Mac and Cheese, a Spicy Story

After nearly a week of no heat in my house, I finally feel warm enough to write a story, a spicy one, at that.

This morning I made my usual run (with wet hair) to the grocery store for the Sunday Chronicle. But alas, there were none. I popped into the CVS next door and used the self-check to buy the newspaper. Then I went back to the store for groceries, some cake squares on special, macaroni elbows, cheese, milk, an onion, some apples, pudding and bottled water.

As I turned onto my court, it was lightly raining. My neighbors, who had moved all their stuff out of their house the day before, were back. I hadn’t said good-bye yet. I pulled in the driveway and walked across the court to wish them luck. The wife hugged me with tears in her eyes; they’d lived there for twenty years. But her mom was alone in another state, and their current two-story house wasn’t going to work with Mom. The market’s sweet spot for selling, according to her realtor, was between the Super Bowl and Easter. In other words, the clock was ticking.

I walked with her and her big dog to the park. Would they have a dog park at the new place they were renting? My neighbor didn’t even know yet. 

I came back home and brought in the three bags of groceries, unloaded them, folded up the paper bags, went back to the car for the bottled water.  I realized I hadn’t seen the onion in any of the bags.

Crud! How does a person make homemade mac and cheese with no onion? I certainly did not want to drive back to the store to get it. I found my receipt to see if the onion had even been rung up. Yes, for $1.11.

Dang that cashier! He’d forgotten to put my onion in one of the three bags.

Then I went out to walk the dog in the mist. On the way down the hill, I spotted something yellow in the gutter. A tennis ball? A lemon? As we got closer I saw that it was a huge lemon that had fallen off someone’s tree and landed in the street. Fair for the taking.

“It’s a lemon, Pepper!” I said to my dog.

OMG. Lemon pepper, in my spice rack. I remembered that I might have some minced onion with the spices. When I got home, I went into the pantry to see. I didn’t find minced onion, but I found three cans of baking powder. Wow! How old was it, anyway? I checked the expiration dates – 2000, 2004, 2009. Old, older, and oldest, the stuff that gets ignored when you get divorced, move, and close your shop in five months’ time.

But I digress. I dumped the contents of the baking powder cans down the garbage disposal to make it smell good.

Should I go ahead and make the mac and cheese with no onion? Should I wait till tomorrow when I’d be more willing to run to the store again?  Why did my neighbors have to move away?  Why was it raining again?

Then I had a thought. Maybe I had absent-mindedly put the onion in the apple drawer with the Fujis.  I opened the fridge door and then the apple drawer.

There it was. The cashier hadn’t screwed up after all. The day’s trauma and tragedy were over. I could make the homemade mac and cheese.

My aging brain had jumped to conclusions that turned out not to be true, yet again.

At least I cleaned out a tiny part of my pantry.

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