Mrs. Molasses tasted the apple and it was good. Sweetness tasted the apple nd it was sweet. Mother and daughter agreed; honeydew was a far better apple than the pomegranates they were touting at Fisher’s Fresh Fruit. They were too seedy. Mrs. Molasses bought all her vegetables in the Garden of Arden. They had two rocking chairs on the front porch where you could sit all morning if you took a hankering to it. They rocked comfortably back and forth and talked about Mr. Molasses’ latest ‘blooming, buzzing confusion’, Cumberbatch, Sweetness and Molasses, while waiting for Mr. Molasses. He was getting a ‘surprise’ for Mrs. Molasses, and he was being cute, for everybody knew what the surprise was: a lemon meringue pie. Mrs. Molasses worshipped lemon meringue, and Arden made one of the best around. “If you have a lemon, go ahead and make lemonade. Buy your pie in the Arden Garden”.
Now if you are wondering about that ‘Sweetness’ that has suddenly appeared in what used to be Cumberbatch and Molasses, then I haven’t described Sweetness adequately to you.
The Molasses were meeting with Benedict in Johns in the East Village to firm up their agreement. Mrs. Molasses had brought The Deitchler Bank aboard to arrange the financing, and they were about to sign the contract—when Sweetness waltzed in. She was wearing those jeans that looked painted on and an old sweater which wonderfully highlighted her considerable cleavage. What a set up! Benedict nearly fell on the floor. He had heard stories about the remarkable Sweetness, but nothing duplicates the experience of actually meeting her. Sweetness can be very formal, she can be distant, she can be any number of things—and Benedict fell in love with all of them. Soft streams wended their way through her silken field, a ripening flower-filled landscape that smelled of sweetness. Yes, Sweetness. Sweetness, Sweetness. She is to imagination what waiting to be born is to most people. Sweetness attended Yale. Sweetness is writing her dissertation on the Poetics of Sweetness. And, yes, Sweetness could be part of the production team. Benedict would have made her CEO if she wanted it.
But she didn’t. She would work as a humble assistant to her father. Sweetness smiled at Benedict.
The waiters in John’s are known for their tact. They could tell when the business part of dinner was over—generally conducted over the antipasto—which was one of the best the city had to offer—and a nice light Chianti—then onto the serious business of eating. Mr. Molasses knew he shouldn’t over-do it. He had gained almost ten pounds in the last month, and he had not recovered from the loss of his finger. He had lost a lot of blood—and he didn’t want to replace blood with sugar; but the cannoli in John’s were world famous, and justly so. And they were celebrating the creation of a new partnership. Besides, he just felt like eating…
But—Oh Lord—it was tough getting home that night. Mr. Molasses trudged down the steps in Penn Station as if he were as big as the Stay Puff ghost in Ghost Busters; he could barely move; he felt like he was a garbage barge moving slowly up stream in February; the ice flows that circled around him were like falcons turning and spinning in the night.
Sweetness had a late-night date. She was meeting ‘somebody’—she wouldn’t say who. Sweetness was generally reticent about her boyfriends. All she would say is, there are no real contenders at the moment. Sweetness would have married Harold Bloom in a thrice—if he hadn’t been 60 years older than she, and happily married. Oh, there were rumors about him when he had been a young scholar on the make, but Sweetness didn’t believe them. Harold called Sweetness ‘my dear’, and she was—but then Harold called the garbagemen ‘my dear’. He called the kid who delivered the morning paper, ‘my dear’. The only person he didn’t call, ‘my dear’ was his wife, and he called her Mrs. Bloom.
Benedict volunteered to walk Sweetness across town, but Sweetness turned him down. Sweetness was going to meet someone who called himself the New Nostradamus. She didn’t know too much about him except what a fellow graduate student, Demonté Pierce told her. She had to do something with the pound of flesh she had found in the crisper; she was pretty sure that her father had put it there; he didn’t seem to have much interest in it, however. Sweetness was full of speculation. She thought it was a woman’s breast but time and decay had rendered this uncertain, maybe even ridiculous; her father was not that kind of man. That it was a woman’s breast, one that had been surgically removed, was just an intuition. But it looked like the work of a skilled plastic surgeon and it was beautiful. She figured she could get 500 dollars for it easy.
The new Nostradamus looked like the old Nostradamus. He had a neatly trimmed beard and wild eyebrows. According to the website she had looked at, the first Nostradamus has predicted everything from the assignation of Vladimir Putin to the collapse of the stock market. He had even predicted that there would be a new Pope. And look at this one:
The great plague of the city will not cease until there be avenged the death of the just blood, condemned for a price without crime, Of the great lady outraged by pretense. Brothers and sisters captive in diverse places.
The old Nostradamus lived in the first half of the 16th century. He had preceded Shakespeare by some 50 years, a mere drop in the bucket of time. Sweetness knew that in Prejudice 101, Mr. Molasses argued that the prejudices that came to prominence in the 19th and 20th centuries were nascent in the 15th and 16th centuries. Mr. Molasses had blamed the skepticism that had manifested itself so predominantly in the writings of Descartes for the mental climate that resulted in the treatment of the slaves in the U.S. in the 19th Century and mass murder of the Jews in the 20th century.
Sweetness agreed with him in so far as he went, but Sweetness also wanted to look at the European conquest of the new world, the great genocide that had led to the killing of 90 percent of the indigenous population of North, Central and South America in the 15th century.
Sweetness had expected eccentricity from the New Nostradamus, she had expected slovenliness, and a pseudo-hipness that most street people affected, but not brains. He got ‘the pound of flesh’ thing right away. He got the Merchant of Vengeance thing right away. Sweetness felt an odd attraction to him. He seemed vulnerable. He seemed peaceful. He seemed sweet. And he was willing to buy the beast right now (And, yes, he had said ‘beast’). Sight unseen. He offered her a human brain and two free tickets to see the new production of Frankenstein. It was in a limited run at the Public Theater, and it starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. Had she heard of him?