:: Pot of woe ::
Monday, October 04, 2004
The grating bleat reverberated through every cubic inch of the tiny apartment. In his bedroom, Jens awoke with a start and sat upright, scowling. Looking over at the clock, he saw it wasn't even six yet. A dull glow indicating imminent sunrise outlined the shutters of his window. The high-pitched voice continued.
"How about chunks of hearty steak, fresh onions, and savory carrots? Just set it and forget it!"
Jens flopped back down on his bed and smothered himself with his pillow. A graphic designer only a few years out of art school, he couldn't afford much more than a miniscule one-bedroom walk-up in a decrepit part of town euphemistically pitched by the sales agent as "colorful". The bare walls and threadbare carpeting failed to muffle sounds in the slightest, and for the sixth day in a row Jens found himself prematurely awakened, silently cursing his misfortune. Even the pillow proved insufficient.
"Hmph hmmm hmphh hmm! Why not hmmm hm hmphmhmm? Eehmmp hummmph fresh thyme!"
Ignoring the problem was evidently not the solution. A weary Jens removed the pillow from his head, launched out of bed, and strode across the room to the door. He paused before opening it. It was going to be ok, he told himself. This was nothing new. He took a deep breath and flung the door open.
"L-look," Jens spoke into the dim half-light of his kitchen, "it's way too early for this. I have to be at work in a couple hours and I really need my sleep." For a moment the room was blanketed in silence. He reveled in it, knowing it would be fleeting.
"Well good morning! Wouldn't you like a hot n' hearty meal waiting for you when you get home? Just add two cups of chicken broth, a half a pound of celery-"
"Please be quiet!" Jens' voice cracked in the midst of barking the half-order, half-request. He walked over to the cheap Formica counter to the left of his sink. There sat a Hamilton Beach six-quart oval slow-cooker, better-known as a crock-pot - the over-enthusiastic cause of his current sleepless nights.
"If that's too much trouble," the lid of the slow-cooker flapped comically in time with its speech, "you can always toss in some potatoes-"
"We had a deal," Jens reasoned, "I said I'd use you once a week - on Saturdays, when I have the time to chop vegetables - and you'd keep quiet for the remainder of the week so I could get some rest."
"There's no need to chop vegetables! Throw in ground beef, tomato sauce and spices for a tender chili." The slow-cooker was persistent.
"Yeah, ok, I know you're... versatile. I know you're this great time-saving device that will cut my prep time in half and make clean-up a cinch, but fact remains we had a deal." Jens wondered how he found himself standing there, debating a binding oral contract with his crock-pot. Sure, he'd had talking kitchen appliances before, but none so obsequious. His building was constructed above ancient pagan catacombs, had been the site of several lurid murders, and was the epicenter of the infamous 1979 "poltergeist summer", so there was bound to be a fair amount of demonic possession. Mostly it occurred in his kitchen, and the bulk of these incidents were harmless, even humorous. His toaster oven, for example, had been for two years now harboring the spirit of a fallen djinn who, while on occasion prone to reciting scripture, was eminently servile. If Jens requested silence, he got it, and whenever he baked bagel-pizzas it made sure not to burn the grated mozzarella.
His favorite had been the deep fryer, which had been imbued with the harried soul of a 1954 Chicago Bears linebacker, Gil. Although a bit of a drinker, and given to using racial epithets too frequently, he and Jens enjoyed a friendly coexistence. During the NFL season, Jens would drag the television into the kitchen and the two would spend Sunday afternoons downing beers and watching football. All that ended the past Thanksgiving when Jens, attempting to fry a turkey for the first time, placed the still-frozen bird in Gil's compartment, resulting in a flash-fire that would have immolated the entire place had Jens not purchased an extinguisher ahead of time at Gil's behest. When the smoke and sodium bicarbonate had cleared, all that remained of Gil was a melted husk. Jens still wondered why Gil had insisted on the extinguisher. Granted he was surly and downbeat, but Jens never thought he had a death wish. Well, a re-death wish. It must be difficult on the other side. Maybe one day Jens would cross over.
So why now was he afflicted with this whiny crock-pot and its affected folksy vernacular?
"Well, partner, a deal is what you're getting: I'm talking about tender slow-cooked pork and apples, complete with-"
Jens grabbed the crock-pot and turned the dial to "High".
"Now you're talkin'! Throw in some honey BBQ sauce if you're feeling frisky," the pot encouraged. Jens stopped bottom of the sink and turned on the faucet. This pleased the pot even further. "Whatcha doing there? Gonna defrost some sausages? I know a great gumbo recipe!"
Jens gave the slow-cooker a cold stare as the sink continued to fill. His inaction began to cause the pot some concern.
"Now... why... don't you grab some peppers from the fridge? Maybe... a Serrano chili for zing?" Jens remained motionless. When the sink was nearly replete, he shut off the water.
The pot by now was quite warm, and the condensation of some residual moisture on its lid gave the impression it was sweating. As Jens gripped the stubby plastic handles on each oblong side, its tone supported this.
"Hey, don't be hasty... we can work something out!"
Jens, too fatigued to relish the moment, dropped the cooker in the sink quickly and deftly. The electrical outlet at the other end of the pot's power cord sparked briefly and the barely-audible hum of the refrigerator ceased, leaving him with a silence bordering on ecstasy. Jens reached over to the light switch and flicked it on and off several times to no effect. He sighed to himself as he walked to the bedroom to retrieve his slippers and keys. The circuit breakers were in the basement, and when he got back he didn't want to return to bed with dirty feet.
Posted by morland @ 12:47 PM
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