Presenting four "Mad Moments" stories, each one short, each set in a different room in, or area of, a house. Watch for them on consecutive Sundays in September.
MAD MOMENTS #1: IN THE KITCHEN
By J. Peter Bergman
"She’s been sleeping for five hours," I said to him and he nodded. "So why now? All I said was ‘chicken leg.’ I mean, you can hear her snoring from in here, so why?"
He shook his head at me, his fine, wispy blonde hair shagging his eyeglass frames, framing his ears and his eyes. The words "I don’t know" were visible on his face although his mouth was silent.
I could still hear her in the next room, aroused now by the words ‘chicken leg’ I assumed. We knew she understood the language, even though she never spoke it. Her sung, whispered, gurgled, muted, and ambiguously familiar noises notwithstanding, she spoke no English. We understood that she knew exactly what we meant by the subtle ways in which she would appear, smile, frown, or disappear at will.
"She has a grasp of the language," he said. This time I nodded. My knife was through the connective tissue now, cartilage stained with fowl blood, removing the boiled chicken leg from the thigh. It was a silent gesture, not even whispering its intent. "Watch," he whispered, and I did as I was bidden do. In a subdued vein he proclaimed "remoulade, remoulade," and without a moment’s hesitation she appeared in the doorway, an expectant grin on her swarthy lips.
I laughed. So did he. She did not. She stood there, her dusky, brown eyes watching us for a flaw, expecting something that would not occur. I offered her nothing. She hesitated, then took a four-legged solitary step toward me, paused, looked at me, said nothing, sat patiently on the floor at my feet, and waited.
I placed the leg of the bird on a paper towel, gave her a stealthy glance, then picked up the chicken, or what was left of it, and returned it to the interior of the plastic bag from which I had retrieved it. She said nothing, only stared. He said nothing, but then he laughed aloud. I said nothing, but placed the chicken in its bag into a second bag, for additional protection. Nothing else changed.
She stood up slowly as I eased by her to reach the refrigerator door. We each took a step in the direction from which she had come, she and I, she backward and sideways, I forward and alee, while he stayed where he was watching us dance this pretentious gavotte. Our romp of goals, hers my chicken, mine its protection, was a brief sortie, and then like combat in contemporary wars televised live for your amusement and convenience, it ended. Go to commercial.
"Good," I said, taking a small bite of the chilled meat that I’d left on the towel on the counter-top. "Good," he said, understanding my appreciation and my need to voice it. She slurped water from her bowl and returned to the other room without even a backward glance. "Good", spoken twice aloud and accompanied by the constant, rapid, thup thup thup thup of her tongue in the metal dish suspended on its own metallic rack was all the language she could muster.
And it was afternoon ritual and it was done as ritual must. No amen.