Sunday, March 26, 2023

"Little Kitchen of Horrors"

By Jerry Zezima

I could never be a herbivore, not just because I don’t like vegetables, even though I am one, but because my name isn’t Herb.

But there is a herb living in our house that I fear is about to turn into a carnivore. It is almost 4 feet tall, it stands menacingly next to my chair at the kitchen table and it is probably waiting to eat me for dinner like Audrey II, the man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

This one is a citronella, also known as the mosquito plant, so named because either it repels blood-sucking flies or, more worrisome, it likes to bite people.

So far, I haven’t detected a mouthful of teeth, but that doesn’t mean the jolly green giant can’t ingest me in some other horrible way. I just hope I will prove to be as unappetizing to the plant as its yucky relatives are to me.

My wife, Sue, who loves vegetables and gets perverse pleasure in serving them to me, once asked if I like squash.

My response: “I’d rather play tennis.”

So she went out to her garden, picked a big, fat zucchini and served it to me for dinner.

It served me right.

Sue, who also loves flora (Flora and I are just good friends), has about two dozen houseplants. She waters them regularly and, obeying the instruction of botanists, talks to them. (The plants, not the botanists, who must be very lonely.)

“Talking to plants helps them grow and keeps them healthy,” Sue told me.

“Am I supposed to talk to the citronella?” I asked. “It gives me the creeps.”

That’s because I can’t sit down in the kitchen without practically being engulfed by the humongous herb, which is situated between my chair and a pair of French doors so it can get enough sunlight to grow even larger.

Whenever I want to sit down, I have to push the leafy layabout out of the way.

“Get lost!” I snapped as I sat down for lunch the other day.

“That’s no way to talk to a plant,” Sue said. “You’ll make it sad.”

“Do I have to apologize?” I asked. “The stupid thing doesn’t even talk back.”

“I can just imagine what it would say to you,” Sue said.

It brings to mind (or what’s left of it) the Oscar-winning song “Talk to the Animals” from the 1967 film “Dr. Dolittle.” I hereby present my own composition, “Talk to the Vegetables,” from a proposed movie starring me in the title role, “Dr. Donothing.”

If I could talk to the vegetables, just imagine it.

Yelling at a head of broccoli.

Imagine talking to a turnip, chatting with a cabbage.

What a lousy dinner that would be.

The most demoralizing part is that Herbie II, as I have named the citronella, no doubt gets perverse pleasure, like Sue, in watching me eat greens that leave me green around the gills.

Also, the big guy has teamed with a poinsettia, which Sue has placed on a stool to my right, in surrounding me at the table.

“Christmas is over,” I told Sue.

“It’s still alive,” she replied. “If you want to sit down, just push it out of the way.”

Unless I want to starve to death, an appealing option if veggies are on the menu, I have to push both plants out of the way so I can sit down.

It reminds me of the lyrics to another song, “Stuck in the Middle With You,” by Stealers Wheel:

Citronellas to the left of me, poinsettias to the right.

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

To add insult to injury (I stubbed my toe on the stool), after I eat, Sue wants me to push the plants back to their spots in front of the glass doors so they can sunbathe.

But there’s good news: Now that it’s spring, my plant pals will soon go outside, the citronella to the backyard and the poinsettia to the patio.

Then I won’t have to talk to them anymore. And I can finally eat their yucky relatives in peace.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 19, 2023

"The Great Egg Mystery"

By Jerry Zezima

Why did the chicken cross the road? To lay an egg in my backyard.

That’s the real answer to the age-old question. I know because the other side of the road is on my property, where a sneaky hen left her unhatched offspring and then, probably knowing that my wife, Sue, planned to make chicken for dinner, flew the coop.

The fowl deed must have been done a day or two before Sue peered through a window, spotted something white a few feet from the back of the house and thought it was a mushroom. But on going outside for an inspection, she made a startling discovery.

“There’s an egg in the yard!” Sue shouted when she came back in.

I went out, saw the egg and said, “What, no bacon?”

But the situation raised other questions: What animal laid it? How did the creature get over the fence? And, most pressing, would I have to sit on the egg to hatch it?

“It looks too big to have been laid by a robin or a crow,” Sue said. “And it couldn’t have fallen from a nest in a tree.”

“Then it would be a scrambled egg,” I noted.

“Cats come through the yard, but they don’t lay eggs,” Sue said.

“Not unless they’re catbirds,” I replied.

“Maybe it was a snake,” Sue guessed.

It was a frightening possibility because a couple of weeks before, a 14-foot-long python was found dead on the side of a nearby road.

“It couldn’t have been hitchhiking to get here,” I said. “Snakes don’t have thumbs.”

Sue and I were baffled, so we took the egg to a veterinarian.

“It’s a chicken egg,” said the vet. “I’m surprised it wasn’t eaten by a possum.”

“If I saw one, I’d play dead,” I said.

“Put the egg back in the yard,” the vet recommended. “Maybe the chicken will return and hatch it.”

“With the price of eggs these days,” the vet’s receptionist chimed in, “you should get her to lay more of them.”

We now knew the answer to another age-old question: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

But there was an even more confusing conundrum: Whose bird was it?

Since chickens are fryers, not flyers, we suspected it came through the same gaps in the fence that are used by the aforementioned felines.

So I knocked on the doors of neighbors around back.

“No chickens here,” said Bernie, who was babysitting for his newborn granddaughter. “Just a cat.”

Trevor said his family has dogs but no chickens.

“If I see any, I’ll let you know,” he promised.

I asked Arnie, our mailman, if he knew of anyone on his appointed rounds who has chickens.

“Try a couple of streets over,” Arnie said. “I hear chickens all the time.”

At one house, I was greeted by Dudley the dog and his owner, John, a pleasant guy who said, “I’ve lived here for 20 years and have never seen a chicken. At least not one I didn’t have for dinner.”

Still, I found out that a lot of people have chickens.

A family that used to live on a nearby street had a rooster that would wake up the entire neighborhood at 5 o’clock every morning, but someone complained and the racket stopped. The annoying avian must have been adopted by Colonel Sanders.

My sister Susan’s son Taylor and his wife, Carlin, watch their landlords’ chickens when the landlords are away. And Carlin’s mother and stepfather have chickens.

“The eggs are rich and wonderful,” Susan said.

“Better than what you can get at the store,” added my mother, Rosina.

Of course, there’s always an exception.

My barber, Maria, told me that she and her husband, Carlos, had tenants who owned chickens.

“The eggs were delicious — except for one,” Maria said. “I was baking and cracked an egg the tenants gave me. Whew!” she exclaimed. “It was rotten. Believe me, nothing smells worse. Now I buy my eggs at the supermarket.”

Melissa, a receptionist where Sue gets her hair done, said she has chickens. When Sue showed her a picture of the egg in our yard, Melissa said, “It’s been abandoned. You have a rogue chicken.”

It never returned, so Sue took the egg inside and placed it in a plastic container that she put next to the furnace to keep it warm.

Nothing happened, so I took out the egg, placed it on a rug and sat crossed-legged with the egg lying snuggly against my sweatpants.

“What are you doing?” Sue asked incredulously.

“Trying to hatch it,” I answered. “I want to be a daddy hen.”

That didn’t work, either. Finally, Sue and I took the egg outside and cracked it, wondering if we would welcome a cute little chick into the world.

Instead, the yolk was on me. It was a regular egg, sunny-side up, like I eat for breakfast on Saturday mornings.

I didn’t eat this one, but I did learn a valuable lesson:

When it comes to being a chicken detective, I’m just a dumb cluck.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 12, 2023

"If the Pants Fit, Wear Them"

By Jerry Zezima

Even at my advanced age (approaching seven decades of decrepitude), I have kept my boyish figure. And I have always been stylish because my wife buys my clothes, which I sometimes stick in a drawer or hang in a closet and promptly forget about, only to discover them months later with the tags still attached.

But when it comes to pants, I have gone to waist.

That was shockingly obvious when Sue bought me two pairs of shorts that I not only couldn’t button without exploding like the Hindenburg (“Oh, the obesity!”), but couldn’t sit down in unless I wanted to sound like I was trying out for the Vienna Boys Choir.

“You’re driving a wedgie between us,” I said breathlessly.

“They don’t fit,” Sue acknowledged.

“They’re size 34, right?” I said.

“Yes,” she replied.

“It’s what I’ve always worn,” I noted.

“True,” said Sue. “But these are a ‘slim’ cut. You need the next size.”

“Are you going to exchange them?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “You’re coming to the store with me.”

Instead of “shop till you drop,” I prefer to drop before I shop so I won’t have to go to the store.

My idea of hell is being trapped in a fitting room as the door swings open and horrified shoppers witness the ghastly sight of me hopping around, with one leg stuck in a pair of “slim-cut” pants and the other flashing a glimpse of red, white and blue underwear with hearts on them, two pairs of which I actually own.

Sue bought them for me.

This time I accompanied her so I could try on shorts that fit properly and wouldn’t make me look like a total dweeb. Sadly, there was a “slim” chance of the latter because I was wearing dark socks, a wretchedly embarrassing fashion statement (“I’m a total dweeb!”) that would never get me on the cover of GQ unless it stood for Geezers’ Quarterly.

“Find a size 36,” Sue instructed as I looked through a pile of tan shorts.

When I found a pair, she said, “Now find one in navy blue.”

“Now what?” I asked when I had unearthed a pair.

“Now,” Sue answered, “go to the dressing room and try them on.”

I opened the door, stepped inside, took off my size 34 jeans and slipped into a pair of shorts, size 36. I would say they fit like a glove, but they were more like a giant mitten with leg holes and a zipper.

When I opened the door and stepped out, Sue nodded and remarked, “They fit much better.”

I got a second opinion from a sales associate named Sarah, who heartily concurred.

“You look like a size 34,” she said as she surveyed my midsection.

“Thank you,” I responded. “I try to keep svelte. But why aren’t there regular clothes anymore? Everything is ‘slim.’ I tried on a shirt a couple of years ago that was a ‘slim’ cut and I almost suffocated. I had to get an extra-large.”

“That’s the way clothes are made these days,” Sarah explained. “They’re all tailored for young people.”

Sue asked if I wanted long pants. I got two pairs, “slim” cut, size 36, and brought them to the dressing room.

I was in the middle of changing when my cellphone rang. It was a guy calling to remind me of an appointment the next day.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he said.

“Not at all,” I replied. “I’m just trying on pants.”

There was a brief silence, followed by, “OK, see you tomorrow.”

Then he hung up.

When I stepped out, the ladies signaled their approval.

“Men usually don’t go shopping,” Sarah said. “Their wives buy them clothes, the men try them on at home, the clothes don’t fit and they have to come in anyway.”

“Like my husband,” Sue added helpfully.

“Or,” said Sarah, “they put them in a drawer or a closet and never wear them.”

“Like my husband,” Sue said again.

“I’m going to wear these clothes,” I promised. “And no one will guess they’re size 36. I just have to remember to take the tags off.”

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 5, 2023

"Coming Clean About Vacuums"

By Jerry Zezima

I am not the kind of guy to sweep things under the rug. For one thing, my wife would lower the broom on me if I did. For another, we don’t have too many rugs for me to sweep things under.

But it doesn’t matter because I bought a new, lightweight, cordless vacuum cleaner that will help me avoid the toil and trouble caused by our old, bulky, asthmatic and, let’s face it, sadistic machine.

Not only did I frequently run over my foot while trying to maneuver the maddening contraption around tables and chairs, I nearly ruptured a vital organ while lugging it up to the second floor. And on several frightening occasions, I almost tripped on the cord, fell down the stairs and, yes, got swept under the rug.

The new vacuum is a breeze. I got sucked into buying it as a gift for Sue.

Originally she asked me for a Dustbuster, which would have been great for inhaling the popcorn I often drop in and around my not-so-easy chair, but our daughter suggested I get Sue a new vacuum instead.

Ever the romantic, I spared no expense (it was expensive) and bought it.

The machine is ostensibly for Sue, but it’s really for me because vacuuming is one of the things I do to “help” around the house.

My job is now much easier because we have a new vinyl floor in the upstairs hallway, which previously was covered by an old, worn-out carpet that looked like it had been trampled by a herd of cattle.

And the stairs, which also had faded carpeting that I had to risk hospitalization to vacuum, are now bare and natural.

The work was done beautifully by our terrific contractor, Anthony Amini, owner of Performance Contracting and Management, and his talented assistant, Carlos Garcia.

“Vinyl flooring is the way to go,” said Anthony, who had previously installed it in the kitchen, dining room, family room and living room.

“Is that your vinyl answer?” I asked.

“You’ll be floored to hear this,” Anthony replied, “but yes.”

“Are oak stairs a step up?” I wondered.

“They’ll go down as a big improvement,” Anthony said. “And they won’t kill you because you don’t have to vacuum them.”

“I can’t tell you the number of times I almost took a tumble with our old machine,” I said. “The cord would get wrapped around my ankles like a boa constrictor and I could feel myself falling backward.”

“I think the vacuum cleaner was out to get you,” Anthony suggested. “The new one should be much safer.”

“Do you have vinyl floors in your house?” I asked.

“Yes,” Anthony said. “They’re easy to keep clean. Dirt gets embedded in rugs and carpets.”

“Is that the dirt on housekeeping?” I wondered.

“I’ll come clean and say it is,” Anthony responded.

When he and Carlos left after finishing the four-day job, I got out my trusty new machine and vacuumed the downstairs hallway, effortlessly going over both the vinyl flooring and the narrow rug. I did the same in the upstairs hallway.

With the antiquated apparatus, I had to bend over to adjust the height for bare floors after vacuuming a rug or a carpet. Now it’s so easy — no adjustment, no hernia, no problem — that even a geezer like me can keep the floors clean.

All you have to do is shell out big bucks to buy your wife a brand-new vacuum cleaner that you are going to use anyway. And you don’t even have to sweep your money under the rug.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima