Decades after a family vacation in the Indiana dunes, Rochelle Cashdan writes from Guanajuato, Mexico where she is a cultural journalist. “The Revenge of the Pasta” first appeared online in 2011 at www.longstoryshort.com. Rochelle has a blog MEXIGUANA .
US citizen living in Mexico. Member, International PEN
The Revenge of the Pasta
I was luxuriating in a list of words from alphabetini through tortellini and fantasizing about sauces when I should working industriously to delete my nightly quota of twenty emails from my inbox. Everything was going well until, instead, I started replying to one. Instead of typing please I mindlessly typed in pasta.
I corrected my error immediately, but too late. To my dismay, I felt something slimy around my ankle. When I looked down I saw a limp green spaghetti strand spiraling toward my knee. Then an hour later, an email from Paula Alice Stratemeyer landed in my inbox. “Odd,” I thought, “I haven’t seen Paula since we were in junior lifesaving class together.” Paula swam like a seal, but in pre-school bit like a killer whale.
“Dear Charlotte,” she started, “I was surprised to hear from you, especially because I’m sure you failed the junior lifesaving test when I passed mine with flying colors. But we were buddies, so here goes. I became a Baptist missionary in Liberia, married, and raised seven children, all of them excellent swimmers. I don’t mean to rub it in, Charlotte, but that’s how it goes. When the nest emptied, I jump-started to the Great Swimming Pool in the Sky. If they had only let me bring a water gun . . .”
I couldn’t help thinking, “Isn’t this just like Paula Alice?” At camp, P.A. kept filling her water gun with black ink to squirt at the counselors. Hard to believe she was writing from firstname.lastname@example.org.
I went back to deleting, but clumsily. No wonder. Looking down, I saw cooked tortellini around all my fingers. I had to use my teeth to get the pasta rings off my shaking hands.
“See here, Paula Alice, this has gone too far,” I muttered but I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. The villain was Stanley T. Potemkin. I groaned, thinking of the nervy creep who as a high school sophomore used to brag he would become a psychiatrist.
“Charlotte dear, I see you’re digging up old bones. I’ll bet you aren’t the pretty little thing who treated the guy who bought banana splits for her like shit on toast. I want you to know that every one of my four wives has loved me for what I am, meaning not just as a banana-split-provider. Never yours, Dr. Stanley T. Potemkin, M.D.” Address: email@example.com.
The rings kept reappearing while I sat at the computer dealing with new messages and deleting old ones. In desperation or inspiration, I forwarded Potemkin’s message to Paula Alice before clicking it as spam.
Then I was assailed by a couple I last thought about when I was sweet fifteen, back in the days when Anna and Tom Petersen feared their little Prince Ingmar would awaken while entrusted to my care. Now they were pelting me with overcooked orzo. I am very particular about orzo.
“Greetingzh across the yearz, Charlotte, We alwayzh gave our little Ingmar a shlug of wine before you came over so he would sleep. We wouldn’t have left him with shuch a wimp but we did need a night on the town onzh in a while, even if we did disturb the peash. Dishrezhpectfully, your former neighborz, Anna and Tom Petersen.” firstname.lastname@example.org
“The nerve of all those unreformed bastards,” I said to myself, my nerves now frayed by people I’d mercifully forgotten. But again I took myself in hand, forwarding the Petersons’ note to both Paula Alice and Stan before sending the boozy couple to spam.
Two days later, I figured out that besides their high bile count, my assailants’ email addresses all included my typo pasta.
After that eureka, I traded my computer in for a fancy rice cooker. I still indulge my passion for perfect orzo, but I’ve cleared the shelves of fusilli, spaghetti, and macaroni. My basil plant is reincarnating as compost out back.
Now safely free of heaven, hell, purgatory, and cyberspace, my only problem is the rice. Last night, I heard the grains hurling insults at me in the kitchen.