I got the butter out of the refrigerator and then I found myself a clean steak knife. We didn’t own butter knives. Or they were all being used as screwdrivers, somewhere. Some strange unknown drawer.
Search out the cinnamon in the spice cabinet. Find the sugar next to the Mr. Coffee pot. After-school, cinnamon toast. TV and then possibly some homework.
I was a latchkey kid. Every day after school I had three hours to myself while my dad was working his second job at the auto shop and my mom was working the night shift at the aerosol spray can factory.
I took the jug of milk out, mid pour it slipped from my grip and the jug fell onto the floor. Glug glug glug. All that milk covering the linoleum. I used the last of the paper towels to sop it up. Then I let the outside cat come in, hoping it would get the rest of the milk that remained.
On the television was an old episode of Bat-Man with Adam West. King Tut was trying to find the secret location of the bat-cave, It could have been anywhere.
My mom taught me how to cook two things. The first was scrambled eggs. She had an odd way of doing it. She’d make me crack the eggs into a separate bowl. “Sometimes you get a bloody egg and it ruins the entire recipe. It’s just good practice.” She said to use a little bit of milk in the eggs, whip it all in a frenzy. That’s what makes them fluffy. The air.
Her other tip, “Wash your hands before you cook. It’s good for you and especially the people you’re cooking for.”
I went to the kitchen sink and washed my hands twice. A bar of Irish Spring soap next to the brill-o pad. Or maybe it was Zest. Zestfully clean!
Cleanliness is next to godliness- even though we don’t go to church, still be clean, for christsakes.
There were no more paper towels. All out.
I opened the rye bread, took out four slices. The water was dripping off my hands and shirt cuffs. The Bat-Man song played, I shimmied along in my socks as if doing some variation of the twist. Little kids only know two kinds of dances. The twist and “freestyle”.
We had a big sinister toaster. I took hold of it, pulled it away from the wall, dropped the bread the slots.
When I pushed down the button, I felt the most horrible feeling.
A ghost had materialized behind me and was grabbing my shoulders and shaking me. Digging it’s claws into my shoulder blades making my whole body sizzle. I yelled out. The ghost kept shaking my shoulders. On the TV, a commercial for OXY 10- the zit zapper! came on.
I let go of the toaster, ran down the hallway, my feet slipping like crazy in socks.
Dove into the bed as if stealing third base, hid under my bulletproof covers.
So…so so worried that the ghost in the kitchen was going to come into my room and fucking kill me.
Maybe it would take my toast out, butter it, add the sugar, add the cinnamon, eat it- then fucking kill me.
I closed my eyes and worried and waited.
Later, when my father came walking in through the front door, I heard him calling my name and I knew it was safe. That I would be OK.
Then his voice turned sharp, “Are you blowing me? Did you spill milk all over the floor and NOT CLEAN IT UP!”
I crawled under the bed and hid there.
The footsteps came. The door opened. “I see you down there.” He said, “What’s wrong with you- leaving a mess like that for me? Are you looking to get your ass whupped or what?”
“Sorry.” I said.
“Alright, drag your ass out from under that bed. Let’s go- you’re gonna mop the whole kitchen.”
I came out into the light.
“What’s wrong, you’re shaking.” He said, touching my arm gently.
We went out into the kitchen and he gave me a big lecture on the importance of cleaning up after myself. He said that I’d have to take more responsibility for the problems that I create in the world because no one is going to tend to them but me and if I don’t tend to those little problems, they will spread out exponentially and destroy the entire fabric of this universe and potentially- universes beyond.
I nodded. Roger Wilco.
He helped me fill the mop bucket up with hot water. Then, he looked over at the other side of the counter and noticed something strange with the toaster.
It was smoking. The chord had melted.
“What happened there?”
“The ghost,” I said, “It came up behind me and shook me.”
I explained exactly what had happened, every detail of it. Then my dad picked me up and put me in on the counter so that I was facing him at eye level. He leaned in, nose to nose with me.
“That wasn’t a ghost.” He said.
“You were electrocuted.” He ran down the scientific rigmarole. It came down to slick sopping wet hands, power source- boom. Fried child. No ghost.
I was very happy to hear that.
After that, I watched my dad mop the kitchen floor til the whole house reeked of pine trees and then he heated us up some Gordan’s fish sticks in the oven.
Or as he called them “fish dicks”.