A NOISE IN MY KITCHEN

Standard

Short story just published by RAC Magazine.

It started two weeks ago; I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the used bookstore for $3.  In my innocence, I flipped through the pages and scanned a couple recipes.  The book was beyond my palate, so I closed the cover and removed it to my collection. I am the kind of person who buys wine by the box, and seldom uses it for gravy. I pick and spit delicate truffles, with no regard for rarity or price; a mushroom is a mushroom. That evening I settled into my chair for television and an Aunt Jemima breakfast sandwich with a slice of reheated Red Baron pizza, microwaved for an impromptu feast.

Later in the night as I slept, there was a high-pitched trill emanating from the kitchen.  I convinced myself it was a passing train although I don’t live near any tracks. I roll with a shiver and search for dreams.  Hours later the pots began to rattle and tattle, the pans shifted and clanked.  I had a sudden urge to braise beef bones into a clear broth and to eat fishes and snails gathered from the seas far from home. I arose, and wrapped in false bravado I searched.  Finding nothing, I went back to bed for a fretful toss and turn until dawn, blaming the dynamic dinner whose crusts and wrappers still occupied my trash.

Each night since, I search for slumber with a pounding heart and ears probing a tentative silence. Once I find sleep, there is a noise in my kitchen, followed with an enticing aroma I can’t identify. After a fortnight of fear and anticipation, I gave up my search, accepting I can never catch the hazy alchemist who prowls my kitchen. 

At daybreak, the constant clanking stops and I nap.  When I finally struggle forth, I discover a sink full of dishes and a large metal spoon resting near the stove evidence of the nocturnal intrusions.  Julia Child haunts my kitchen. She quietly judges me during the day and prowls at night.  I accept responsibility for buying the book and dismissing her lessons.  Out of desperation, I remove it from the shelves and return it to the kitchen counter where it belongs.  I open to a page, dust off my ramekins and encounter herbed baked eggs with thyme infused baguettes.

Today I feast, tonight we rest.

The Shore of the Salish Sea

Salish Sea
Standard

His tears flavor the salty sea as he stands silently on the shore, watching the clouds gather on the horizon.  A growing storm blocks out the sun, and he feels the electricity in the air.  A solitary man gazes out over the sea; his sobs blend with the distant thunder. 

John has worked since he was fifteen, driven by a need for recognition and approval.  He built a life on money and labor, defining his existence one success after another. Confidently, he believed there was plenty of time to meet a good woman and have 2.5 smart children.   He delayed his plans to see Paris and Egypt for one of the coming tomorrows, unaware that this day would be here so soon.  At this moment, shame rushes over him as he acknowledges he didn’t call his mother on her birthday.  Sure, his secretary sent a gift, but he was too busy to sign the card or take the minutes to talk to her. That is all she ever wanted.

Hope is gone, and John acknowledges that he is the real villain of his own life.  His whole existence has been putting success and money in front of the truly important things, waiting for enough time or more money.  The agony of regret is more intense than the pain that brought John to the salty shore of a billion tears.  The drive that made him famous so young was the same ambition that brought him here to this moment.  The tears dry with the recognition that it is too late, as he watches the small wooden boat approach in the distance.  Now he understands a donation to charity is an empty gesture when done for the press release. All that is left is a news announcement for a funeral, attended by people who never really knew him or cared.  A business will never miss him, and money doesn’t cry.  John feels a deep ache for a sincere emotion from someone who carries a ghost of resemblance.   Too late, everything is too late. He steps aboard the boat and pays the toll with the single coin found in his hand. His almost silent voice swears if he ever has a chance to return, time won’t be wasted on tomorrows.