Ghost in the Appliances
27 May, 2011 - L.L. Barkat
I have never been one to like guns. My stepfather displayed his rifles on the living room wall (which frightened me), and I watched my mother pull a trigger once (the shotgun kick-back threw her to the ground). We ate deer all winter, claimed by buckshot; I couldn’t look when the deer lay silently in the back of the baby-blue pickup truck.
Despite my feelings about firearms, I am just now thinking of buying a pistol. Because, today, my stove unilaterally changed its clock to military time. I don’t remember this option in the user’s manual. (Just what, I ask, must a stove be planning, to take such measures?)
This week I have been dealing with clogged drains, a leaky ceiling, and even a flat tire on the way to the library. Thankfully, I have a Volvo, and, like the stove, it has a way with language. “Tire needs air now!” it silently observed, with a huge exclamation point above the message.
Sure enough, the Volvo was being forthright. The front tire did need air. I could see a nail with a little piece of my neighbor’s roof still attached to it, slowly causing the car to communicate in exclamation points. I paid the service station down the street to remove the nail, with a gun-like implement, and patch up the tire. This calmed the Volvo considerably, and it has gone back to talking about the weather. (“It is 50 degrees today.”)
I suppose I am overreacting just a little bit, but I can’t help thinking that the stove has less honorable intentions than the car. I wonder if it is considering vengeance for the unjust treatment of its former kitchen companion — the old sink we left under the hemlocks. After all, we thought that location would simply be a temporary shelter. We thought we’d surely sell the Depression-era appliance at a good price, to a peaceful home.
The sink is (or was) white. It is made of iron and has a built-in washer board. The drain is filled with pine needles that are morphing into mud. Where the faucets used to be, there are two holes. Sometimes I imagine a woman’s hands turning the long-gone faucets. I imagine her washing a piece of meat from an animal somebody may have shot. She turns and smiles. “Can’t you see?” she seems to be asking.
I am not sure what she wants me to notice. Is it the ease with which she turns the straight handles? The way she doesn’t have to worry that her sink will communicate with her, beyond a squeak in the left faucet? Does she want me to know that her husband shot the animal, and brought it home in a vehicle that only spoke in tail-pipe smoke signals?
She turns back to the sink, and I feel at a loss. I want to ask her, should I buy a pistol? Should I be afraid of the world I live in? Or should I just go to the basement, reset the kitchen fuse, and hope that the stove will surrender to Eastern Standard Time — without a fight.