07 July 2005

Slapstick Living

The last week has been a minor triumph of good housekeeping. Three days ago, I forgot to turn the fan over the stove on while frying bacon. The fire detector went off. I did not know where the fire detector was. I left the bacon draining on newspaper and ran out, waving my arms. It rained outside. I opened windows. The rain came inside. I closed windows. The fire detector shrieked. I opened the windows. The rain came in.

I set up a broken fan. The fire detector shrieked. I stood on a chair that was not quite tall enough to reach the fire detector. It shrieked. I stood on tip-toes and tried to find a button. There was a switch. I turned it. The fire detector got louder. I heard sounds from the kitchen. The fire detector shrieked. I fell off the chair.

The fire detector stopped. Merciful silence. I ran to the kitchen. A tortilla was burning on the stove. I tried to get it off. It came out in pieces, smoldering. The fire detector came back on. I took the pan off the heat. Bacon grease slopped onto the floor. The fire detector shrieked. I looked around for paper towels. I was out of paper towels. I tried to mop the bacon grease up with a sponge. I stood up to rinse it out. I slipped on the bacon grease. The fire detector, finally, stopped. I stood gingerly in grease and tried to fry eggs. The yolks broke. I scrambled them in the pan and scraped them over burned tortilla pieces and bacon bits. I looked at the pile thoughtfully and added some good strong salsa.

Outside, the rain sluiced out vengeful. Water ran down Cortes, carrying sodden trash with it. Rats fled. My kitchen smoked. When I got to work, there were three inches of water in the breakroom. A live mouse stuck to a glue trap floated past. The city drains in the alley behind Banana had backed up. Five and a half feet of water filled it up, like an aquarium. It leaked through our back door. A mop lay useless and drowned. Pieces of boxes were soaking. Wet messes of tissue tried to contain the pools.

Just two days before, I’d lost my phone. I didn’t quite remember losing it, on account of a bottle of tannic red wine, some cheap tequila, and a couple Coronas, but sure enough when I’d woken up it wasn’t in my jeans. I had a job interview the morning after and they said they’d call me. I hoped I’d found a phone before then.

The next day, feeling unaccountably sick, I made a careless gesture and swept a kitchen knife off the counter. It fell onto my foot. I looked around for something to stop the bleeding. I was out of paper towels. The toe swelled up purple.

I learned that day what baking soda does. This is an important life lesson. I was making homemade pancake batter, and having to make some substitutions, seeing as I don’t have a fully stocked kitchen – olive oil for canola oil, that sort of thing. I had flour and vanilla, thankfully. But no baking powder or soda (I wasn’t sure of the difference). I shrugged. They were white powder. I pinched in some more flour.

It turns out baking soda makes pancakes fluffy. Without baking soda, pancakes are flat, soggy, and chewy. The taste goes away. They taste like warmed-over batter. I frowned, refrigerated the batter, bought some baking soda, came back. Stirred it in to confirm my hypothesis.

Hypothesis: confirmed. Pancakes came out delicious. I chalked up one success.

On Thursday, my friend sent me a breathless message. She’d gotten a call from a friend of mine in Maine, who – it turned out – was the last person I’d talked to on the phone, though that had been the night I’d lost it, and neither of us quite remembered the conversation, though if I concentrated I thought I could see in my mind’s eye his name come up on the call screen.

Well, my friend in Maine had gotten a call from a stranger who sounded exactly like me. This stranger had found my phone in a gutter in a part of Boston I hadn’t, to my knowledge, even been in that week. The stranger wanted to get it back to me, though he has yet to do so. It gurgles on the line when we call. I have not yet determined whether my prospective employer has followed up on the interview, but I imagine I had better find that out soon.

My toe is still purple and swollen. I do not own bandages. I have not done the dishes, because standing is a little unpleasant. I still need to remember to buy paper towels.

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