A Fairly Christmas-y Friday Afternoon at the Haikulodeon

 

 

Here’s this week’s heap of haikus:

 
December morning,
I walk through an alleyway
between two churches.

 

 

Hidden in the creche;
a marble he’d stolen from
his little brother.

 

 
the-cycle-ku:
Wishing for Santa.
Feeling disappointed … again.
Wishing for Santa.

 

 

 

 

The broken crayon
that rolled behind the sofa
piqued the dog’s int’rest.

 

 
Happiness is not
a station you arrive at,
it’s the train you’re on.

 

 

 

 
Reading epistles,
‘midst clover and thistles, a
joyful man whistles.

 

 

 

 
He’d often quibble
with perceived wisdom just to
be an S.O.B.

 

 

 

 
On a cold, clear morn,
a church in the distance is
framed by the bare trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I wish I could
have lived in my parents’ world.
they said things were great.

 

 

 

 

Visibly shaken,
she came mentally unglued,
then … she fell apart.  

 

 

 
The Winter Solstice;
the shortest day of the year
has the longest night.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a lesson
to be learned and not forgot;
While music plays, dance.

 

 
what-to-do-ku:
Wrap a broken arm
in pretty scarves, or set it
right and let it heal.

 

 
I am breaking down
but I am not folding up
past and present tents.

 

 

 

 

Don’t resist urges
from impulse or desire …
they will point the way.

 

 

 

 

The out of season
strawberries sat tastelessly
on her kitchen table.

 

 

 

 
Winter snow again.
Winds will blow again. Your car
needs a tow again.

 

 

 

 
What’s more exhausting
than having unlimited
opportunities?

 

 

 

 
Silhouettes of trees
turn my river view into
a jigsaw puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Dimly lit street lamps
dot a snowy path that winds
through Riverside Park.

 

 

 
tanka haiku:

 
All men were once boys,
All leaders, once followers,
Wise men, ignorant.

    Neither resent nor regret,
all will soon enough be frail.

 

 

 

 

 

Silver icicles,
drip from Christmas tree branches,
teasing the kittens.

 

 

 

 

Anguish and remorse
when embraced by solitude,
will shed bitter tears.

 

 


 

 
Judging from sales stats,
you would never imagine
Santa employs elves.

 

 


 

 

 

Snow days filled with fun,
sledding down my neighbor’s hill.
crashing into trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each Saturday morn,
the sun’s out, the sky’s blue, but
I’m still missing you.

 

 

 

 

double haiku:
Bayberry candles,
in the windows, pine needles
on the parlor floor.

Xmas in small towns,
and our imaginations,
are things of delight.

 

 

 

 
Grandma’s old scrapbook,
is a journey through her past,
chock full o’ photos.

 

 

 

 

A snowy morning,
sipping coffee and reading,
the dog nuzzles me.

 

 

 

 

Minimize your pains,
but maximize your blessings,
and keep marching on.

 

 

 

 

She spoke to Santa,
(Confidentially, of course),
“Please bring my mom joy.”

 

 

 

Reading comic books
and playing travel bingo
got them to Grandma’s.

 

 

 
tanka haiku:

 

A marionette,
still dangled from the door-jam,
but it danced no more.
His room remained as it was,
until both his parents died.

 

 

 
in a lonely room,
a writer pecks his keyboard …
inspiration strikes!

 

 

 

 
As you get older,
perspectives change; trivial
matters fall away.

 

 

 

 

In some dark cellar,
last year’s Christmas ornaments,
still wait patiently.

 

 

 

 
A large rubber band
was the only thing keeping
his Life together.

 

 

 

 
Hiding on the stairs,
they watched in awe (and glee) as
Santa ate cookies.

 

 


 

 

 

He trudged through the snow,
to get back home while it was
still Christmas morning.

 

 

 

 

 
What’s that you’re hiding?
Under your coat, what is that?
My Christmas present?!

 

 

 

Irony-ku:
Walnuts and filberts,
each Christmas forced to listen
to “The Nutcracker.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s gold charm bracelet,
clanged against the banister,
as she climbed the stairs.

 

 

 

 

On his empty bed,
sits a present, wrapped, but left
out of his suitcase.

 

 

 

 

 

His pain’s too great, he
loses himself in movies …
to exist in dreams.

 

 

 

 
He sang Madrigals
in High School, standing next to
girls that frightened him.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t move fast, but
the reluctance of old age
has not slowed my thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Sitting quietly
a Beatles tune in my head
I weep for my youth.

 

 

 

double haiku:

 

There, lying in a
box of old photos. a house
now unrecognized.

It’s been lovingly
saved, but saved for what reason?
Don’t know, never will.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.   I’m taking next week off and the following week will be the annual year-end re-cap of the best of your haikus from 2015.

 

And finally, this week’s bonus material: The Holiday Classic, “Christmas with the Condiments”

 

 

Christmas with the Condiments

by Michael Tracy Smith (c) 2009

 

Introduction:

Condiments are curious. They live rather quiet lives of simple service, giving much, while demanding little. They demand only that: 1), you partake of their pleasures by the date stamped, and 2), you refrigerate them after opening. For many people, condiments inspire mixed emotions. At best, we love them and savor them, (However, I suppose to say we relish them might be laying it on a bit thick.) On the other hand, we can also feel a great distaste for them (like that ex-lover you’d rather not be surprised by when the light goes on.) Mostly though, we ignore condiments. This, believe it or not, is okay. That’s because condiments are made to be ignored. It’s a part of their function. Condiments are, by nature, team players. Unlike main course prima-donnas, they were never meant to stand alone. I mean, what could be more ridiculous than Broiled Mayonnaise? Nothing, except perhaps Ketchup Tetrazzini … or Filet of Mustard. You see, condiments were meant to merely serve, to enhance our enjoyment of others, and as in life, the spear carriers don’t get the soliloquies. Yet, they do so much more than stand and wait …

Charles Wheaton hated being kissed on the subway. Especially by a girl, who, ten minutes earlier, over drinks, had stated rather simply, that while she valued his friendship a lot, she did not want to consider him a “date”. This was a pity kiss, and Charles knew it. He kept his mouth very tightly closed and took it. Her lips were slightly wet, and his little voice urged him to take advantage of the situation and get what he could off her. It was Christmas Eve for chrissakes. Besides, this was the first physical contact he’d had with a woman in six months. “Go ahead”, the voiced urged. But he resisted. His pride and sadness intermixed with a strong sense of rejection and anger to form the catatonic willingness that was Charles’s usual public persona. He relaxed as the train pulled into his stop, for he knew, that given her barroom declaration, he wasn’t obligated to see her home. (The odds on scoring now, even in his fantasies, were probably astronomical anyway.) The girl smiled as Charles stood on the platform and waved. “Merry Christmas” she called out, as a soiled street person tried to hit Charles up for a quarter. The doors closed. The wind blew Charles’s thinning red hair into a mass as the train hurriedly left the station. Charles stood in place until the signal light had changed back to yellow, and then he wandered home.

The muscles of his legs ached as he climbed the stairs to his apartment. At 37, Charles was definitely aware of his own aging. His face, which still held onto the freckles that everyone had adored when he was ten, had lately seemed somewhat less “Charles” than before. His face seemed a great deal more asymmetrical than Charles remembered it, and also less friendly as Charles stared at it every morning while shaving. It was as if it resented the intrusion, and hoped to avoid further examination in the future.

Charles yawned as he approached the door to his apartment. The fifteen watt hallway light had burned out again, so it took him a good couple of minutes to fit the key in the lock and let himself in. He unwrapped his scarf and dropped his coat onto a chair. Dust balls swooshed around beneath his feet. He opened a can of soup, forgetting that the saucepan was still in the sink from last night. He washed it out and put the soup on, then walked to the front of the apartment and plugged in the window Christmas candle. He tried the TV, but there was nothing on, and he knew that the radio stations all played the same damn stuff at this time of year. Over and over and over. He hiked back to the kitchen to stir the soup.

It had been an extremely long day for Charles. In addition to his pitiful attempt at a date, the store had been overrun with the final wave of last minute shoppers, who, in keeping with tradition, had worn out the rug in front of the men’s cologne counter where Charles worked. He stirred the soup mindlessly for a while, then reached into the freezer and removed a couple of minute steaks. Max, the cat, let out with a small gargling noise that resembled a yodel. This was his signal to Charles that he had eaten, visited his litter box, rubbed up against the kitchen table, had gotten bored, and was now on his way back to the sofa, where his 512th nap of the day was waiting for him. Charles continued to prepare dinner as the cat’s little claws clicked briskly on the linoleum, like a drum roll intro into Max’s entry into pussycat dreamland. A large imposing novel lay on the table. Charles had been meaning to finish it for months. In spite of this, tonight’s dinner time reading material would be a rumpled, oil-stained copy of last week’s People magazine.

Charles searched for an article he hadn’t read yet, while absent-mindedly setting the table. He poured the soup, and made his steak sandwich. Then he began soaking up all the info on the week’s top grossing movies, most of which he’d never see. He hiccupped … so what. It was barely noticeable. He hiccupped again. No big deal … Then again … Quietly … hiccup … He was only somewhat aware of it … hiccup … again … hiccup … and it slowly began to settle in … hiccup … Charles checked his breathing … hiccup … no … hiccup … It wasn’t him! … hiccup … Was he hearing things? … hiccup … No, there it was again … hiccup … the TV was off … hiccup … he located the sound … hiccup … it was … hiccup … the MUSTARD!!

“This is nuts”, thought Charles, and he was probably right … hiccup … “Excuse me, Mustard”, he said, “Did you hiccup”? (He spoke softly and tentatively, for God forbid the neighbors should hear him talking to a mustard jar.) Charles strained his ears, listening for an answer. After a very long moment, the mustard unexpectedly whispered back, “Yesh sir, I did” … Charles shook his head. A jar of mustard had spoken to him! And it had answered him in the cutest and most unusual drunken French dialect that he had ever heard. Sort of a Chipmunk Chevalier on cheap Chablis. Charles was stunned. Eventually he managed to push some breath past his vocal cords and form words. “Dddd-dddid yyyyyou … tttalk?” he stammered. “Don’t mind him”, another voice suddenly muttered, “he’s soused. Those Dijon types just can’t handle the wine.” Charles looked down. That voice could only have come from the Ketchup! (This was nearly too much for Charles to take.) “I don’t believe this … this is incredible … Is this some kind of joke, or what?” Those were just three of the statements to come tumbling out of Charles Wheaton’s gaping mouth.

However, the condiments just sat there. So Charles pretended he wasn’t paying any attention. He went back to flipping through his magazine. “Whoozsh zhe calling a joke?” Charles turned back to the mustard. “You talk! Damn it, I heard you. You talk!” The mustard was silent. (Charles blinked, sat back in his chair, shook his head and was just about to blame it all on being overworked and underfed, when the mustard gave out with a short, cute, but nevertheless disgusting belch.) “Aha?” Charles grabbed the mustard and held it up to his face. “ ‘allo, Monsieur Charles.” “Hi,” Charles answered rather uneasily. “Be careful, he’s scared of heights.” Charles swiftly turned to the Ketchup. “So you DID speak” … “Yes, Charles, I did” replied the Ketchup with only the barest hint of a mid-western accent. “But how?” asked a bewildered Charles. “Speaking is easy” answered the Ketchup. Most everything can speak. You just need to know the language. Understanding, that’s the key.” “But you’re not supposed to talk!” Charles protested. “Why not?” the Ketchup reasoned, you do.” “But, but I’m SUPPOSED to talk! I, … I …” “Let me explain”, the Ketchup sighed. “This is Christmas Eve.” It spoke slowly, as if explaining a very difficult mathematical equation to a loaf of bread. “There’s a very old custom, goes back to biblical times, that says that on Christmas Eve, all the barnyard animals can talk. You’ve heard about that, haven’t you?” Charles nodded, although he really couldn’t see the connection.”Well,” the Ketchup continued, “nowadays most people don’t keep barnyard animals around. Especially in the city, know what I mean?” (Charles did.) “So, rather than have this quaint old custom die out, the condiments got together and decided to carry on the tradition. I mean, everybody’s got at least a couple of condiments in their refrigerator, right?” (Charles nodded.) “Besides, it gives us something to look forward to. Anyway, I know you probably have a lot of questions. Maybe my cousin should be the one you …” “Your cousin?” Charles interrupted, for he had no idea that condiments even HAD relations, but of course, they do. (And if you thought you had in-law problems, try being married to a bottle of Horseradish.) “Yes, my cousin. He’s that old Chili Sauce that you’ve had in the refrigerator for a couple of years now. He’s a little bit gamey, but that adds to his charm. He’s also very wise and quite the storyteller, so if you’ll just …”

“Whoa. Wait just a minute, here. Do you mean to tell me that tonight ALL the jars in my refrigerator are gonna start talking to me when I open the door?” “You don’t have to open the door,” quipped the Ketchup, “a couple of them are ventriloquists.” Charles stared blankly at the Ketchup. “Hey, come on, it was a joke. They’re not really ventriloquists, all right? You can see their lids moving and everything … just kidding … Well, go on, check it out.”

Charles hesitated a moment before opening the door. “This ketchup’s a fruitcake”, he thought. Before the absurdity of that statement could fully sink in, Charles found himself lining up all the condiments on the kitchen table. The Ketchup handled the introductions, and he was very good at throwing in just the right tidbits of gossip concerning each condiment. His spiel went something like this: This is the Marmalade. (A real crybaby. Holds his breath when he can’t get his way. He’s scared of the dark, so he’s always trying to get left out on the table.) These are the Kosher Gherkins. (Nice Jewish girls, but there’s a cucumber in their past, if you know what I mean. They got in a pickle, that’s why they had to change their names.) Charles winced at every one of the Ketchup’s awful attempts at humor. Unfortunately, it was not the last time he would wince that evening.

Here we have the Relish. (A real gung-ho type. Far too eager to do everything. Once tried to break into a package of hot dogs in order to save you the trouble. A real pain.) Charles nodded. He knew the type. This is the Mayonnaise. (The mother of us all. A little Rubenesque, perhaps, but still one hell of a body for a condiment her age.) Charles checked the date on her label. The numbers were almost worn off, but he could just make out, May 25, 2007. “That’s vintage, all right”, he thought. Which brings us to the Worcestershire Sauce. (Impeccable taste.) Charles winced. (A bit stuffy. Always terribly concerned about which condiment he’s placed next to.) And here we have the soy sauce. (Doesn’t get along with anybody, except the leftover vegetables. Keeps pretty much to himself, and that’s plenty fine with me.) You’ve already met the Dijon Mustard. (The town drunk. Simultaneously disgusting and lovable. At least the wine bottles can hold their liquor.) Wince. And finally, last but not least, this is my cousin the Chili Sauce.

The Chili Sauce introduced itself with an authority and elegance that Charles suspected was uncommon even among talking condiments. The timbre of its voice was remarkable. It reminded Charles of some television beer commercial voice-over, only about an octave lower. This condiment’s voice was mesmerizing. It flowed lyrically over and around each syllable, annunciating perfectly. Charles reached a new level of astonishment. The Chili Sauce, (or Chilly, as he liked to be called) began answering a few of Charles’s simpler questions. Gradually, however, it began to turn to a kind of “sittin’ around the campfire” session, with Chilly entertaining everyone with various tales of condiment life. The others listened eagerly, and responded with cheers and laughter whenever appropriate. The Relish was always the loudest, guffawing so loudly at one point that Charles thought he might tip over at any moment. The soy sauce, on the other hand, never said a word, while the Worcestershire Sauce would only give out with an, “I say”, or the occasional, “Here, here!” to punctuate Chilly’s often jarring stories. At one point, towards the end of a tale of two Chutneys, Charles glanced at his watch. “Oh my gosh, it’s nearly twenty five after eleven!” “Not quite” declared the Ketchup. “What do you mean?” said Charles. “My watch says …” “It’s exactly eleven twenty three and forty-seven seconds.” “How can you be so sure?” “It’s my biological clock.” (Charles winced his biggest wince of the evening.) The other condiments either looked down at the table in quiet embarrassment, or began whistling in a somewhat distracted manner. The pungent aroma of Ketchup’s mediocre joke hung in the air like the smell of six day old coffee grinds. Only worse. Like week-old banana skins in the summertime. Only worse. Like a mildewed towel in the laundry hamper. You get the picture. The joke was that bad. Even the Ketchup sensed that this was one wisecrack he could drop from his repertoire. No use cluttering up the gag file with that one, no sir.

Finally, Chilly broke the silence. “Charles,” he said, “it’s getting a tad warm for us out here. We’ve been on the table for a good hour now, y’know, and I’m sure our lovely Mayonnaise in particular is getting a little warm under the lid.” Chilly’s incredible double basso-profundo vibrated with loving concern, as the Mayo giggled flirtatiously. “Oh, my …” said Charles. He’d become so absorbed in the strange course of events that he hadn’t even considered the fact that his new friends might be getting uncomfortable. “Gee, I’m sorry” he said, “What’s to be done?” “We need to be put back in the refrigerator soon or else, you know …” warned Chilly. “But then you won’t be able to tell me anymore of your stories” said Charles in a manner that, if you didn’t know that Charles was 37, and way too old for that sort of thing, would have sounded just the teeniest bit like whining. “Not to worry, old thing” offered the Worcestershire Sauce, “You can leave the door open.” “I vote for that”, the fainthearted Marmalade quickly piped in. “Oh grow up” said the Ketchup, “You just want the light to stay on!”

An argument was about to erupt, until Charles stepped forward. “I’m sorry” he explained, “but I can’t keep the door open. The motor would have to work too hard to keep things cold and might burn out. I can’t afford to have that happen.” “Besides the other food would go bad” added Chilly. “Not only that, the electric bill would be enormous.” “Well then” said the Ketchup, “I guess story time is over. Goodnight, Charles.” “Goodnight” said Charles reluctantly, as he began placing the condiments back on their shelf in the refrigerator. Just as he picked up the Soy Sauce, it spoke for the first time. “Excuse please, why not turn problem inside out?” “What?” said Charles. “Why not Charles come into refrigerator?” Everyone froze. (Don’t worry, that’s just a figure of speech.) “That’s a crazy idea” thought Charles. (But then again, the whole evening had been extremely unusual.) “I don’t know …” (Still, Chilly had told some very funny and fascinating stories.) “What am I thinking? It’s ridiculous. For one thing, I would never fit.” “Monsieur mon ami”, slurred the Mustard, “Zee Sigh-y soose … See-Shee Saw … Soysh… hash come up wizh ze great idea.” “Well …” said a mildly embarrassed Soy Sauce, “Solution so simple, really.” “I suppose I could re-arrange a few things” thought Charles. He opened the door the rest of the way, and tried to visualize how he’d fit. “You see,” said the Ketchup helpfully, “you could remove the lower shelf, shove the bread in the hydrator with the apples, push the milk and juice way to the back, and toss the cheese in with the lettuce. See? Plenty of room.” Charles was very impressed. The Ketchup was uncharacteristically modest. “Shucks, I was always good with spatial … whatdycallems.” “It would be a tight fit, but … wait a minute, hold everything. What about the door? Suppose I got stuck in there and couldn’t get the door open? I remember I always used to read stories about kids who suffocated from playing in a refrigerator and getting locked in.” “But just think, Charles”, theorized the Ketchup in a monumental display of bad taste, “Worst thing that could happen: you could get yourself in the record books as the oldest and coldest.” “Put a lid on it, cousin!” said Chilly sternly. “Now Charles,” he said, “calm yourself. Check the door. Is it a latch type or does it have magnets?” Charles looked. “No latch, just magnets.” “Okay then”, said Chilly, “It’s not possible to get locked in.” “It’s not?” “No. Anyone can open this door … anyone with appendages, that is.” “You wouldn’t have a thing to worry about”, sniffed the Worcestershire Sauce, “if you’d trained your cat properly.” Charles knew that he hadn’t. “Well, I guess the door can’t lock on me”, thought Charles, “and I could put on a sweater and re-arrange a few things … but how long would the air hold out?” This, Charles realized, was a problem. “Perhaps you could open the door every couple of minutes to get fresh air,” offered the Marmalade. The Ketchup was about to kvetch about the Marmalade being a scared of the dark cry-baby, when Charles snapped his fingers. “Yes, of course. That’s a great idea.” Charles remembered many years ago, when he was little, how he used to play under the covers for a long time, having imaginary adventures. The air would get a bit stuffy after a while, but then, just in the nick of time, he would lift up the blankets near his head, and let the good air come rushing in. He sometimes played that way for hours. This would be just like that. “Okay”, he said, “I’ll do it!” A cheer rose up from inside the refrigerator. After putting on his heaviest sweater, removing the bottom shelf and re-arranging the food, Charles made his first attempt to get into the refrigerator. He went face first and crouched very low, he squeezed … and squeezed … but he couldn’t close the door. He tried turning around, but found it impossible. The Condiments offered encouragement, but, it was no use. He would have to back out and try again. He pushed back out, but found it difficult to get his feet planted firmly under him, and consequently landed on the floor with a thud. He brushed himself off, and tried again.

This time he decided to back in. He placed his left foot in first. His entire right leg shook as he placed his full weight on it, and then slowly backed the rest of his body into the cold white box. He shifted his weight. He squeezed. He crouched very, very small. He FIT! He put out his hand to close the door, but it didn’t quite reach. The door was about five inches beyond his grasp. He stretched, and strained and groaned, but it was no use. Finally, in a variation of a waddle that would have made any duck green with envy, Charles worked his way forward just enough to get his fingertips on the door. He pulled with all his strength. As the door swung toward him, he waddled back, pulling his fingers in with him. Success!

The Marmalade whimpered softly as the light went out. He’d done it! A small cheer went up. (Actually, it was rather a large cheer, but with Charles in there, the acoustics weren’t so good.) This left Charles with only one tiny quibble. “What if the phone rings?” “Charles, it’s Christmas Eve. Get a grip on yourself”, admonished the Ketchup. (In fact, Charles already had a grip on himself. His hands were holding tightly onto his legs, in order to maintain his scrunched-up position.) “I guess you’re right”, said Charles dejectedly, “who’d be calling me tonight?” Fortunately, this slightly pathetic verbal exchange was lost in all the clamor being raised by the other condiments, who were pleading for a story.

“Please, Chilly, tell the one about the Cottage Cheese” shouted the Relish. “Yes, yes, that’s my favorite”, seconded the Gherkins. “Very well”, said Chilly. (This is the story that the Chili Sauce told:) “There once was a refrigerator in a kitchen far away from here. It was owned by a young lady named Sally. She had a healthy appetite, and enjoyed all kinds of condiments with her meals. In fact, Sally’s gourmet tastes also included a fondness for many rare and exotic condiments. She was very fastidious about their use, and very, very neat about storing them. She set a beautiful table, never placing the condiments out in their jars; instead she would carefully spoon them into fine china servers and then later, when she was through, she would lovingly spoon the unused portion neatly back into their jars. (“oooh” purred all the condiments in unison.) Not only that, but she also bought only what she needed, because she wasn’t big on wasting food. If she ever had any leftovers, they were placed in a nice plastic container, labeled, and put on the second shelf, where they stayed for a day or two, and then they were used up. And of the first Saturday of every month, Sally would take a damp cloth and clean out the inside of the refrigerator. (“It doesn’t get any better than that” sighed the Ketchup.) Among the condiments, contentment was the order of the day. Except, of course, for the Worcestershire Sauce. As was normal for most Worcestershire Sauces, (present company included), it had a tendency to become extremely depressed. In this case, it grew out of Sally’s fastidiousness in storing her condiments. The Worcestershire Sauce felt alphabetically doomed to spend his entire life next to the low class Tartar Sauce. “If I have to listen to one more bloody sea shanty”, he moaned, “I think I’ll commit ‘Whoops’!”

Chilly interrupted the story for a moment to explain to Charles that “Whoops” is a drastic step taken every once in a great while by an over-wrought condiment wishing to end its shelf life. It’s generally frowned upon and considered bad form, of course. But things happen. By the way, the name comes from the sound humans make when the refrigerator door is opened and the condiment leaps off the shelf and falls onto the floor. ‘Whoops’ is usually fatal. Of course, lately, due to an alarming increase in both kitchen carpeting and plastic bottles, more and more depressed condiments are surviving with only scrambled insides to show for their troubles. Support groups have sprung up in even the nicest refrigerators, and attendance at ‘Whoops-anon’ meetings has risen dramatically.”

“Anyway”, continued Chilly, “The leader of the condiments in Sally’s refrigerator was the Chutney. He’d been around the longest and told the best jokes. What’s more, ALL the condiments liked him. Even the Catsup. (This was when it was spelled like that, and not the other way.) One day, a strange face appeared when the light went on. It was not Sally’s face! The strange face looked around for a couple of seconds, and then shut the refrigerator door. Everyone considered this peculiar, because Sally was not the type to let her guests casually peek into her refrigerator. Who was this stranger then? Was it a new lover? A new business partner? A relative? They argued heatedly back and forth all night. The next day, when the door was opened, once again, it was not Sally. It was the stranger! He didn’t take anything out. On the contrary, he began putting things in! Groceries! (And not Sally’s kind of groceries at all!) No fresh vegetables or fruits, but plenty of processed foods and white sugar and maple syrup and (gasp!) SODA POP!

In the next few days, it became obvious that Sally no longer was there. Her organizational system was in a shambles. The Worcestershire Sauce, seeing an opportunity to be moved away from the Tartar Sauce, gleefully hoped out loud that Sally would never come back. Many condiments panicked and cried at the thought, for they loved Sally, and they feared that the Worcestershire Sauce’s wish might come true. They were afraid of the unknown. The Chutney tried his best to calm them down. He told them that although Sally was not there now, she would not be gone forever. He reasoned that this other person was just using Sally’s kitchen until she got back. “But how can you be so sure?” demanded the Mayonnaise, who was trying very hard to stay cool. “Well,” Chutney replied, “this stranger has put a lot of new things in, but he hasn’t thrown anything out. His taste is obviously very different from Sally’s. I figure that if Sally was gone for good, he’d have thrown a lot of us into the garbage, especially me.” This seemed to convince the others, for most of the crying stopped, and now all the talk centered on what kind of adventure Sally was having, and how long it would be until she returned. The Chutney’s reassurances had saved the day. The condiments joyfully clinked their jars together, and sang happy songs well into the night.”

At this point, Charles, feeling the first onset of suffocation, opened the door slightly to catch a little fresh air. The Marmalade sighed with relief. He others squinted as the light came on. “Sorry”, explained Charles, “I had to get some air.” “That’s okay”, assured Chilly, “You picked a good place for an intermission.” “Just let me take a couple more deep breaths, and I’ll be all set.” Charles inhaled deeply a few times, then, taking his biggest breath ever, he closed the door. A discouraging word was heard from the Marmalade section. Chilly continued with the story. “Several weeks later, the delighted Worcestershire Sauce, now resting totally out of order next to the Catsup, was proudly telling everyone how he had become the first condiment ever to stay on Sally’s table for the whole meal. “What was remarkable, I tell you, was that he kept me right on the table. I watched him eat a huge steak and some mashed potatoes, but NO vegetables! (“Positively barbaric!” the Relish cried.) “And then, he just picked me up and practically tossed me back in the refrigerator.” “Amazing”, said the Catsup. “I’m really horribly insulted”, sniffed the Worcestershire Sauce, “I mean, he didn’t even use me. He didn’t even loosen my cap!” “Sally never would have stood for that”, remarked the Mayonnaise. (Of course, the Worcestershire Sauce’s indignation was tempered with a large dollop of joy, for he was finally in a position on the shelf that he considered worthy of his status.

Meanwhile, the Chutney was warily checking out a new arrival. “What’s the matter?” whispered the Mayonnaise, for she sensed Chutney’s uneasiness. “I don’t know”, the Chutney whispered back, for he did not want to alarm the others. “I don’t like the looks of that Cottage Cheese, but I guess I’ll just have to learn to live with it.” “Hey, why so serious?” interjected the Catsup, who’d been eavesdropping. “It’s only another transient leftover. It won’t be here long.” “I’m not so sure,” replied the Chutney as matter-of-factly as possible. “Y’see, the stranger didn’t cover it with anything, and he put it on the lower shelf. It’s so easy to forget about food down there.” There were some disbelieving chortles heard from the back of the refrigerator. “Laugh if you will,” warned the Chutney, “but I think this could be serious.” A jar of olives spoke up for the first time. “Hey Mr. Gloom, you’re the pits.” (He was referring to the Chutney.) “I don’t know about you, amigo, but I never met a Cottage Cheese I didn’t like.” “Well, I hope you’re right”, said the Chutney. Unfortunately, as the weeks went by, Chutney’s fears grew more and more real. Something strange was happening. The Cottage Cheese, which had been pleasant enough in the beginning, began to develop a real edge to its voice. And it was definitely acting more and more hostile. It had spent the better part of Tuesday insulting the Pickles, and ALL day Wednesday curdling the disposition of the Half and Half, which had been placed next to it. To make matters worse, it was now hidden way in the back of the bottom shelf behind a couple of six packs of beer and a box of two day old pizzas. Chutney was worried. The Cottage Cheese was beginning to make vague intimidations toward the pizza, and even hinted that it would not stop there, ruining anyone that stood in its way. “I say”, said the Worcestershire Sauce, “you can’t take any of these childish threats seriously.” “Of course I can. We must!”, said the Chutney, “Given enough time, he could carry out those threats. And don’t tell me you can’t smell something in the air.” The Worcestershire had to admit that he could. “Well, it’s him”, stated the Chutney. “Isn’t there any way to stop him?” wondered the Mayonnaise. “We could all hope that Sally gets back soon” offered the Catsup. Some of the others agreed. “No”, replied the Chutney, “we must not live in hope.” “I yearn for action”, shouted the Relish, “Let’s Cuke ‘em!” This upset the others. “Look”, the Relish explained, “all we have to do is push some cucumbers into his bowl, and in a few days, you’ll have something so disgusting, even the stranger will have to throw it out.” The Chutney remained calm. “How can we ask the cucumbers to go on such a ‘Whoops’ mission? It isn’t fair. Besides, suppose we did it and the stranger didn’t throw it out right away? It could destroy us all.” “You wanna die quick or you wanna die slow?” the Relish shot back. The Chutney said nothing, but he knew another way MUST be found. Over the next week, the Cottage Cheese continued to grow more powerful. (And more pungent.) One morning, in its surliest voice yet, the Cottage Cheese issued an ultimatum. It demanded to be made Emperor of the Refrigerator, and it said that the others must bow down to his magnificence and worship him as “Lord”. Some of those closest to the Cottage Cheese, (especially the dairy products), decided to give in to his demands, in the hope that would appease him and then he in turn, would spare them. But none were spared. The Cottage Cheese spread its evil spell over all it came into contact with. The resistance was formed by the Condiments, who were joined by the beer and soda. A plan was needed. The Cottage Cheese’s sinister influence was growing stronger. In desperation, the Chutney organized a secret meeting of the resistance. It was there that he announced his plan. “My friends, the stranger must be made aware of our problem. To accomplish that, I propose a two-step plan. First, we must all begin to imitate the smell of the Cottage Cheese, whenever the door is opened. That way, the stranger will notice the problem and eliminate it.” “Whoa!”, interrupted the Horseradish, “You said this was a two-step plan. What else is there to do?” “I’m getting to that”, countered the Chutney, “I know that it is a serious and desperate step, but my friends, I see little choice. The second step I propose is a calculated ‘Whoops’ campaign.” The entire resistance sat in stunned silence. “We must get the stranger to really and truly smell the offender”, the Chutney continued, “By forcing him to bend down and pick up one of our fallen colleagues, we get his head at just the right height to discover the Cottage Cheese for himself. That, coupled with our smell-alike campaign just might do the trick.” “If we’re lucky.” The Catsup chimed in. “We don’t have a choice. We HAVE to be lucky”, stated the Chutney. Just then, there was a noise outside the refrigerator. (Not Sally’s refrigerator, Charles’s refrigerator.) “SHHH!” whispered Charles, and Chilly stopped immediately. Everyone listened intently. (Except the mustard; he’d fallen asleep.) There were definite rumblings outside the door. Someone was in Charles’s kitchen! A wave of anxiety made Charles shudder. Then he realized that he would have to open the door pretty soon to take another breath, and he did not wish to be discovered in this position by a burglar, or anyone else for that matter. How could he explain? What reason could he give for being scrunched up in his refrigerator? He could hear the burglar walking around the kitchen. He prayed that the intruder wouldn’t decide he was thirsty and open the door. But, on the other hand, the air was growing stale. His lungs were beginning to ache. The muscles in his legs were on the verge of cramping. He fidgeted. He contorted his body in an attempt to ease his discomfort. His head was throbbing. He couldn’t last much longer. Five more seconds! Three! Two! One! He was about to throw open the door, in an effort to catch the burglar by surprise, when he heard the muffled sound of a hallway door closing. Relieved, he opened the refrigerator door a crack. His lungs gratefully sucked in the fresh air. He listened. Everything was quiet. He opened the door the rest of the way. “Hello?” No answer.

Charles crawled awkwardly out of the refrigerator. He got up. He looked around. Max was still asleep in the other room. Nothing seemed to be missing. The thief has not taken anything! Except for his soup and sandwich. Charles couldn’t believe it. All that was left were a few crumbs on the plate. The soup bowl looked as if it had been licked clean. “Why would anybody …” Charles began, and then he saw the note. It was a short missive written in the most beautiful script anyone had ever seen. “Dear Charles”, the note said, “Thanks for the wonderful meal. I get so sick and tired of milk and cookies. Merry Christmas!” And next to the note was a small, perfectly wrapped present. Charles smiled. He walked back to the refrigerator and opened the door. “Hey guys, it’s okay. It wasn’t a burglar. Guess who it was.” He laughed, but there was no answer. “There’s nothing to be afraid of … Chilly?” The night was silent. He picked up the ketchup. It did not respond. He glanced up at the clock. It was 12:02. Christmas Eve was over. Charles sighed. “I hope Chutney’s plan worked … “ But he knew that it had. He placed the ketchup back on the shelf, and then, before shutting the door, he picked up the marmalade, placed it on the table, and leaving the kitchen light on, Charles went to bed. The next morning, he opened his perfectly wrapped present. It was a small bottle of men’s cologne.

 

The End

 

****

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One Response to A Fairly Christmas-y Friday Afternoon at the Haikulodeon

  1. trkingmomoe says:

    You have a nice Christmas. I am up catching up on my food blog. Posted 2 tonight. I have several more to go this week end.

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