Charlie’s Room: Distracted

Marianne shuffled through the cans in the pantry again. “What happened to the olives?”

Isaac, who was brushing butter onto the raw loaves of bread, paused. He set down the brush. “Did we use them in the spaghetti yesterday?”

“No. I added mushrooms, and I don’t like to have both at the same time.”

“That’s right.” Isaac thought again. “We didn’t put them in the potato soup two days ago.”

“Of course not.”

Charlie dashed into the kitchen, holding up a garden book. “The Farmer’s Almanac has a recipe for a slug trap. We’ll need molasses and cornmeal and flour and yeast. Do we have all that?”

Marianne looked back at the pantry. “I don’t think we have cornmeal. Do you know what happened to the olives?”

Charlie nodded. “We ate them when we were watching movies, remember? We put them on our fingers. They only fit on the ends of Dad’s fingers. Except his pinkies.”

“That’s right.” Marianne shut the cupboard door. “Do you want to go with me to the grocery store? We can pick up some cornmeal.”

“Yeah! Let’s go.” Charlie darted towards the door and paused. “Are you coming too, Dad?”

Isaac finished brushing butter on the loaves and smiled. “No, these are ready for the oven, so I need to be here to make sure to take them out in time.”

“Sounds good. Don’t let the house burn down while we’re gone.” Marianne patted him on the shoulder and followed Charlie out the door.

Isaac slid the loaves of bread into the oven and set the timer. He had a little over half an hour. Now what?

The mail basket on the counter was empty. Did that mean no one had checked the mail yet? Well, that shouldn’t take too long. On the way to the mailbox, he glanced over at Miss Marta’s house. There was a little bit of smoke drifting over the fence.

Marianne’s joke about the house burning down suddenly came to mind. He walked over to the fence and peeked over, just in case. Miss Marta had a little fire pit in her backyard. A large black cauldron was hanging from a metal stand over the pit. Miss Marta was stirring the pot with a long-handled spoon.

Isaac sniffed the air. “Are you burning rosemary?” he asked.

Miss Marta looked over at him, startled. “Yes. Is everything okay?”

“Of course. I just saw the smoke and wanted to make sure your house wasn’t on fire. Are you making soap?”

Miss Marta nodded. “How did you know?”

“That’s how my grandma used to make it. Did you need any help?”

She said she didn’t, but they had a nice long talk on soap molds and lye and it took longer than it should have for Isaac to remember that he was checking the mail. He excused himself and went to the mailbox.

There were ads and bills. Isaac leafed through them, separating them. The ads they wouldn’t be interested in all he left in the recycle bin outside. The rest he took back into the house with him.

When he stepped inside, he could hear the timer ringing. Oops. Luckily there wasn’t any smoke. He hurried to the kitchen, dropping the mail on the counter, and opened the oven door. He leaned back to avoid the steam. The bread was a little darker brown than he liked, but edible.

He left it to cool on the counter and turned off the timer and the oven. Then he started going through the mail. Moments later, Marianne and Charlie returned from the store. Marianne dropped the shopping bag on the counter next to the bread. “Oh, is the bread done? I didn’t think we were gone that long.”

Charlie held up the can of olives he’d carried into the house. “We got an extra can of olives to wear on our fingers while dinner cooks! Can you help me open it?”

Marianne smiled and started to unpack the rest of the groceries. “I also got some raspberry jam to go with the bread. It’s a reward for not burning the house down while we were gone.”

Isaac laughed a little nervously. “It was a near thing, but I managed to safely bake the bread without any fires at all.”

“Hmmmm.” Marianne looked a little suspicious.

Isaac cleared his throat. “Did you know that Miss Marta has a fire in her back yard?”

Charlie paused his search for the can opener and grinned. “Really?”

“She’s making soap. Just like my grandma used to.”

Marianne frowned. “I think she’d get better results inside on the stove.”

“Can we go talk to her after dinner? I want to see.” Charlie had the can of olives clasped to his chest, his eyes shining.

The conversation moved on, they ate olives before dinner and with dinner, and then they visited Miss Marta after dinner. After that there was all the excitement of making a slug trap. Isaac didn’t ever have to admit to nearly burning the bread, if not the house.

However, after that he made it a personal rule to stay inside the house while he was cooking. Unless he was cooking on the grill, of course. And he never burned down the house. Ever.