"Who made the pie called Uncle Frito's Special?" someone called out. "We're ready to vote!"
"Excuse me." Eli smiled. "I need to make myself available for last-minute questions."
"Even though nobody is supposed to know who made what," Sherry called after him.
"I better get my eat on before it's all gone." Jenny gave Sherry a quick hug. "You look super-hot, by the way. I'd take an extra cup of joe from you for sure."
"Where do you know her from?" Emily watched Jenny use her fingers to pull bits of crust off someone's imitation of a Momofuku crack pie.
"College. She's funny. She has a million weird hobbies so she's really adaptable to scenes. She was always like that."
"Scenes?" Emily smiled. "Is she an actress, too?"
"Nolike you and the industrial design scene. Don't be fake-naive. You know what I mean," Sherry said. "Drink this wine. That rich guy over there brought it so it must be good. Jenny should call Eli," Sherry said.
"She managed some photographers in L.A. and that went really well. I'm sure she can help with Eli's company. You know, help figure out how to grow the business. Isn't that the thing he's always whining about?"
Emily nodded a yes. Eli was close again. She reached out with her hand and Eli slipped his arm around her waist.
"What are we talking about?" Eli asked. "That guy was really critical of my pie."
"Don't worry," Sherry said. "In my experience sweet never beats savory. But at the same time, yours is maybe a little out there."
"Whatever. My genius is misunderstood."
"We were just saying it would be great if you hooked Jenny up with a job. She's amazing once she gets focused. She totally knows how to run a business."
"Does she? Maybe we can set something up," Eli said. "I definitely need help." He took a long pull on his beer.
Emily looked around her at the field of little tables, some with nothing but an empty pie plate in the middle, picked clean and scarred with knife cuts, and others with barely touched pies that were beginning to break down at the seams, pies that had turned someone off too early and that nobody was willing to touch now.
"Don't worry," Emily said. "I'll help you clean up. And you're right. If she's good at organizing, Eli should hire her. He needs that."
Sherry smiled. She said, "About the mess? I wasn't worried. If this thing with Jenny works, we totally did a mitzvah. I'll tell Mom."
"She only cares if it makes you happy," Emily said.
"Well, if Jenny helps Eli and makes him more successful and that's good for you, then that does make me happy. So I'll tell Mom, okay?" Sherry winked at some late arrivals. "I'm sure I'll talk to her tomorrow and she'll ask about tonight and whether you had a good time and were social and funwhich is hilarious since how social is she? Not very. I am going to call her out on that tomorrow. Maybe."
"I am social!" Emily said, too loud. "How big of a problem is that, anyway? It is not a problem, actually."
Sherry raised an eyebrow at Emily. "It kind of is. You're definitely defensive about it."
"Emily is a sensitive soul." Eli pulled Emily in and tried to kiss the top of her head, but she squirmed away. "And I love her for it."
"Thank you very much," Emily said. "I love being labeled. Now can we move off the subject of me right now, please?"
Copyright © 2013 by Ben Schrank
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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