Friday, September 16, 2011

The Neglected Chef Foibles: Part Two


  Caleb picked at his stitches, trying to chase away the itchiness by scratching only the outer edges of raw, swollen flesh.  That never works for more than three seconds.  The palm of his hand was puffy and a bit tight, almost hard right at the wound.  Ugly black nylon stitches jutted angrily out of his hand like stiff whiskers of a scurvy pirate. 

   What a dull turn this story had taken.  He swallowed another antibiotic pill with the remains of his glass of warm, flat Sprite, shoveled some Dorito crumbs into his mouth, and settled back into the couch for some channel surfing.

   Last week his Mom had attended a Pampered Chef party.  She was only gone for a few hours, but that was long enough to leave the family at home dependent on pizza delivery for dinner.  Afterwards he had overheard her describing to Dad all of the elaborate sales tactics used by the demonstrator.  Together they had ridiculed the way people try to frighten each other into making unnecessary purchases.  If you don’t order this, something terrible will surely happen.  If you don’t order that, you will be wasting your time using traditional cooking methods.  If you don’t host a party, you may as well resign yourself to financial destruction, etc, etc.

   In particular, Mom had commented on the strong push being heaved behind a can opener that was supposed to leave smooth edges on your cans and lids.  The importance of such a product had completely eluded his shopper-savvy mother, despite the dramatic finger-swiping demonstrations at the party. 
   “It’s not like they’re walking on red hot coals or a pile of broken glass!”  Caleb's parents had chortled together like playground bullies.

   “Sheep,” they were fond of muttering in such conversations, adult eyes rolling in cool condescension.

   Sitting on the couch now, watching Nickelodeon reruns and feasting on remnants of pantry junk food instead of skateboarding with his friends, Caleb reflected on the cruel sense of humor being displayed by the universe. 

   Exactly one day after the Pampered Chef party, his Mom had spent an entire afternoon in the kitchen making Hello Dolly cookie bars.  A gathering of culinary friends always put her in the mood to whip up something yummy and old fashioned.  For this recipe she needed lots of special ingredients, including a can of sweetened, condensed milk, which she had opened with her old, hand crank steel can opener. 

   This would become a fated decision.

   She surely would have disposed of the can and its now free hanging, rough edged lid in the trash can.  Nothing unusual about this, of course, but it’s funny how the otherwise mundane details of a fated event become overly sharp and focused in retrospect.

   Like always, at the end of the evening Caleb’s job was to take the kitchen trash to the blue bin outside.  He often needed prodding, and this night was no exception.  Mom was finishing up the day’s dishes, hands submerged almost up to her elbows in sudsy water, when she called him into the kitchen.

   He dragged himself stubbornly away from the computer and limped like Frankenstein's monster into the kitchen.

   Before tending to the garbage, he peeled away one more warm, gooey Hello Dolly from the glass pan.  (Also not a Pampered Chef product, it bears mentioning.)  Still washing dishes, Mom playfully scolded him for this theft and demanded a kiss on her cheek as payment.  He leaned in and sort of kissed her limply, sort of groaned at the silliness, and swallowed the sweet treat whole.

   Then he turned his attention to the trash can.

   It glowed with strange color, almost pulsing, an eery light of doom and warning.

   He did his best to shake off the bad feeling, silently wondering if it’s true that he watches too many scary movies.

   Caleb took three steps to the lidded silver trash can and felt doom course cold and fast through his veins.  He removed the lid, gathered up the edges of the plastic liner, and heaved it out of the can.  Everything seemed to be normal so he just let the stinky burden of garbage spin in the air, thereby twisting the bag shut and earnign him one more scolding from Mom.

   “That stinks!  Stop playing with that and get it outside!”  Despite the barking words, she smiled.

    Rolling his eyes just as he had learned from his parents, the teenaged boy slumped his way out of the kitchen and into the night.  He made his way towards the blue trash bin where his plastic delivery was destined to land.  Upon lifting it to drop it, something swiped his opposite hand sharp and swift.

   “OUUWWWCH!!!  What the…?!”  He dropped the vanilla-scented trash bag, and the contents spilled out chaotically onto the brick pathway.  He strained in the dark to see what had happened.  The palm of his hand felt an incredible stinging pain immediately, and in the moonlight he could see that a long, curved line of blood was beginning to seep through his white flesh.

   He howled and screamed for his Mom, who was already running outside, drying her hands on a cotton tea towel.  "Caleb, oh my God, what happened?"

   "Something cut me!  I'm bleeding!"

   "Let me see, are you alright?"  She grabbed his forearm and inspected his hand with a mix of a mother's love and a physician's expertise.  "What cut you?  You're bleeding!"

    More eye rolling.

   She was about to lead her son, already three inches taller than her at the age of fourteen, back into the house for first aid attention and possibly a hand transplant right there in the dining room.  But something caught her eye and froze her in her steps.

   A gleaming disk of steel had been kicked free from the garbage pile and now shimmered in the silver light and spun its way to a resting spot on the brick path before them.  Cicadas and owls stopped their night songs to listen to the metallic noise.

   It was the lid from her sweetened condensed milk.  All color drained from her face as the string of relevant events flashed in her mind like a taunting slideshow of maternal failure.  I didn't buy the smooth edge can opener.  I made fun of the woman for trying to entice me.  I baked that dessert with pride, not love.  I scold my son too much.  My thighs are touching.  Now Caleb will need stitches and maybe a hand transplant because of me.  Am I out of Scentsy?  He's gonna need a tetanus shot for sure.

   "Mom!  This really hurts!"  Her son's panicky voice snapped her out of the downward spiraling reverie, and she  sprinted to action.

   The rest of the night had been spent at the emergency room, evaluating and cleaning the wound, getting a tetanus shot, and enduring stitches from a nurse who clearly did not want to be at work.  Caleb was prescribed antibiotics and sent home with instructions to keep his hand clean, leave the stitches alone, and return in a week for further evaluation.  

   So far a transplant was not in order.  But as he fumbled through getting himself ready for bed that night, Caleb had overheard his mother placing a telephone order for a Pampered Chef smooth edge can opener.

   She had never been a woman to make the same mistake twice.

   I wonder what's on HBO today.

   

pinnable

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