Kitchen Utensils Real And Imagined

He pulls the handle but the drawer jams, something stops it opening.  He wiggles it a bit, pushing back and forth, trying to dislodge whatever is making the drawer too full.  Eventually it sounds like something has moved, then confirmation of the fact as an item goes clunk at the back, he hears it falling and then landing, and the drawer opens freely.

Now he cannot even remember what he was looking for.

Whilst he remembers, he thinks to look for the offending item that caused such a kerfuffle in the first place.  Most of the time, things that fall down the back of the drawer, end up in the cupboard below.  But when he looks in the cupboard, he sees nothing untoward or out of place.  He takes everything out of the cupboard and looks it over – it is all the stuff that was in there before.

He calls his wife through from the other room.  Together they take all of the objects out of the drawer and lay them out on the kitchen side, separate from the items taken from the cupboard.  They look at the things that are there.  The items taken from the cupboard consist of appliances and large utensils, whilst the items taken from the drawer are the smaller utensils.  Looking at these things all laid out on the side, they notice that some of the items in the first group are nearly the same size as items in the second group.  For example, the potato masher is only slightly larger than the whisk.

They stare at the items, trying to spot something that could be considered missing from their collection.

“Didn’t we have a thing…”  He uses one hand to mime holding a thing, and the other to give the impression of something moving around in a circle.

“What kind of thing, love?”

“I’m not sure.  It went like round and round like that, and you use it when you make… I can’t remember what.  Something.  It had a blue handle.  Or a red one.”  The idea is on the tips of his fingers.  He can almost feel it.

She scrunches up her face, trying to think of it.  “I don’t think we ever had one of those… I think we just saw one in a shop,” she adds kindly.  She has no idea what he is talking about.

He pulls the drawer out as far as it will go, feels around the back of it with his hand.  But there seems to be nowhere else an item could go.  He takes the garlic press and drops it down the back of the drawer.  Sure enough, it falls in to the cupboard below.

He sighs, disappointed.  They stand there, thinking, looking.  She suggests they just put everything back, and at first he says he wants to look at it a bit longer but then he relents and they place everything back in the drawer and the cupboard, all neat and tidy like.  He goes outside to do some gardening, hoping it will clear his head but it doesn’t and when she calls him in for dinner a few hours later, both of them are restless.

He is still unduly troubled by the whole thing, whilst she cannot shake the nagging feeling that every single one of the processes involved in preparing the dinner could somehow have been made easier with the use of just that one undefinable, unidentifiable implement.

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Day #11389

Spring In Shorts

During March, April and May, I only actually read one short story collection, but this was a rather fine collection – Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision.

Published by the ever-dependable Pushkin Press, I had read various recommendations for this career-spanning collection, but once I got started it took a while for me to become convinced of its qualities.  These stories’ charms are subtle, there are no big hooks, no twists in the tale that you can see coming several pages before hand.  Slowly, I found myself intrigued by each of Pearlman’s narratives, and the fact that most of them did not end with a big bang or a neatly-tied bow.

Spring In Shorts

My favourite online short story was When by David Bussell, featured on Oblong.  A beautifully short, gently comic surreal piece of writing with a perfectly-judged ending.  If I write much more about it, I’ll overtake the story’s own word count – so I’ll just stop there and suggest you take a few seconds to have a quick read.

One of the great things  about short stories is that you can pick up a collection and just read one before you do whatever you have to do next.  So I returned to some old favourites. Always presented at interesting angles, I think Donald Barthelme’s short stories might work best taken in small doses, rather than all at once.  I re-read Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby, a comic thought-experiment with a dark underbelly in which a group pass judgement on one of their friends (we are told he ‘has gone too far’), decide to excute him and then discuss plans for the event.  I also revisited The Temptation Of St Anthony, which is all feverish speculation and small-town rumour-monging, without formally introducing the subject.

Then I had a quick re-read of Steven Milhauser’s In The Reign Of Harad IV, which I’ve actually already written about here.  What I noticed this time was how short this story is – in my head it seemed much longer, but maybe it had evolved and grown in my brain, post-reading.  I re-read the last couple of paragraphs a few times over as I think they are a nearly perfect way to end a story.

Now added to my reading pile are Grey Area by Will Self and All The Rage by A.L. Kennedy.  Both writers are set to appear at the fourth Guernsey Literary Festival (16th-20th September 2015) so I’ll probably write something for the Litfest blog about these books. Until then, keep wearing shorts (especially now the weather is a bit nicer).

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P.S.  You may have noticed some wee changes to the appearance of Digestive Press since my Winter post.  I felt the place just needed a bit of a tidy up and refresh.  I also added the byline ‘Polite Literature’.  This was inspired by a visit to the Portico Library in Manchester – a subscription library established in 19th Century.  In addition to the Polite Literature section they also have a section for Travel And Voyages.  We didn’t ask where they kept the Impolite Literature.

Novelty Hour

Sometimes it feels like everything’s already happened.

They are night-building the new hospital by moon- and floodlight, 100 yards from the old hospital.  Outside the soon-to-be-the-old A&E sit three brothers who are known locally – their pictures were in the paper when their wives all died in the same bus crash.  All three wear permanent sad owl expressions and spend their time in places that are well-acquainted with the language of crisis.  It could possibly be a poignant, romantic, heartbreaking thing, though if you ever speak to them you discover that they are unpleasant individuals.

The sky is up there – turquoise, bone-coloured, dull-yellow.

The three brothers heckle as I clamber in to the taxi, trying to swing the cast on my leg in the right direction.  It ends up easiest for me to sit across the back seat, and once I am settled in, we pull away from the hospital, leaving the brothers to their belligerent vigil.  Driving away from the old hospital takes us closer to the new one, the one they are night-building.  The driver is asking me how I injured myself as he stops the taxi, waits to turn out in to the main road.  I wind the window down – it is a warm evening – and I can hear the sounds of building coming from the site.

The opening of the new hospital is inevitable.  Then they will knock down the old hospital.  My leg will be fixed.  And after a while it will seem as though it has always been this way.