’t shape up, it was about to suffer my near fully focused wrath as I became increasingly determined to force the colored cocoa butter up the whisker-thin tube and into the atmosphere in a microscopic splattering of green-infused air. Or not.
“I’ll get you a toothpick,” Mira calmly offered.
“A toothpick won’t work,” I wailed, “I need a needle, GET ME A NEEDLE!” I howled like a junkie. It was not a request but a demand, as my anger at the airbrush whipped its way toward her direction.
“Where?” she asked, reasonably.
“In the sewing kit!” I retorted, unreasonably. “Hurry! My cocoa butter’s cooling!”
“Where’s the sewing kit?” she asked, again reasonably.
“How would I know?” I screamed, now irrationally, “Move fast!!”
She disappeared, wisely, before I aimed the airbrush at her and shot her full of pricey air. She returned seconds later with an array of needles, but only the finest of them all, a needle no bigger than a strand of hair, would fit through the tiny opening. I pushed it in first through the top of the little air valve, then through the bottom of the feeder tube, but there didn’t appear to be anything in there. Just air. Probably not even the store-bought air, I figured, but the free polluted air, with teensy tiney particulate matter clogging up my little bitty hose.
As I fiddled and fretted and blasted more air at the trembling molds, Mira told me to calm down. It was a sensible command, but calming down would mean accepting that the airbrush was neutral and I was the one not working right. I thought about it a moment, blasted another long hard shot of air at the molds, and cursed again.
“Mom, this is not helping you and you are just wasting the air. It’s too expensive to waste.”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” I shouted back like a teenager.
“Okay, use up all your air, see where that gets you,” she responded like a parent.
“Don’t talk to me that way!” I bellowed. “Talk to me that way one more time and I’ll . . .”
I’ll what? Punish her for remaining calm and rational through my battle with technology?
“I’ll . . .” I kept thinking, then finally said, “do something horrible.” That pretty much summed up my sentiment, but not my intent. Still, I couldn’t say it with a straight face. I was not about to relinquish my power by letting my anger go, so I held back the laughter that was fighting to break out of me, forced it back down just like the cocoa butter that wouldn’t come out.
But laughter is very unlike cocoa butter, I discovered. It doesn’t harden with time, it softens, spreads, then explodes.
First a giggle mixed with mean words. “I mean it. I’ll do something, something really horrible!” Giggle giggle, forced frown.
“Oh really?” she said, starting to giggle herself, “like what? Like the time I was late for school so you threatened to drive there without me? Something horrible like that?”
“Yeah!” I said, “Something like that.” It’s hard to make a convincing threat when you are really a nice person, especially when the person you are threatening is even nicer.
Then the laughter shot from my face and blew itself all over the room, laughs whizzing through the air and bouncing off the wall like atomic mishaps. Mira joined in, and soon we were falling over the counters, onto the floor, gasping for breath, the airbrush still in my hand. The can of over-priced air fell on the counter with a near-empty tin clatter, knocking over the bottles of dye which rolled onto the floor for the cat to pounce upon and bat into the bedroom.
When we finally calmed down, Mira said, “It’s a good thing, really. That shade of green you mixed is hideous. It looks like throw up.”
“Don’t tell me how to mix colors!” I snapped, then giggled again. Her artwork is appearing in the Seattle Art Museum next month, while I tried to make green with orange and blue.
“Okay,” she sighed, surrendering to my logic. “By the time you figure out that airbrush, the cocoa butter will have grown mold and then you’ll have the right shade of green.”
I shooed her out of the kitchen and as soon as she was out of sight I poured the cocoa butter into the trash. She was right, once again.
Then I turned back to my molds. They still needed to be filled, and I had a brilliant idea . . .
(Stay tuned for Part III – All That Glitters is Not Cocoa . . .)