When Pressured to Be Creative in A Set Amount of Time, I Write Weird Things.Posted: September 11, 2008
The idea of eating mayonnaise is essentially the same to me as the idea of eating the ashes of cremated bodies stirred up in milk. My relationship with most white creamy sauces pretty much runs along these lines. You know the offenders: sour cream, ranch dressing, cream cheese. It’s just a natural gag reflex, I guess, because I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember.
So, as you can imagine, I was having great balls of fun as I faced down a giant plate of potato salad, green salad with guess what kind of dressing, and other vaguely acceptable foods not tainted by contact with the offending foods. I was volunteering at the local rest home as per the mandate of my school. No community service, no diploma. I figured I would go play some chess with a few geezers and be done with it. Unfortunately, I ended up at the ladies only luncheon, wedged in between two frail old ladies who probably were overcoming their desire to pinch my cheeks the entire time. A few of them gushed about how divine the centerpieces looked, and how pink was such a delightful color in a rose. A few of them picked their noses and let out the occasional fart.
I was the only volunteer for the day, so I was the only one in the room under 70, and probably the only one in the entire building under 45. Needless to say, I felt like the yellow wallpapered walls were closing in on me, trapping me in the land of death and insanity. The volunteer organization lacked a bit in the organization department, so the only instruction I received was “uh, go, well, go entertain them for a bit.”
“Why, dearie,” the wizened old woman on my left yelled into my ear, “you haven’t even touched your food! I helped set up the menu today…Don’t tell me you don’t like it!”
“Oh, I already ate,” I lied, hoping my notoriously loud stomach wasn’t in a vindictive mood.
She pushed my plate towards me. My hand could probably wrap all the way around her sagging skinned, tiny forearm, with its blue veins popping up. “Nonsense! I insist you try my signature potato salad!” She looked towards me, her tattooed eyebrows rising up into her hairline.
“Oh,” I stalled, coughing into my napkin. “Well, haha,” I giggled nervously. “You see, I already tried some earlier.”
Her mouth, with its red lip lipstick spread way outside her actual lips, fell into a frown. Her face drooped to a low I didn’t know her wrinkles could reach. “You didn’t like it? Was it spoiled? Did I not put enough mayonnaise in? I wasn’t sure and I thought maybe it could use a bit more.”
My eyes bulged. “No, I think the mayonnaise content was quite adequate. Really got the job done, you know?”
“What’d you say?” She raised her voice.
“Um, no, it was fine.”
“Maybe you just got a bad batch. There were five bowls of it, see,” she informed me. I didn’t want to think about that much potato salad existing in the world, much less in the room. The woman was unstoppable though. “Why don’t you try some of mine here? It’s delightful; I’ve already tested it out.”
She grabbed my fork and began piling it on my plate. Higher and higher it towered in a white pile of doom.
“No, really, I don’t think—” I began, but she ignored me completely.
“Now this will put meat on your bones,” she told me. Her arthritic, bone thin hand began to shake as I watched it in slow motion coming towards me, with a clump of food on the fork clutched between her fingers. I leaned back, putting my hand out to gently push away her advance.
And just as my 4th grade teacher always warned me would happen, my chair slipped out from under me, making my gentle push more like a hefty shove, and sending the forkful of potato salad flying into her face. I clutched at the pink tablecloth as I fell back, and it came down with me not in the neat way that leaves all the plates intact on the table, but in the crashing, tumbling way that left me on the floor covered in potato salad and everyone else’s half eaten plates. To top it off, the vase of flowers from the centerpiece fell over, soaking me with water.
I rolled off my chair and out from under the tablecloth, extricating myself from the china and what used to be lunch. After the initial squeal of shock that went up from the room upon my descent, no one had said anything. They all stared in open mouthed silence, except for those who were too deaf to hear the crash and hadn’t noticed me yet.
“Well, nice of you to have me,” I told the ladies at my table before fleeing. I knew I should have volunteered to play with puppies at the pound.