“Oh for god’s sake, why does this family keep freezing the butter?” I pull the box from the freezer and extract a stick. I slam it hard on the kitchen counter — one … two … three times. “WHY? WHY? WHY? Butter is supposed to be soft. I hate all of you.”
Mark looks up from the roast beef he is slicing to say mildly, “Next time you blame my side of the family for the girls’ tendency toward dramatic excess, I will be harkening back to this moment right here.”
“Good one, Daddy.” Kallan giggles as her sister nods agreement.
“Whatever.” I reach into the drawer for one of our new butter knives. We bought silverware as a family Christmas gift this year, because who knows when we might be featured on the reboot of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and rich and famous people, as a rule, use utensils when they eat.
Or so I have been informed.
I stab at the frozen butter with the newly purchased butter knife. “Look at the impotence! I am slashing and I am stabbing, and the butter is impervious to my assaults. Seriously, people … stop freezing the butter.” I walk to the microwave and toss the stick of butter in … punch a few defrosting buttons. “I mean it. Stop freezing the butter or I will grease you all in your sleep and you will slide right out of your blankets and out of your beds and wake in a puddle of oily floor-fat.”
Maj looks at me. “Great, Mother. That’s one more thing it never would have occurred to me to worry about that will now haunt my sleepless nights.”
The microwave dings, and I take out the butter and give it a few investigative squeezes. “Stupid microwave. The butter is still frozen. Seriously, people …” and I turn in a circle as I point the offending butter stick at each of them, “ … hatred for all of you.”
Maj points out, “Mother, if you just take the butter out of the freezer before you need it, it won’t be frozen when you need it.”
I bang the stick of butter against the counter one more time. “So your suggestion in this moment is what … that I pause in the making of these mashed potatoes to craft myself a time machine with which to go back in time to the moment at which I should have been aware I was going to need – in the future that is now – malleable butter?”
Maj doesn’t answer me. I strain the boiled potatoes and dump them back into the pot, which I’ve rested in the sink. I mash the potatoes a bit and then, holding the very cold stick of butter firmly in my left hand, I use the butter knife to cut off chunks from the end of the stick. All is going well, if frustratingly, until I go to make the third slice, at which point I run into the center liquidized portion of the butter stick (because microwaves are tricky that way). Without the benefit of the time machine I earlier failed to make, and so without knowledge of what is to immediately thereafter occur, I fail to adjust knife pressure and instead slash it home … through the far wall of the butter stick and deep into my left index finger.
Blood is very red when spilled against a canvas of mashed potatoes.
I drop the butter in the sink, grab a paper towel to stanch the bleeding, and with my right hand I grab the masher to blend the starchy carnage a bit before announcing, in an overly casual voice, “OK, I’m done here,” as I walk away.
Mark calls after me, “Did you cut yourself? With a butter knife? Seriously?”
Maj asks, “Are the potatoes OK?”
Kallan says, “Don’t use all the Band-Aids!”
I resist the urge to walk back into the kitchen and butter-stab them all into a more empathetic state. I answer calmly from the bathroom, “Yes … yes … and I will use all the Band-Aids I want, thank you very much.” I rinse my finger, fit the flesh back together, and decide I don’t need stitches or the possibly differing opinion of a doctor. I bandage the wound tightly with more Band-Aids than are strictly required, and, after a few deep breaths, join my family at the dinner table, my injured finger held high above my excitedly pumping heart.
Mark asks, “You OK?”
Kallan stares incredulously at my hand and sighs. “We are going to need more Band-Aids.”
Maj demands to know, “Are the potatoes OK?”
I wince as my finger throbs.
Maj demands again, “Mother, this is a serious question – ARE THE POTATOES ALRIGHT TO EAT?”
Mark scoops himself some mashed potatoes. “Seriously, Maj? Do you honestly think your mother would serve you food with blood in it?”
Maj looks at me suspiciously. I feign great injured innocence, because without the benefit of that time machine I failed to earlier build, there is no way to go back in time to the moment at which I should have been aware I was going to need – in the future that is now – a box of instant mashed potatoes. I don’t answer Maj … instead I scoop myself some potatoes and take an exaggeratedly ecstatic and ever-so-slightly over-salted bite before lifting my glass in toast …