It was an innocent afternoon, initially.
I hadn’t really planned on anything extraordinary happening, as it was a rather mundane Wednesday and the highlight of said day (the lawn service showing up to pitifully attempt to make our heat-scorched Texas yard exude some sign of life) had already come and gone. The rest of the day held no glimmer of excitement, as I’m retired now and there’s really not much in my social calendar other than to make sure I keep breathing.
Luckily, I did have a slight diversion on the horizon, in that I was responsible for tidying up the kitchen before my partner arrived home from work. (He is in servitude to an unnamed company that has cryptic retirement rules, arcanely-devised to suck the life out of you in perpetuity. This soul-depletion aspect is different from my own previous employer where, via some mystical combination involving long years of employment, working 70-hour weeks for decades, hacking my way up the pay scale, and an almost maniacal dedication to making sure that my 401k was as fat as it could be (notice the bitterness?), I was able to run screaming out the door at the age of 50, middle finger firmly raised.
But I digress. Selling my soul is not the focus of this post, although I cannot promise that my mental meanderings will not make it so. For now, we’ll focus on the kitchen, the lovely heart of the home where family members and friends seek nourishment and companionship, whilst they secretly plot to destroy one another over trivial misgivings that we wouldn’t be worrying about if it was still 1870 and you had to plow an acre with a stick and a prayer.
I walked into the kitchen and surveyed the damage, formulating a tactical plan. It really wasn’t that bad, especially considering we had recently hosted a week-long sojourn of family members visiting from my home state. (That state is not important, but there are winds sweeping down the plain.) As any good host is aware, guests in your domicile, beloved as they may be, have a tendency to lose control and do mystifying things. (How did you get cream cheese on the ceiling, honey? How?) But as mentioned, the fallout was not too severe. With minimal scrubbing and a splash of holy water, all would be right as rain.
I picked up a sponge (my go-to defense mechanism) and I began to annihilate splotches of goo where goo shouldn’t be. In the midst of this process, Scotch the Cat sauntered into the room and began to pass judgement, because this is what ginger cats do. It’s implicit in their DNA. He made a derogatory meow, expressing his displeasure with both the current goo situation and the recent home-invasion, neither of which would have positive commentary in his memoirs. He then hoisted a leg and began tonguing intimate parts of his body, a dexterity that inspires awe in self-absorbed, hormonal young male humans who really should be focused on fattening their 401ks.
I chose to ignore Scotch. The cat, not the beverage, because you can only scrub cream cheese off a ceiling for so long before you resort to bottled spirits. I professionally decontaminated a number of cooking mechanisms that had been shoved to the side at the very second that they were no longer needed, left to rot and congeal until someone with a less-hedonistic plan came along. One of these items happened to be a Crock-Pot, wherein Velveeta-based queso (my family has not evolved to the point of avoiding heavily-processed dairy substitutes) had been heated and reheated until the remnants were nothing but a charred brick of chemical insolvency.
Two hours later, after endless rounds of scrubbing and a cornucopia of determined swearing, I decreed the Crock-Pot worthy of storage until the next time we desired heated fake cheese slathered on stale tortilla chips. I efficiently dried the unit and then shoved it into an upper cabinet, a home-base wherein we unceremoniously dumped a number of objects that we didn’t use on a daily basis.
And it was at this point that I made my fatal mistake: Instead of closing said cabinet immediately, obscuring the evidence that we make poor nutrition decisions, I left it open. Some part of my mind was aware that the lid for the Crock-Pot was unaccounted for at the moment, and that I should probably find such before sealing the Crypt of Shame.
However, in the two seconds that it took for me to pivot toward the sink area of the kitchen (where I hoped that the errant lid could be found, although I was fully aware that the lid might be anywhere on the property, including the backyard where it may have been used in some drunken and impromptu sporting event), I completely forgot any agenda I might have had. (Pay attention, youth of the world who feel like you are invincible. There will come a time when you are thrilled to remember your own name from one moment to the next. Relish your pristine acuity.)
As I reviewed my possible reasons for being in the kitchen, fumbling to refocus my energy in a productive manner, I spied a slip of paper lying on the counter. This looked suspiciously like a grocery receipt, and I slightly panicked. Now that I’m on a budget (retirement and all that), I meticulously document every single expense I have, using a nifty app on my phone. If I run across a receipt where one shouldn’t be, it’s a potentially grave harbinger that I have overlooked an expense and I am way over-budget and I’m going to die of starvation, homeless and alone.
I plucked up the receipt, wiped away the sesame seeds and other trace evidence indicating that someone had prepped an “everything” bagel in the near vicinity, and studied the greasy fine print. It was for a handbag at the local Coach outlet. Good. I was reasonably sure that I hadn’t done such a thing, so this must belong to one of the visiting relatives, one who clearly did not understand how to use the recycling bin in the pantry when one no longer wished to retain a piece of paper. I turned toward the pantry to rectify this situation and-
It took me a second to figure out exactly what the hell happened. Then, using the dwindling reserves of my powers of deduction and a healthy dollop of speculation, I realized that I had just slammed my forehead into the end of the cabinet door that I had stupidly left open during the Financial Panic of 2016. This was not a gentle tap. This was a sonic boom that echoed throughout the house, causing Scotch the Cat to lose his mind and claw at the wooden floor until he gained enough traction to flee, convinced that whatever had just killed Daddy was coming for him next.
My right hand flew up to check for damages, convinced that said hand was going to come back drenched in blood and possibly proffering a bone fragment or two. The impact had been stunningly painful; surely I was about to be on my way to the Emergency Room, where jaded but sympathetic nurses would give me looks of pity as they stapled my head back together and I explained how I managed to give myself a frontal lobotomy while screwing around with a Crock-Pot.
Surprisingly, my hand reappeared with nary a speck of blood or brain matter. This couldn’t be. It felt like I had been walloped with an industrial-grade meat cleaver, wielded by one of those people who is still really pissed that they cancelled Nashville. I scurried over to a wall mirror and scrutinized my reflection. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, just my mile-high forehead that you can use to show home-movies on, unscathed. A small part of me was even mildly disappointed that there wasn’t going to be some type of scar that could be discussed at the next cocktail party.
Then I realized that a thin, vertical strip smack in the middle of my forehead was beginning to color, as if I had managed to brand myself with the world’s skinniest curling iron. This was followed by the line beginning to puff outward, nothing major right at the moment, but if the yeast in that thing kept building I would soon have a baguette adorning my noggin, making things a bit distorted, especially if anyone wanted to watch a movie that night.
Scotch poked his head around the corner from the dining room. “Meow?”
I sighed. “You’re fine, nothing is after you. Daddy’s the one with the issue.”
I patted him on the head and walked over to the kitchen table, where I left a note for my partner. “We are never having queso in this house again!” Then I went in search of some aspirin, completely unaware that the cabinet door was still open…
Originally published in “Bonnywood Manor” on 07/15/16. Minimal changes made for this new post. Admittedly, Scotch has a relatively minor role in this story, but I thought it was important to include this mishap in the retrospective, just to fill in some background detail on what he has to deal with in this house every day…
Categories: Present Tense