The Bella Chronicles: Grand theft

Mark Branham Guest columnist

Mark Branham Guest columnist

Bella Blu was born Aug. 17, 2013 to beautiful chocolate lab parents in Adams County and has been a part of our home, The B Home, since she was 5 weeks old. She was 4 years old at the time of this writing. She is lucky she made it to 5. Let me tell you a story…

I was hungry. So, I hopped in the truck and headed to Community Market with the intent of buying something good to eat. It didn’t matter what. I thought I would figure it out when I got there. I bought several things, but the star of the show was a 2.5-pound marbled roast, freshly cut and ready to go. I thought I could get two meals out of it. It was at least two inches thick and an absolutely beautiful piece of red meat. I’d cut it up into small chunks to make beef and noodles, and it was so big, and I was so hungry, that I couldn’t resist my steak obsession. Sso I would cut the center out of it to cook as a filet. It was about the size of a saucer.

After I got home and I was preparing for my kingly feast, I set my prize on the counter to let it rest and warm up to room temperature. I decided I wasn’t going to do it quick; I was going to do it right. After a little while I hand-kneaded it and did a dry rub on it with my special blend of spices, salts and sugars. I got my iron skillet heated up nice and hot and laid this beauty in there, so gently, along with some onions and olive oil. The sizzle it made as it touched the hot cast iron was like an aphrodisiac to my taste buds. Oh Mylanta…

Since it was so thick, I cooked it for about eight minutes per side, just enough to sear the outside just perfectly and leave about an inch of rare delicacy in the middle. When it was done, it was caramel colored and crispy on the outside and smelled like God himself had just had a cookout. My mouth is watering beyond control right now just telling you about it.

I was so looking forward to taking my chef’s knife and slicing that beautiful piece of cooked heaven like you see them do on TV — slow and diagonal — and watch the juices flow as you carve. This was a proud moment. I had it cooked to perfection and had taken it off the heat, still in the iron skillet, to let it rest. That’s what you do with prize-winning pieces of meat, you know. The whole process had taken a couple of hours and I had saved myself for the moment. By this time, I was really hungry.

That’s when it happened. I was in my office, working on John Wend’s memorial pictures, and got up to walk in the kitchen to move my masterpiece from the skillet to my plate when the phone rang. It was my wife, Audra. I went ahead and put the still ooozing, medium rare slab of goodness on my plate and left it there beside the skillet while I went back into the office to write down a phone number she wanted me to have. It was a three-minute conversation that changed my life.

As I hung up the phone and walked back into that kitchen, the first thing I noticed was Bella off to my right, crouching by the counter. Not in a cat-getting-ready-to-pounce crouch, but more of a I-am-trying-to-be-invisible crouch. She was looking at me out of the corner of her eye and had the strangest look of a dog smile on her face. It was almost creepy. And, she was licking her lips like in slow motion. As a matter of fact, everything seemed like it was in slow motion.

My eyes slowly, and I mean almost forcefully, moved up the cabinet, inch by inch, until they rested on the most beautiful plate of sauteed onions one could ever gaze upon. Beside them was the juicy remains of what I can only describe as steak porn. This was a beauty that disappeared into thin air in less than three minutes and left the air in the room heavy with the smell of itself. The thick air actually took on a primordial taste. It permeated my nostrils and laid upon my tongue in such a tantalizing glaze that the fountains of my mouth could not contain themselves. I stared at that still warm, empty plate and drooled thinking about the first bite of that seared sinew hitting my taste buds. I just stared in disbelief, my mind refusing to accept what my eyes were recording.

I began to shake. My head instinctively and slowly rotated back around to Bella. She already knew. She was already slinking off, tail between her legs, looking over her left shoulder and smiling under her steak breath. She didn’t want to take her beady little eyes off me. Fear and panic were in the air. I’m sure my red face and bulging eyes, not to mention all my hair standing on end and the steam whistling out of my ears, had her glued to me. The slightest quiver started on her left upper lip.

So, I can’t tell you what happened next. Oh, I would tell you if I could, but I truly can’t remember. You know how they say sometimes you just see red and everything becomes a blur? I can only say the rage that erupted from somewhere in the primal, steak cells of my being exploded in a furry that would make the Hulk jealous. I don’t think it is possible to walk the razor’s edge of life and death on the same scale that this no good, chocolate eating, ungrateful, steak stealing, trashcan sniffing, vagrant of a dog walked on Wednesday night. The valley of the shadow of death was now in my kitchen and she was slinking directly though the middle of it. God help her (and me too, for that matter).

Time has a way of healing all things, I suppose. Or, the old adage that, “love remains” might be applicable in some cases. Well, it’s been a couple weeks and I can report with 100% conviction that neither are the case here. Time and love have no authority over that beautiful piece of meat I was deprived of.

Bella has tried to apologize on numerous occasions, but I refuse to accept on the basis that it does not seem sincere.

She’s always there and waiting when I get home, tail wagging and tongue hanging out. But she’s not fooling me. I see that twinkle in her eye. I see that sarcastic dog smile that tells me that, given the opportunity, she would do it all again and be right back in there, taking what is not rightfully hers. I swear at times I can almost hear that muttly laugh as she thinks about it.

Well, she can bat those eyes all she wants. I’m not falling for it. There is no still no joy in Mudville.

I’m in the process of making the “free mutt” sign for placement in a highly visible area. I’ll keep you updated…

Mark Branham is a Greenfield resident and a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

Mark Branham Guest columnist Branham Guest columnist