We’ve all heard the joke… Knock knock. Who’s there? Orange… Orange who?
The front door blew open to mist and rain and the two of them loaded down with bags from the local markets. Oh. That’s what took so long. They stopped for supplies on the way from the airport.
Supplies? Two gargantuan bags of oranges and mandarins, (well at least they looked good) bulged from his shoulders. Wow. I know they like oranges but he’s leaving in three days…maybe she’s planning to live on them? It could happen, Emily supposed.
She performed her invisible sighing maneuver, smiled and offered to help. For Emily, it was naptime, preparatory to evening appointments, but she would rally on this day, to usher in “La Ma”.
“Oh, no, no, we’ll put it all away,” he insisted, all in a rush. La Ma would want things stashed just so and on her terms. Most definitely.
Little did it matter that Emily had planned a light snack for now, a meal for all of them after her work day had finished. No matter. Never mind.
A few hours later, when Emily was fairly sure she had already starved to death, he mentioned making a lovely caprese salad and would she like to join the two of them?
“I’m so hungry I could eat your arm,” she thought to herself, but smiled instead, declining having to sit at the same table with an apparition fresh out of childhood purgatory.
*** The Next Morning ***
“Would you like an orange?” La Ma had slept off her jetlag and was busy colonizing the kitchen.
“No, thank you. I’ll get a mandarin in awhile when my breakfast settles. Fruit on its own, you know…” Emily thought that if she demonstrated a basic knowledge of food combining it might dampen the ardor of ‘she who holds the kitchen hostage’.
“Oh no, twenty minutes. If you wait only twenty minutes, while everything else is made ready…”
“Yes, thank you, but I just ate something so I’d really rather wait.” Emily had taken a lesson from yesterday and fed herself sufficiently.
“Well, I have cut this one for you.” La Ma smiled, handing Emily a small dish.
Waving hello to raging indigestion, Emily gamely began to munch one of the slices. Always do the polite, she remembered her mother saying. It’s only for a couple of days.
“Oh, you do eat those. He said you did not. I can save the mandarins then.” The triumphant look did not go unnoticed, though Emily’s quick trip to the compost bin might have done.
Two days later the oranges were not to be seen. No oranges. No mandarins. Oh well. The little mikkons were a holiday favorite of Emily’s but…
“I put all of the fruit out in the annex,” La Ma began. “Even the bananas.”
There were bananas? Note to self, don’t let them rot out there like they did last time….Emily nodded her understanding as she left the kitchen to its daily beating-into-shape.
“I’ll have one in the morning, then,” Emily smiled politely.
The next morning’s trip to the annex bore no fruit. Well, there were the bananas, luckily still green. Just as Emily was about to turn that color herself, La Ma walked out of the kitchen, a freshly sliced orange in her special little bowl. The one no one else was supposed to use… or maybe touch. Emily wasn’t sure and was not about to find out.
“Don’t you want an orange? I put the fruit into this basket next to the stairs.” She pointed…
“Oh, thank you,” Emily smiled again as she retrieved a mandarin. There were mandarins. Yay.
“Oh you like those… well you know these are better for you (gesturing with her chin to the orange she was eating)… more nutritious.”
“Mmhm,” Emily agreed through a heavenly mikkon mouthful.
“Really you ought to eat these instead.” La Ma eyed Emily scathingly.
Later that afternoon Emily wandered over to the fruit basket, thinking a mandarin might be nice. She found it empty. They must have been put back in the annex, thought she.
When the annex once again yielded no fruit, Emily gave up. The bananas were beginning to be yellow enough but she wasn’t in the mood.
As Emily prepared to make roast chicken for dinner, La Ma entered the kitchen, her arms full of shelves from the refrigerator that had been being washed at some undisclosed location… thereby making dinner prep all the more interesting…
“I thought you did eat oranges…?” La Ma looked unhappy.
“Yes, but there are no more. The fruit basket is empty.”
“I told you I put them over here, in the basket on the shelf.” She pointed across the room at the stacked baskets that always held root vegetables and now, apparently, the missing oranges. “Now no one has eaten them and they are all rotting.”
The scream began somewhere in her midsection, stifling itself behind Emily’s clenched teeth. Breathe, she told herself. It’s only oranges.
“Oh that’s too bad,” Emily said, hoping she sounded sincere. “I thought they were all gone.” She didn’t like to waste food either, so generally refrained from purchasing enough for small armies with only two mouths to feed.
“It’s wrong to waste food. I feel so bad!” The expression on La Ma’s face could have graced a holocaust requiem.
Emily’s thoughts ranged somewhere from general agreement to ‘stick a sock in it,’ and then…
She began to laugh. Ducking into the bus station off the kitchen that served as her bedroom, she chuckled into her pillow for a full five minutes. Carefully drying her eyes she recalled a line from Grey’s Anatomy… something about a kindgom called Passive-Agressiva and “you are its Queen…” Her shoulders shook as she readied herself for the next encounter.
“I thought I’d make stir-fry with the leftovers tonight,” she sighed mournfully. “I wish I had known there were oranges…”