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Fiction, Short Fiction, Humor
The Spatula Story
by: J. Dennis McKay
Now, I must confess, I am simply not the sort of fellow who has a broad imagination. My dreams are of the simple and ordinary kind, where I dream of pleasant days in a quiet glade, the faces of past lovers (and not potential ones), and how nice it would be to win the Lotto. My working wardrobe would upset not one British civil servant, my casual dress would fail to raise an eyebrow at any of the finer sporting clubs. I enjoy my biscuits and butter, and for a treat, with some nice strawberry marmalade. My coffee is fine just black, or with one cream and two sugar, no more or less. Lunch is a nice sandwich of ham and cheese, or maybe a beef pot pie on a cold fall day, while dinner is the undisputed domain of various beefs, and potatoes baked or mashed, with a garden salad for iron and vitamins. And the salad should be plain, thank you very much, no oily or creamy dressing to confuse the issue.
For entertainment I enjoy a good Follet, whose descriptive abilities relieve the reader's imagination of any responsibility. Weekends are to be spent in the garden, cultivating my annual crop of tomatoes. And once a month, for a break in the routine, I'm good for a trip to the local Downs to watch the horses run, allowing myself a sinful five pounds on the prettiest horse in the featured race.
So it comes as quite a shock to me (and would, no doubt, shock my several associates and friends, who rely upon my lack of imaginings as a rock in a world of mad despots and crazed bankers coming up with new service charges all the time), that an object so simple, so plain, and so basically functional as a Spatula could fill my mind with wild fantasy.
Already I can hear the gasps and feel the horror of my audience. How dare I?! How dare I take such a fine and noble, and utterly ordinary kitchen utensil, and inflict upon it any fantasy more complex than Sunday morning pancakes and syrup? What Cheek!
Yes, I know, and I feel the shame of it. Truly I do. But I can't help myself. The simple sight of a Spatula in that drawer in the kitchen sends a shiver down my spine. And to have to wield one in order to complete some culinary feat, well, its truly almost more than a man such as I, whose usual mental wanderings go no further than the local green-grocer, can bear.
So I suppose I should explain myself. Confess and come clean with it, and perhaps be done with this continual torment.
It all began, as I suppose one in seven things do, on a Tuesday. After thoroughly enjoying a few slices of roast, a baked tater, and a suitably sized bowl of salad, I donned coat and cap, and stepped outside with umbrella in hand (one never can trust the weather these days, you know). I set out upon my evening walk, which extended no further than the four blocks to the local pub, where, as was and is my custom, I would refresh myself with a pint of stout and some indifferent conversation (usually about the weather) before making the return journey to my flat.
On this particular occasion, barely had I settled in my customary spot at the rail and accepted my usual pint, when a lovely young lady, unfamiliar to both me and the premises in general, tapped me on the shoulder and inquired of the time.
Displaying what I deemed uncanny sangs-froid at this unprecedented interruption in my evening routine, I replied that it was a quarter past seven, and pointed out the clock behind the bar, should she require any further assistance. To my surprise, being informed of the time did nothing to allay her fidgety disposition, but rather seemed to worsen it. So obvious was her distress, that as a gentlemen, I couldn't help but ask (no matter how little I wanted to ask), "Is something the matter?"
Her response was both in the affirmative and verbose. It would appear that the young lady, who, I must admit, was a genuine treat to the eye, had come to that very pub in order to make some secretive rendezvous with a man who she admitted she knew was married to another. And that this married man was better than an hour and a quarter late already, and she feared that their secret love was at an end.
And that should have been an end to it. Lord knows my stomach was already aflutter with all the excitement. And I am simply not the sort of man who would associate with a woman, no matter her physical attributes, who would readily admit to a secret tryst with a married man to a complete stranger. Especially if that stranger happened to be me.
But such was her distress, that, as a gentleman, I felt obliged to offer her a drink to soothe her nerves. And likewise, I felt obliged to share her company (turning the conversation to the suddenly safe topic of the weather) while she enjoyed the drink. As for what happened next, I can offer no truly justifiable explanation. But for reasons still unclear to me, I ended up buying her a second drink, and for my part, I risked the tragic fate of the alcoholic, and ordered a second pint. This last raised the eyebrow and no doubt shocked the tapsman, who had long ago become as accustomed to my evening routine as I was.
The rest of the evening I blame on the effects of this excessive consumption of alcohol. While it is true that there are those who can safely enjoy two pints with no ill effect, and even those with the Herculean constitutional ability to enjoy three or four, I am simply not one of these. Somehow I found myself in the company of this young lady (whose honor prevents me from revealing her name), on my walk back to the flat. The weather, that eternal Pan, had turned for the worse, and in spite of my best efforts with the umbrella, we were both quite soaked by the time we reached the door. With nothing more in mind than simple courtesy, I invited her up to dry by the fire while she waited for a cab.
After seeing to it that my guest was seated comfortably by the fire with a towel to dry her hair, I set off for the kitchen to prepare some tea and biscuits (with marmalade, as I sensed the occasion warranted it). In my stupor, I foolishly assumed that my guest would make use of the phone to call a cab whilst I prepared this simple cure for chills.
But when the tea and biscuits had been all consumed, no cab had yet arrived. Weakened by alcohol, I had somehow allowed this young lady to cozy up to my shoulder while she observed the flickering fire. As for what followed next, even a man of my limited imagination could guess. We simply pursued what any two healthy young adults of opposite genders would pursue after cuddling up to warm before the fire. And for those of you who want a better description, for shame! This is simply not that sort of story.
But what does all this have to do with my mad fantasies of Spatulas, you ask? Well, hold your patience, I've almost arrived at the crux of the issue.
When morning dawned and I woke at my customary time, without aid or need of alarm, I was fantastically relieved to find myself alone in my bed, and immediately assumed that the whole thing had been the mad imaginings of a drunk. I immediately vowed to take that night off completely from my usual pint, to balance the effects of doubling the night before. It was after I had made this vow that some stirring in the kitchen dropped the weight of the world upon me. It was with no small trepidation that I donned my slippers and headed for the kitchen. (I had, of course, donned my jammies at some point the night before. There are certain things that will bear no deviation.)
Stepping through the threshold to the kitchen, I was confronted by the all too real apparition of the young lady I had met the night before. Having come unprepared the night before, I excused her the fact that she wore no nightgown, and was, in fact, quite naked. Somewhat shocked by the presence of a naked woman in my kitchen, I was in for a deeper shock when I realized what she was doing. With a light frosting of flour on her nose, and Spatula in hand, she was in the midst of preparing a heaping plate of pancakes and syrup.
What extravagance! What decadence! Pancakes! On a Wednesday! Thoughts rushed through my head of the scandal it would cause at the ministry if word got out, that I, who was outwardly every bit the respectable under secretary to the junior minister, was the sort of extravagant cad who could not only engage in a tryst with a woman he hardly knew, but then show the cheek to have pancakes and syrup on the following morning!
It was only with the greatest fortitude that I held my feet. Visions of dishonorable discharge from the ministry floated through my mind. Tabloid journalists banging at the door and calling at all hours. After all, if I was the sort of man who could fritter away valuable resources on pancakes and syrup in the middle of the week, what sort of extravagance would I be capable at work?
My world crumbling around me, I did the only thing that came to mind, and I have regretted the decision ever since. Needing some anchor, some rock of stability, I focused on the eminently secure and comforting visual of the Spatula. Throughout the rest of the morning meal, whenever I felt the ground shift beneath me, I let my eyes wander to that perfectly stable and respectable object. I tell you, on that morning, that Spatula saved me.
I never did see that young lady again. I suspect that she quite rightly assumed from my breakfast demeanor that she had somehow crossed some uncrossable line, invoked some horrid taboo. But to this day, I still quiver whenever my culinary preparations require the use of that, or any other Spatula.