Once upon a time an old woman fell asleep. She woke up by the cats living in her
house. One of them was much larger and much more deliberate than the rest. When he stood on
his hind legs, he was about the size of a toddler. He leaned over to the woman and prodded her
gently on the arm. He whispered, "Psssst. Wake up. Hey. Wake up."
He took her by the hand and led her out the door. She didn't ask where they were going. They walked down the block, and as they did, he grew larger. The flour in her hair ruffled as she
walked, dusting her shoulders. They went by the town's lake and stood there, looking out at it, for
a long time. When the sun came up, they were at equal heights. They went into the water together;
he grew exponentially larger. He was never able to submerge fully into the water with her. His
paws eventually grew too large to grab her hand, and so he left her there at the bottom where she
was out of sight. In time she'd float to the surface, he thought.
Tell me everything you know about Gloria Field:
"She's forgotten who and where she is."
"Gloria? I knew her, yeah. Everyone around here knew her. Boy, was she beautiful."
"I don't have to tell you a thing! Who do you think you are, bangin' on my door?
Why don't you tell your own stories, Ms. Reporter?"
"Mrs. Field will sometimes walk by my house. She'll wave to me, always smiling, even when I don't
respond. It's almost like she doesn't know I'm there. I'm surprised the cops don't pick her up some days."
"Yes, I'd say she's a bit out of touch with reality."
"Have I seen her recently? I can't say that I've been paying attention. Why do you ask?"
- - - - -
Gloria Field, a woman of sixty, is stuck in time. She's become blind to change. In her
youth, she was a beauty: a beauty queen. Her cheekbones caught light. Her body stole glances.
She believes that her short fame as an ideal specimen has led her to an illustrious career as a talk
show host, providing tips to housewives. Unfortunately, she is only talking to herself at home.
Her daughter has moved out and her husband has passed away, but she knows no difference.
Let's see what she's doing now:
(Starting at a view from Outer Space looking down on Earth, we get closer and closer
to a house: First channeling in on North America, then into New Jersey, then into a small town,
then finally to the house, into that house, into its kitchen where a woman stands, up close to to her
face, inside the pores of her skin, into her fleshy muscle, the red blood cells) --- Stop. Zoom out.
(Past the red blood cells, beyond her muscle, out through the pores of her skin, then to the surface
of her face, then in the kitchen) -- Stop. Here we are. Press PLAY.
"Hello, and welcome back! It's good to see you all! Today on the show we're baking
a cake! You heard me right, ladies! You'll forget all about your calorie counting as soon as you see
what I have in store for you!"
Perfect. Leave the shot here.
"So, what you're going to need is:
Two bowls: one medium and one large.
(she lifts them both up from the table as she lists them)
(she points to each one)
(pushing it forward)
Sugar. Brown and white.
(lifts up both packages)
Two sticks of butter..."
After listing each item, she smiles. The corners of her mouth, when widened towards her
ears, push some fat back into the empty cavities below her cheek bones. This makes her look more
alive. The wrinkles around her eyes come together and move apart as she talks. Her drooping skin
reveals the mechanisms underneath the surface.
She puts all the dry ingredients into one bowl, the wet in another. Eggshells crumble
along the countertops, some finding their way into the mixture. Flour drapes the surface
sporadically with a silky white. "Now, watch carefully. I'm combining, very slowly, the dry
ingredients with the wet." Her inaccuracy sprinkles along the sides of the bowl. "You want to
make sure you don't put it all in at once." She directs this advice to a row of cats who have come
in from outside. The ones that aren't fighting for the spilled food on the kitchen floor are watching
her, heads titled, as if sincerely contemplating her sanity. Some perk up their ears as the lock of the
front door rattles.
A woman enters. She peeks her head into the house, looking to her left and right, while
she jiggles the key out of the door: "Mom?" she calls out with faint concern. She surveys the mess
of the place. Despite this, she walks with a confidence down the hall and towards the kitchen. Her
jaw drops and all of the cats freeze, staring at her. "Mother!" she shouts with a gasp, making all
the cats scatter. The daughter jumps as if the floor were burning to avoid the cats running past her.
Gloria talks without break, even when the room has settled into a deep quiet.
"Mom?" Pause. "Mom? What are you mumbling about? Can you hear me?"
Gloria looks up with a vacant smile and says, "I will be taking questions at the end!"
The daughter walks up to Gloria, pulls the spoon out of her stirring hand and turns her
shoulders so that they are facing one another. "Oh, Mom. What is it this time? Your cooking
"Audience members should really stay seated!"
The daughter backs away, and Gloria continues with her instructional baking.
"Now, don't forget to preheat your oven like I have here. You'll want to keep it at four
hundred degrees." She pours the batter into a flower pot and puts it into the oven. The daughter
undoes this mistake while Gloria moves in front of the counter to make curtsies and last remarks
during her silent applause.
After a moment of watching her mother, the daughter takes her by the hand and leads her
up the stairs. Gloria doesn't ask where they are going. When they get to the bedroom, she takes off
Gloria's day clothes, pulls a nightgown over her head and tucks her into bed. She falls asleep.
- - - - -
In another part of the world, two people sit across from each other at a kitchen table, two
laptops in between them. They are a man and a woman. She says:
you know betty crocker?
the one whose face
is on our syrup?
no, that's aunt jemima.
but, you're close.
close to what?
close to knowing
who betty crocker is.
she's a celebrity?
betty crocker is the name
that's on a lot of cake mixes
and things like that.
did you ever think
she was a real person?
i never really thought
about her at all.
i'm reading about her on wikipedia.
this woman.. she wasn't even real!
they made her all up!
you know, to make it seem like
the advice was more...
honest. i don't know.
oh, uh. advice on, like, cooking.
that general mills company, in the 20s,
started getting a lot of questions from
housewives about recipes
and things like that. they started
an advice column
and thought it would be more
convincing if it seemed like that were
coming from an ideal sort of woman.
that makes sense.
funny thing, though:
the face they used
never belonged to anybody.
it was a drawing, or maybe a painting,
that they added to the newsletter,
calling her "betty crocker"
'cause it sounded friendly,
but the artist made her face up
completely. no model.
her signature too,
just done by another
woman in the factory.
yeah, weird stuff.
over the years, though,
they weren't trying to hide
anything. they made up
eight different versions
of this woman. each one to fit
the mood of the time.
you're not even listening.
i am! betty crocker
had her identity stolen
eight different times.
- - - - -
Once upon a time there lived an old lady. She had a daughter who loved her and a good
marriage. She sought out notion of an ideal woman. She lived in the illusion of perfection. Last
Sunday night she drowned in the Reservoir, at the age of 72. It is believed that she walked there in
her sleep, either consciously or unconsciously we cannot be sure. She will be missed.