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TWO WORDS/Mo//y Giles ROY GOT UPAT FTVE to start cooking for the firemen. He had been getting up at dawn for weeks now anyway, ever since the last seizure, but usually he just read his affirmations and practiced tai chi in front of the turned-off television set. Today he wanted to talk. He couldn't wake Jill; she needed her sleep, and as their marriage counselor had pointed out, she also needed plain and simple "time out" because Roy (and Roy knew this and was sorry) was driving her crazy. So Roy slipped out of bed and went to his daughter's room. Baby Tess lifted her arms and allowed herself to be carried to the kitchen, but she squirmed and covered her ears with her blanket the minute he opened his mouth, so Roy had no choice but to address God as he understood Him. Or Her. For Roy's God was a girl, about twelve years old, slim and lazy with lit, dewy eyes and sharp little teeth. She could be generous and fond one minute and casually vicious the next. He had felt Her sour breath on his neck since his childhood but had only named her God and honored Her as such since the diagnosis of his brain tumor six months ago. By trial and error he had also discovered, at about the same time, that the best way to treat Her was with extravagant respect. No matter how badly She herselfbehaved, She expected good manners from him. She especially liked to be thanked. Thank you, God, he said silently, sitting naked on the kitchen floor among the tumbled cookbooks with his palms turned up and his closed eyelids jumping as fast as his pulse,for all the people I've known who are up there with you now, including (he counted) mother,father, stepmother one, stepmother two and Leslie, poor Leslie. May they be filled with lovingkindness. And in the meantime, thank you for keeping me awayfrom them and letting me live with these beloved strangers down here a while longer. Thank you for the Zen Center, the Positive Center, WellSpring and Esalen. Thank youfor chemo and radiation and antidepressants and aspirin and medical insurance. Thank you for all the doctors, even the last one. He paused and passed one hand over his bald head, pleased as always by the plush resilience of skin over skull. Thank youfor giving me a nice round head. Thank you for making it the color of mozzarella. Thinking of mozzarella made him remember the lasagna he had promised the firemen. Thank you, he finished, palms tingling, eyelids twitching, Baby Tess poking at the dragonfly tattoo on his thigh,for helping mefind the right recipe. 138 · The Missouri Review He had spent the day before at the library, going through cookbooks. He had explained to the librarians that he wanted a recipe that was saucy and cheesy and rich, and it was astonishing to both him and the two helpful women how many so-called good cookbooks called for low-fat cottage cheese in place ofricotta, yogurtin place of white sauce, ground turkey or even sliced zucchini in place of sausage and beef. Some chefs used no salt; others relied on orégano only, and none gave directions for making the noodles from scratch. He had no luck finding the recipe he'd used as a boy, working alone in his father's bachelor apartment, but Martha Stewart, of all people, had a cookbook that offered a passable compromise, and ifhe combined it with recipes from four other books, he knew he'd have a killer dish, fit for firemen. "Roy!" Jill said, coming into the kitchen. "What are you doing?" She stopped. The marriage counselor had told her not to assign blame. "Are you all right?" she asked, her voice intent on softening. "Tm fine." Roy opened his eyes, flexed his palms and smiled. He always smiled when he saw Jill. She was so pretty and young and quick. Her eyes matched the blue of her bathrobe, the blue of the ribbon around her long, drooping ponytail. She was the best thing that had ever happened...