by Tonia Trapp
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Remember to Feed the Kittens, the sixteenth in our Kernel Book series. It begins with President Maurer's introduction:
Regular readers of the Kernel Book series will find the following story to be a marked change of pace. It contains no special insights about blindness, exposes no wrongs to be righted, seeks to teach no lessons. Why then do I include it? I do so merely because I thought you might enjoy this young woman's fanciful account of cleaning out the refrigerator as much as I did. Here it is:
Two days ago, at about 12:30 p.m., I bounded up the basement stairs from my bedroom and into the kitchen. It was lunchtime--time to scrounge something up from amongst the dizzying array of containers cooling in our refrigerator. Mom was not home, so I was on my own. Sighing, I attempted to prepare myself mentally for the task ahead of me.
Flinging open the refrigerator door, I began to examine the contents of the shelves, opening one container after another. Since I cannot see, I conducted my examination in two ways: first I would sniff. If that did not clearly indicate to me what was inside, then it was time to reach into the container, poking and prodding--at clear risk to myself--to find out what was there.
For a while things were going well. I discovered that we had one piece of lasagna left, just enough for me. How grand! This was just what I had been looking for. I also found some pickles and a leftover fish mixture that might be a fine complement to my lasagna.
Satisfied and happy, I surveyed the containers sitting on the counter that held my soon-to-be-eaten lunch. And then it occurred to me. Mom had not cleaned out the refrigerator in weeks. It was time for me to help her out. I am the only one who is usually brave enough to do this. Perhaps that is because I cannot see what lurks stealthily behind closed lids and therefore have no conception of the risks that I take when I decide to fulfill my self-inflicted duties of Kitchen Executor.
Now why I didn't just stop there, zap my lunch in the microwave, and leave the refrigerator clean-up chore for someone else, I have no idea. But something within me compelled me to continue to probe the depths of what I instinctively knew would disgust me. So I plunged in.
I started with the bottom shelf. Aha! That plastic bag with two rolls in it was still tucked cozily into the back corner. Last time I had pulled these out, three weeks ago, my mother had insisted that we were definitely going to eat those. Didn't happen. "These must be moldy by now," I thought. So out they came.
Then I moved to the next shelf above that. I found the same cylindrical, screw-top contraption that had been there a month and a half ago. Then its contents had smelled like liver--something I absolutely despise. Now, I pulled out the container and sniffed it again. Hmm . . . doesn't smell like anything. Oh no! No smell, no clue--that means I'll have actually to touch what's in there.
"OK, Tonia," I pep-talked myself, "you must be brave, now. Think of the good you are doing, the lives you are saving." I reached in and found a hardened mass of what felt like hamburger meat but which, surely, was not. "Interesting," I mused, "that fascinating mass of inedible glop seems to have shrunk over the past six weeks." And so it had.
I continued my painstaking work, which soon led me to extract a dozen or so tiny plastic vessels that could each hold only enough to feed a mouse family of four. When I stuck my hand into one of these, I found, to my utmost horror, a solidified, slime-ified substance at the bottom that repulsed me so much that I threw down the vessel and cried out in agony, "No, no, no! Yuck! That's nasty. Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?" I marched to the garbage pail with container in hand and shook out the slime creature inside. But wait, part of it hadn't quite made it into the bag but was hanging over the edge! I had to slide it all the way into the bag, and as I did so, I lamented loudly that now part of the bag was covered with the slime that I wished so much to escape. "Please," I whispered to the uncomprehending slop in the pail, "don't hurt me."
As I opened more of these mouse-feast-sized containers, I came to the conclusion that over time their contents do indeed solidify and, in some cases, slime-ify. I realized something else, too. The smaller containers are the ones that tend to get emptied last in my house, so they stay in our refrigerator longer than anything else.
It must be, I thought to myself, that my mother, poor dear soul, is under the delusion that the smaller the container, the longer its contents will last. Because of this we own a bewildering profusion of tiny vessels of all shapes and sizes--and these, needless to say, are constantly crowding and filling our refrigerator.
I wonder, now that I think about it, if there isn't some kind of conspiracy going on. Perhaps several thousand mouse families living in our house periodically tuck snacks away for themselves in our conveniently sized mouse-feast containers. This would explain why these receptacles fill our fridge, and it would also explain why their contents shrink and slime-ify so quickly. Everyone knows that mice are slimy little slicks, isn't that right?
So what if my theory is true. What then? Well I was just going to go shopping soon, so while I'm at the grocery store, I'll just pick up some more cold cuts. Oh, and we're running out of small containers. They're all filled up at the moment. Better get some more.