Hard-boiled eggs are a tricky thing, harder than they first appear. Cooked too long, they become rubbery. Undercooked, the salmonella-laden gooey yolk gives far less pleasure than the gooey center of a Cadbury egg. I’ve tried cooking them with the lid off, the lid on, the heat off, and then plunging the eggs into an ice bath to stop the yolks from turning dark.
Don’t get me started on peeling the everlasting shells, either. Once, I actually cut myself on a jagged edge and bled onto the egg before I noticed. Natalie joked that we already had enough protein in our meal without adding more.
Though, technically, I think blood would add less protein than flesh…ew.
As I wipe down the counters waiting for the pot of water to boil, I take out our carton of eggs. Out of the corners of my eyes, I see a dark tiny object scurry across the counter.
Dark scurrying objects are never a good thing, especially in the kitchen. Natalie will freak out. I will freak out, once I figure out whether it’s (I hope) a figment of my imagination or vindication of Natalie’s phobia of food-related germs.
Honestly, I think we’re far more likely to die from ingesting bleach than a bit of dirt, but try convincing Natalie of that. As long as you don’t say it was my idea.
“Isn’t lunch ready yet?” Natalie calls from her alcove. She’s working on a grant proposal, something about mentoring girls in the workplace.
“Just a minute!” I call back, grabbing a wooden spoon and advancing toward the crevice where kitchen sink meets counter top. There! A slick-backed, gleaming black oval darts its thin legs across the divide. I keep myself from screaming only because I fear Natalie more than cockroaches.
The slippery villain frustrates me at every turn, until I’m beating a tattoo against the stainless steel. My fingernails dig into the fleshy underside of my palm as I grip the spoon to spank the cockroach. Whack! Whack! Whack!
“What’s going on?” Natalie yells, but I continue to punish the dastardly insect. Didn’t someone say that cockroaches could survive a nuclear bomb? What’s a bomb compared to our Wooden Spoons of Death? Believe me, I of all people should know their awful power.
“Gotcha!” I exclaim, bringing down the spoon with such force that it splinters down the middle. Mashed cockroach innards spill onto the counter, or perhaps they are cockroach wing puree. Do cockroaches have wings? The glistening, translucent black-brown mess vaguely reminds me of sliding off the carapace of a shrimp before dipping it into lemon butter.
Nauseated, I gather a handful of paper towels thick enough to eliminate any feel of the crushed cockroach guts. Before I can safely dispose of the remains into the trash can, Natalie shouts behind me.
“The pot’s boiling over!”
Startled, I drop my gory bundle. Bits of cockroach legs and antennae crumble to the floor. To my right, Natalie lunges to turn off the burner and remove the lid. Churning froth cascades down the sides of our stove. Natalie stares from the disaster on the stove to the disaster on the floor in front of me. Splinters radiate from the broken, lifeless spoon dangling across the edge of our kitchen counter. I don’t dare touch anything with my cockroach hands.
Maybe Natalie is right and I shouldn’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. Not that I will tell her so. She’s bossy enough already.
“Kat, what on earth?”
She says that often around me. Kat, what on earth? Honest to goodness, sometimes things around me break and fall apart and get lost. It’s not because I mean to do anything wrong.
Without moving, I shrug and offer in my sweetest voice, “I love you, Natty?”
In two giant steps, she pulls out a chair, props one foot onto the seat, and drapes me across her knee.
“Ow!” I protest. “You didn’t even let me explain!” This was the wrong morning to stumble into the kitchen wearing only my nightshirt.
Whack! Thankfully, only her hand lands across my bottom. I give a moan and try not to make it sound pleasurable. Natty doesn’t believe in hand spankings, saying they hurt her more than they hurt me.
She brushes my hair back and drops a kiss onto my ear. “With you, darling, I don’t need explanations.”
I squirm and complain, doing my best to make both seem genuine, until her hand squeezes my right bottom cheek.
“Kat, what on earth have you done with your wooden spoon?”
It’s only “my” wooden spoon when she wants to use it on me. Wanting to stick my tongue out at her, I answer with an admirable absence of glee. “It broke.”
“You mean you broke it.” Without waiting for an answer, she slaps again. A noisy, satisfying smack, far more show than tell.
“Mm,” I say before I can stop myself. The caress of her hand makes me squirm even more. Hoping she will continue, I offer a partial confession. “Not on purpose. It just happened.”
“It just happened?”
My stomach tingles as she spanks some more. “Yeah. When I saw the cockroach, I–”
“The what?” Natalie almost dumps me to the floor as she scrambles away from me. “I told you to wash the dishes last night!”
I follow, still holding up the back of my nightshirt. “I know. I shouldn’t have…”
She’s disappeared into the cleaning closet, however, and returns with the bottle of bleach, gloves, and Mr. Clean. She thrusts them toward me. I sigh, wash my hands, and begin the Natalie-approved Disinfecting Routine. I feel like a simmering slow-cooker turned off before the meat has cooked. I risk a glare toward Natalie every now and then, pointing my laser-like eyes toward the girl mean enough not to finish what she started. I wish I were young enough to stick out my tongue for real.
“There,” I huff, shoving everything back into the closet. Clean dishes drip-dry in the drainer, eggs chill in ice water, and every horizontal surface gleams from the sweat and tears of yours truly.
I hate cleaning.
“C’mere,” she says, crooking a finger. I follow her into the living room and grumble when she removes the throw pillow to take out her hidden wooden spoon. Why can’t she burn the blasted things?
“Natty,” I whine. Still, I lay myself across her lap before she asks, grabbing the other throw pillow to keep my arms out of harm’s way.
Instead of answering me, she thinks out loud. “I’ve been spanking you for, what? Ten years? Twelve? And I have never once broken a wooden spoon across your backside. I wonder why.”
Dread creeps into my chest. She can’t possibly mean…can she?
“Is it the flick of the wrist?” she asks, snapping the spoon in a crisp, electrifying impact. “Or beginner’s luck?”
“Ouch!” My whine is louder this time. Why can’t she put down the spoon and give me a nice spanking? Tender and sweet, followed by hugs and kisses? “It broke because it was against the hard counter. Not on…you know.”
She leans down for another kiss, soft as butterfly wings. “Let’s find out for ourselves, shall we?”
I burrow into the pillow, bucking wildly across her lap at each unholy sting, and vow to myself.
If the cockroaches do survive the next nuclear bomb, I’ll make sure they visit Natalie first.