William Quincy Belle is just a guy. Nobody famous; nobody rich; just some guy who likes to periodically add his two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating his contribution. He claims that at the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper and likes to recite the following which so far he hasn't been able to attribute to anyone: "A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem." You will find Mr. Belle's unbridled stream of consciousness here (http://wqebelle.blogspot.ca) or @here (https://twitter.com/wqbelle). (Credit photo: (Wikipedia article, the picture itself))
Cold Mashed Potatoes by William Quincy Belle
Fred poked at his food with his fork. He couldn't hide his disinterest and sighed.
Ethel looked up from her plate and stared at her husband. "What's the matter?" She held her fork in midair expecting a response. When it became obvious an answer was not forthcoming, she went back to spearing a few string beans with her fork. She swept the beans through her potatoes and put the mixture in her mouth. She glanced at her husband while she chewed. He was twirling his fork idly around his plate not eating anything.
"You're not hungry?" Her voice had a matter of fact tone to it, but her expression changed. "Don't tell me they had a birthday or something at the office and you ended up having a piece of cake before coming home?" She clicked her tongue in disgust. "All that sugar always ends up spoiling your appetite." She pointed her fork at Fred and said in a somewhat threatening manner, "If you're not hungry, don't blame me."
He continued to look at his plate. "I didn't have cake today."
She moved her fork over her plate while keeping an eye on her husband. "So what then?" She looked at him suspiciously.
"Do we have to have cold mashed potatoes?" He kept his head down staring at his plate.
"What? What are you talking about? I've been serving you cold mashed potatoes since we got married, heck even when we were dating. Now all of a sudden you tell me you don't like them?" She looked at her husband with both shock and disgust. "What's gotten into you today?"
He looked at the table. "I've been thinking..." He cleared his throat. "Could we try warming the potatoes up?"
She stopped eating and stared at her husband wide-eyed. "Where... where..." She shook her head. "Where did you get such an idea?"
"Lots of people do it. They melt butter on it."
"How do you know that?" She furrowed her brow.
"I'm not without experience, Ethel." He glared at her. "You didn't marry a country bumpkin."
"I understood that. I guess I understood that when we got married. But why are you bringing this up now? Why after all these years?"
He shrugged. "I'm... I'm older. I'm having trouble tasting."
"What do you mean?"
He poked at his mashed potatoes. "This just seems bland. I don't necessarily taste anything. Maybe I could taste the subtlety of flavours before, but now? It seems as though I can't appreciate the delicacy the way I used to."
She watched her husband.
"I've been asking myself if this is it. Is this all there is?"
"You..." Her voice faltered. "You want garlic?"
He looked her in the eye. "No. I do not want garlic."
She forcefully put down her fork on the table. "There is no way I'm serving you garlic. It's horrible. People have no idea how their breath stinks afterwards. No matter how good anybody thinks it is, it ends up being so very unpleasant to everybody else." She let out a cackle. "Unpleasant? It’s absolutely revolting. You can suck on all the breath mints in the world and you're not going to get rid of that smell. It's disgusting."
"I don't want garlic."
Ethel scowled at him. "What then? Salt? Do you have any idea of your daily sodium intake should be? We all get enough salt as it is with various processed foods. Adding more to our own cooking means we are going to go well over the line of the recommended daily amount.
"Pepper? Don't make me laugh. You talk about losing your taste. What do you think happens when you add spice to your foods? You build up a tolerance. Your taste buds become desensitised and you require more and more spice to get the same sensation." She pointed at him menacingly. "You're going to turn into a spice addict."
She slapped the table. "And don't get me started on onions. I still don't know which breath is worse: onion breath or garlic breath. Whatever the case, it just reeks. I am not going to have my husband running around in public offending everybody within a radius of five paces. My God, what would the neighbours think? What would your colleagues think? Heck, our own family will avoid us." She gave him a dirty look and went back to eating.
He sat there looking down at his plate while tapping his finger on the tabletop. Finally, he picked up his fork and scooped up some potatoes.
"Are you crying?" Jane said.
"You need to give a lot of consideration to your future. This will not be the end of it. The dam has burst; the floodgates have opened. This is like rolling a snowball down the hill and it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it turns into an avalanche. Men are a bunch animals and no matter how well behaved they may appear to be, deep down inside, they're all a bunch of spice addicts.
"Believe you me, it won't stop at garlic. He'll next be asking for chopped onions topped off with paprika. Paprika! Do you remember Mary Zimmerman?"
"Mary Zimmerman. She used to live over on Huron Crescent before she and her husband moved to Boston," Jane said.
"Oh yeah. I remember now."
"She was in town a couple of weeks ago to visit some of her old friends and the two of us went out for drinks. Well, I think she had one too many and she told me that her husband once convinced her to add some jalapeño peppers to their mashed potatoes."
Jane made a disparaging clicking with her tongue: tch, tch. "Mary told me she couldn't taste anything for a week afterward her mouth was on fire so much."
Ethel held the receiver to her ear with her head down. With her free hand, she dabbed a few tears on her cheek.
"Ethel, you have to think about the future. You have to think about your future. No matter what he says to you now, you can be positive he's just going to keep talking about it over and over again. There will be no stopping him. If you want my opinion, you need to protect yourself. You need to think about yourself. You need to think about your future and I'm saying your future for you, not your future for the two of you."
Jane paused a moment. "Do you still have that business card I gave you?"
Ethel furrowed her brow. "Yes."
"Promise me you'll call tomorrow. At the very least, you can find out what your options are. You have to protect yourself. And you need professional help to do it."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes, yes, I promise."
"Good. Now you try to get a good night's sleep. You're going to be a busy woman tomorrow. I’m sure you'll get an appointment right away."
"Good night, Ethel. And good luck." Jane hung up.
Ethel held onto the receiver for a moment then set it back in its cradle on the night table. She sat still for a moment collecting her thoughts. She pulled open the drawer and lifted the top to a small jewellery box. She reached to one side and grasped a small white business card. She turned it right side up and read the print: Nancy Troutman, divorce lawyer. Tomorrow she would call and see if she could get in right away. It was time to take charge of her own life. She had lived with cold mashed potatoes all her life and she was going to be damned if somebody tried to make her have anything else.