Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The mantelpiece over the stove.

Some time in the night. The small hours. Maybe one, maybe two. I woke, if wake is the appropriate verb, which it probably isn’t; because although I will usually wake easily after three o'clock, before then I am like the log that has lain on the forest floor for fifty years.

Tracy seemed to be feeding the baby in soft light, very soft light. Babies are like that. They wake at night and want food. It’s the one thing I can’t help with. Then, a sound from the other room. The other baby. The older one. The one that is cutting teeth. Molars. They are taking forever. He cries in pain and frustration and his cheeks go red. The molars pop out and go in again, like animals popping their heads out of the ground, what are they called? The golf course ones. I don't know. The sound stopped.

Now I am asleep again. Who mentioned golf? Now I am holding a two iron. Driving through. Thwack. A beautiful shot. Straight to the green. I am a champion. Someone shouts: ‘Fore!’ Who can that be? I am a champion golfer on the green. No-one shouts at me. Then someone pokes me with my own putter. That is just plain rude.

‘Fore!’ again. I jerked. Tracy’s free hand was in my back, prodding. ‘Can you get the Panadol?’ The 'Fore! Fore!' was coming from William's room but when I found my feet he sounded just like a normal crying, teething eighteen-month-old baby.

The Panadol is in the refrigerator. Where’s the kitchen? This way. Where it always is. I felt my way. Passage. Door. Wall. It’s pitch dark. I could turn a light on but I know there will be a glow from the kitchen window. The moon.

My hands reached for the 'fridge door. I bent down. I touched a tap. That’s not the 'fridge. That’s the kitchen sink. Then I remembered exactly where it was, and I turned on my right foot and swiveled my body around and up and back to where the 'fridge was.

I was in the wrong house. We had been at the beach house for three days. I thought I was still there. At the beach house there is nothing between the kitchen sink and the 'fridge. Here, there is a hundred and fifty tons of 1940s timber house. I swiveled up and to the right and my body kept swiveling but my skull met the part of the hundred and fifty tons that is the mantelpiece over the stove. It’s a beautiful mantelpiece. Solid as a rock. Its corner juts out like the bow of the Queen Mary and that's what the outer edge of my eye socket slammed into. The noise wasn’t all that loud, just one sharp crack like a rifle shot in an open field.

All of this happened in seconds. I felt no pain. I fumbled the Panadol and took it to William and gave him some and picked him up and carried him to the bedroom. ‘What was that bang?’ Tracy asked. ‘That cracking noise?’

‘It was just the house,’ I said. ‘The timber makes cracking noises in the night in these old houses.’

In the morning I had a black eye. There’s no eye damage. But I’m going to tape a line of that padded weatherproofing stuff you stick around doors and windows to the corner of the mantelpiece.

Or else I'll move the fridge. I haven't decided.


lucette said...

I like this drama of the every day (or every night). For some reason, it reminds me of Muriel Spark, although I haven't figured out how.

Sara said...


Were you meaning gopher?

kitchen hand said...

Thanks, Lucette, I'd rather not have the night dramas, but they happen!

Yes, Sara! Gophers! And we don't even have them here. Why was I dreaming of them?