This is a random short story Elizabeth wrote, enjoy!
I look down at my watch. 6:47. Thirteen minutes until 7. Thirteen minutes to get to my friend’s house.
Dashing to the car, I struggle to start the engine.
Now there is something I should tell you about my car. First of all, it has got to be the oldest hunk of metal with four wheels that is still capable of movement. If half of the paint wasn’t missing, the car would be completely black. As it is, the bare spots are covered in red rust, which makes for an interesting look. My favorite part about my car is the fact that the roof comes off. I wouldn’t quite call it a convertible; it’s too old for a name like that, but I’m looking forward to a fast ride with the wind blowing in my face. The engine is ancient, and only starts half of the time.
Of course, when I try to start it, it gasps and wheezes and sputters a few times, and then dies. Sighing, I try again.
This time, it groans and miraculously starts. Backing it out of the driveway, I finally am on the road. “Why do you need to get to your friend’s house in the first place?” you may ask.
Well, the answer to that is simple. A friend of mine has invited me over for dinner at seven. I’m trying to forget the fact that she is most likely the second-worst cook in the entire universe. The first-worst is my great-aunt. I won’t even go into that now. It would ruin my appetite.
Turning onto the highway, I happen to glance down at my watch. Already, it’s 6:53. Exactly. Of course I would forget that I was due at my friend’s house at seven, when it takes exactly twenty-one minutes to get there. That means I’m going to be arriving at 7:08. Maybe that’s a good thing. Dinner ends at 8, and this way I only have to stay for fifty-two minutes, not a full sixty.
Come on, it’s not going to be that bad. What could go wrong? Comforting myself has never been one of my strong points, and now I’m answering my question. There are a lot of things that could go wrong. I’ll give you some examples.
First, my friend’s cooking is so horrible I don’t know how I’ve survived it before. I don’t know what was going on in my mind when I said I’d be there. Wait. I do remember. I was hungry, and the mention of food made me say yes, of course. Only after my friend had hung up was it that I realized just whose dinner I had accepted.
All too soon, I see my exit. Flashing through my mind is a desperate thought of escaping the inevitable by missing the exit. I reject the idea. Resigned to my fate, I turn off the exit.
By now it is precisely 7:07. I have one more minute. One more minute of life, which I am hanging onto dearly. As the sixty seconds tick by, I feel my heart rate accelerating, and I’m starting to hyperventilate.
Calm down, I tell myself. I almost ask myself what could go wrong again, but I don’t want to have to face the answer.
I stop my car in front of my friend’s house. Then I walk up the driveway, and after debating whether or not I should run for it, I knock. Immediately, the door opens.
Standing in front of me is my friend. Aside from the fact that she’s a terrible cook, she is a very nice person. “Hello, George,” she says cheerfully, smiling all over. “I was wondering if you had forgotten.”
Awkwardly, I return the friendly greeting. “Hi, Sally. Car was stalling.” I glance meaningfully over my shoulder. She understands. Everyone knows about my car.
We walk inside. Suddenly, I’m sitting at the table. I don’t know how I got there. The table is small and round, just big enough to seat four people.
I have a glass of something in front of me. I say ‘something’ because I don’t know what it is. It looks sort of like iced tea, but I’ve made such mistakes before, and always regretted them. I don’t want to ask Sally, because I don’t want to offend her. She offends very easily.
Right now, she’s in the kitchen, getting the plates ready. I suppose I should try the drink now, so that I know what to expect later on when I drink it in front of her. “Ugh!” I splutter. It tastes like… I don’t know what it tastes like. Whatever it is, it’s horrible.
Just then, Sally, comes back in and she sees the glass in my hand. Luckily, I’m able to wipe the look of revulsion off my face before she sees it. I smile instead.
“You like my iced tea with lemonade?” she asks, looking pleased.
I nod, not trusting my voice.
Sometimes not knowing is a good thing. I say that because I would rather not have known what I just ingested. First off, I should tell you that Sally’s idea of lemonade is lemon juice, pure and simple. No sugar. No sweetener of any kind. Just lemon juice. The lemons she chooses are always, always bad. There has never been a single exception to that. Ever.
Second, when Sally makes iced tea, she puts the tea bag in the water for less than half of the time she should, and usually the water isn’t boiling yet. So basically, I just drank water with a faint hint of tea and pure lemon juice. Delicious.
Here comes my plate now. It has something on it that resembles some sort of edible thing. As I look closer, I see what appears to be chicken, but it’s so shrivelled and dry that it just as well might be leather. Next to it is something that looks vaguely like coleslaw. Next to these is a block of something that looks tannish covered with something red and soupy. I think it’s spaghetti. Besides not cooking well, Sally also has no idea what sort of things do and don’t go together.
My stomach does a backflip, and then a cartwheel. Then a sea battle is fought, churning up waves in my stomach. Finally, an atomic bomb is dropped, making my bile rise. Once the wave of nausea has passed, I gingerly pick up my fork.
Decision making has never been one of my strong points, and now I have no idea what to force down first. I go for the thing closest to me – the chicken. As my fork hits it, the chicken crumbles, literally. It’s very difficult getting it on my fork, but finally I manage it. When I put it in my mouth, I almost choke. It’s like trying to swallow a mouthful of dust.
Instinctively, I reach for my iced tea. Bad mistake. Conscious of Sally eagerly watching me to see if I liked it, I gulp down the revolting mixture. If I had to describe the taste to you, I’d ask you to imagine inhaling dust that was vaguely flavored like chicken, and washing it down with sour water.
Shakily, I manage a smile in Sally’s direction and try the coleslaw. It tastes, in the broadest sense, like raw cabbage, freshly picked with the taste of garden dirt still clinging to it, saturated with pure vinegar and sprinkled with an overly healthy dose of celery seed. I almost reach for the tea, but I stop myself just in time.
“Do you like it?” asked Sally.
“Mmm. Yes. Very delicious.” I hate lying, but sometimes there’s no other choice.
Now for the spaghetti. For some reason, it’s a solid block, and the sauce is the consistency of watery tomato soup. My fork bounces off, not even making a dent. With the help of my knife, I saw off a bite. The middle of it is frozen solid. I don’t even know how that could have happened. Now to put it into my mouth. Easier said than done. I don’t want to break my teeth, especially not since I was just at the dentist yesterday.
Finally, I see Sally’s eyes boring into me, wondering why I’m not eating. I put the fork into my mouth and try to chew. Gradually, the ice thaws and melts in my mouth, and I taste the taste of uncooked noodles bathed in tomato juice with absolutely no seasoning. Nodding and smiling, I choke it down.
Now I’ve figured out a routine. I take a bite of each, and then a sip of water with lemon juice.
After three rounds of this, my stomach is feeling decidedly queasy. I excuse myself to go find a bathroom. Once the door is closed and securely locked, I throw up. Then I look desperately around.
There is a window in the bathroom that I could probably squeeze through. No, that won’t work.
I glance at my watch. Miraculously, it’s already 7:44. Sixteen minutes till eight. Now I can breathe easier. I’ll just camp out here until ‘dinner’ is over, and then say I’ve got to go. Brilliant! I’m a genius!
Five minutes later, Sally calls to see if I’m okay. I guess staying in there for so long will arouse suspicion. At 7:55, I know that I can’t stay in here any longer. Reluctantly, I reach for the handle. I’d stay in there longer, but I just don’t want to offend Sally.
I manage to sip the rest of my drink slowly enough to pass by the remaining five minutes. Well, four, actually. I walked so slowly back to the table that it took a whole minute.
My watch seems to be in slow motion, but finally it is exactly eight. I push back my chair and stand up. “Thank you, Sally, for such a wonderful meal. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.” I hope my voice doesn’t sound too much like I’m reciting something I practiced in a bathroom.
“You’re going already? Why not stay a little longer? You’ve only had a few bites.”
Of course. She just has to be the nice, gracious host. Awkwardly, I shrug. “Oh…. Um, no, that’s okay. I… I’m… tired. And, uh, I have to get home. But thank you anyway.” Before she can say anything else, I grab my coat and am at the door. We say goodbye and I step outside.
The door closes behind me, and as if on cue, it immediately starts to rain. I’m sorry. It doesn’t start to rain; that would just be too lucky for me. It’s starts to pour. Of course.
Instantly, the door behind me opens up and Sally asks if I would like to stay a little longer so I don’t have to drive in the rain. As graciously as possible, I decline and walk down to my car.
Oh, brilliant me. Looking forward to a sunny drive with no roof, eh? My roof is in my garage, and my garage is twenty-one minutes away. The car is as saturated with water as the coleslaw was with vinegar when I reach it. I try to start the engine. Of course, it doesn’t start. Of course. Of course, of course, of course. I try again. Not even a choked cough. I don’t know how to hotwire a car, either.
I stand in the rain, looking up at it, then down at my car. Finally, I look back at the house. Oh, fine, I surrender. Do what you will with me. I walk back up and knock on the door.
I think Sally was expecting me, because the door was opened instantly. “You want to stay?”
“Good! I have a spare guest room. Breakfast will be served at eight.”