For the past couple of months our oven’s fan would turn on all by itself. The first time it happened I was in my office working. My husband, Bob, was outside. When I told him what had happened he looked at me like I had been sipping the sherry I put in the beef stew the night before.
“Bob, I haven’t used the oven all day!”
“Uh huh,” he said, one eyebrow of his arched high.
“Really!” I defended myself. Why is it the harder you try to prove you didn’t do something, the easier it is to sound like you’re guilty of it?
“You probably had your mind on something else and switched the knob on without thinking about it,” he said.
But when he couldn’t turn the oven fan off, a few words flew out of his mouth I can’t type here. He ended up resorting to flipping the electrical breaker in the garage. That night when I needed to use the oven he had to switch the breaker back on.
We forgot about that incident until when a few days later it happened again. Only this time he sat with me a few feet away in the family room. Now I had proof I hadn’t done it.
People were called. Turns out, our oven is so old and the parts needed to fix our ghost-like oven aren’t even made any more. We continued to turn the breaker on and off for another month until we realized we might destroy the breaker itself.
Time to buy a new oven.
Now new oven is installed, black and shiny in kitchen. Problem is, new oven is computerized. Wave hand over it and say abracadabra! Lights blink on with a twinkling melody! Will it work if I twitch my nose instead?
First night, we make lasagna together. Bob reads directions from Oven Quick Direction Sheet. I slide lasagna pan in for twenty minutes. When timer’s cute little song erupts, I remove the pan.
But instead of hot, steamy lasagna, we eat lukewarm pasta. We did something wrong here.
Second night, I broil salmon. “I’m reading those directions,” I say as I push Bob away. Me woman. Me take over kitchen. Me brave.
Fifteen minutes later, smoke alarm shrieking, windows open as we shiver through our smoke-filled house and eat blackened salmon.
Finally, this weekend, I sat down with the oven’s booklet and READ THE COMPLETE DIRECTIONS. I learned we didn’t pre-heat the oven correctly the first night. (Engineers don’t believe in reading all the directions. Writers don’t bother reading anything that deals with mechanics, instead trusting their engineer husbands.) I also learned this oven is much more efficient and hotter than my other oven, so I can turn down the heat and or the oven time.
So this weekend’s muffins and almond cake came out minus the smoke alarm, but with the added flare of my right index finger placed on the tip of my nose. Hey. A childhood fantasy needs to be acted out now and then.
1. Write about how you reacted to a physical or emotional change in your life.
2. Ever have an experience with an appliance? Use it to motivate a personal narrative, short story, or poem. An Ode to An Oven perhaps?
3. Reading directions can be useful. Write a short story about a character who tosses or loses the directions to something life-changing and suspenseful. Now she or he must proceed throughout the story without the directions!