They say a man’s home is his castle.
Well, I’m not sure who says it but somebody says it.
When you think of “castle” you might imagine a knight in shimmering armor, a beautiful princess and assorted gallantry.
Here in the real world, the castle is under siege by unemployed midgets, unruly beasts and a cook who is always trying to poison the king.
It’s not bad enough that I sleep on the floor (due to sleep issues) and the dogs sleep in bed with the wife, or that they’ve learned to aim between their kennel bars, like fertilizing sharpshooters, while we’re at work.
Brother devil hounds Sam and Tolstoy turned one year old last week and the wife and daughter thought a birthday party with cake and hats was in order.
I want you to take a moment and digest that statement: a birthday party for dogs.
The dogs promptly ate the hats, but there would be no cake because the wife destroyed the stove.
It seems a burner was not plugged in all the way causing electricity to shoot to the ceiling and apparently fry the appliance.
From my office I heard a loud pop followed shortly by the wife’s even louder screams: “Lightning! It shot lightning! Beeeeeeen!”
Oh yeah, did I mention the wife has taken up cooking?
And, before you sensitive types recoil at my assessment of the wife’s efforts, know this: I willingly and skillfully cooked every meal during the first 15 years of our marriage.
Common sense, lack of free-time, and state fire code, have prevented my wife from cooking since we got together in 1994.
It all began some 25 years ago when I was out for eggs and juice some autumn morning while she made toast and fed our infant son.
I returned to find them blissfully unaware of the coal-black column of smoke rising up the kitchen wall and pooling against the ceiling behind them.
The toaster was aflame and the wall and ceiling were stained a nice charcoal color.
When you can’t cook toast, or at least notice that the toaster is Chernobyling, you’ve pretty much forfeited control over the kitchen.
Not that she ever wanted it. She’d never cooked as a kid and I spent most of my childhood playing chief cook and bottle-washer to a brood of five brothers and one sister.
Fast-forward a decade or so and, with no more college classes sucking up her nights, she is excited to finally have time to cook for her family every night.
Aren’t you excited?
I’m so excited I can’t stop crying.
So, for the last couple months it’s been one culinary enigma after another.
- Pot roast a la Birkenstock—after six minutes of chewing, I started looking for the buckles and laces.
- Tuna noodle surprise—Surprise! Guess who hates tuna noodle casserole?
- And, quite possibly my favorite BBBTSLRTs—that stands for black bacon, burnt toast, slimy lettuce and rotten tomato sandwiches.
The twins, on the other hand, find the wife’s cooking simply divine.
Of course, in their first year on the planet, they have eaten one-half of a severely overpriced leather recliner; four pairs of shoes, a cell phone, a tub of crayons, two television remotes, three nylon dog collars—yes, they remove their collars and eat them—several blankets and pillows, two dead mice, two tubs of margarine, the wife’s back massager, three feet of oak living room baseboard, nine stuffed animals, half a Barbie doll, one beer, approximately 13 pounds of acorns and six bushel baskets of pine cones, sundry flowers, insects, my lemon cookies and my favorite Stephen King book.
Anyway, I checked the home’s electrical system as well as anyone who knows nothing about electricity can do.
I opened the breaker boxes and fuse boxes and grunted and scratched and closed them again.
Why we have five fucking electrical boxes is a different story.
I knew none of the fuses were blown because, the last time I had a blown fuse, I ended up calling the electrician who showed me how to check it out.
He also assured me that, while he was quite happy to come over and change a fuse for $50 a shot, I as a homeowner should be doing so.
If the fuses were good then it must have been the stove.
I scanned the countryside for a reasonably priced range.
Now, when I say “scanned the countryside” I mean I drove up and down the goddamn hillbilly back roads looking for an oven some more fortunate asshole tossed onto the side of the road.
That was my price range at the time.
By “price range” I mean $25 or less.
I don’t know about you folks in the big city, but out here in the country we sell things—anything from cars, clothes, food, livestock and tractors, to stoves, toys, electronics and hot tubs—by putting a cardboard sign on them and setting them by the side of the road.
It wasn’t long before I spotted my prize, a cream colored ’70s model.
The wife nearly died of shame when I handed the stranger a $10 bill for the old stove in the front yard.
“Oh my gaaawd,” she said, covering her face. “It’s not going to work.”
It took about 10 minutes to drain the rainwater from the stove before hoisting it into the back of the van.
“It’s not going to work,” the wife jeered again.
My son and little brother—who was still living with us at the time—wrestled the stove inside and plugged it in.
“I told you it wasn’t going to work.”
Well, with no microwave, and too cheap to call an electrician, we splurged on a table-top skillet to get us through.
Have you ever eaten slow cooked spaghetti?
It ain’t pretty.
Think paste and tomato sauce and lots of frowny faces.
I don’t demand gourmet but I do favor edible.
After seven days of bachelor fare and fast food, I broke down and made the call.
It cost us another $50 for a real man to come in and change the bad fuse I missed.
“I thought we covered this last time,” the electrician scolded.
“I was afraid of getting zapped,” I admitted.
And then, with $50 worth of labor and $1.19 worth of fuse, we were in business.
The old stove worked.
The wife was so happy to have the magical cooking box back online she decided to celebrate by cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Early, yes. But, she’s never done it before and wanted a practice-run before the real deal later this month.
Anyone with an empty seat at their dinner table please get a-hold of me.
P.S. It’s been four years and we still have that $10 stove. I guess it worked.
Update: That $10 stove caught on fire on New Year’s Day 2013. We now have a $1,200 stove. A bit pricey for us but it was our first new oven and we kind of went crazy.
Update again: In 2018 we sold the house and the $1,200 stove and I’ve been on cooking duty since the wife cooked Thanksgiving dinner all those years ago.