"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Key, Chapter Two

The Key
Chapter Two

I began at the end of the countertop next to the refrigerator, moving the cutting board, knife block, toaster and a small plant. Dipped in hot water bubbly with Dawn dish detergent, the rag I used picked up stray crumbs from bagels and caraway seeds that had fallen from rye bread as it toasted.

Back and forth the rag moved across the light green Formica, and I noticed again how the veins of gold and copper in the pattern accentuated the colors in the knotty pine on the walls. I used a towel to dry the surface and placed all the items back where they lived. Setting the plant next to the stainless steel sink, I reminded myself to give it a good rinsing when I was done with my other chores.

The stainless steel microwave-convection oven sits diagonally across the corner of the counter, and beneath it was a fine sifting of dust that had accumulated since I’d last cleaned here. Then came the food processor and the carousel of kitchen tools.

I rinsed the cleaning rag in hot water, and turned back to the counter. There, in the corner where the carousel had been, was the key with “Best” stamped into the brass. I remembered finding it weeks before, and leaving it on the counter while I pondered what it unlocked. Somehow, it had slipped beneath the carousel, and as they say, “out of sight, out of mind.”

This time was different. I picked up the sturdy, slender key and held it in the palm of my hand, while in my other hand a hot rag cooled rapidly, its intended chore undone. The key seemed to glow, its burnished surface almost radiating heat. I left the kitchen, key in hand, and went into the living room to sit in my favorite spot next to the large picture windows that frame the mountains less than a quarter mile away. Today, instead of scanning the peaks to count mountain goats, my eyes were on the key and the secrets it held vouchsafed.

***

(Thirty years prior)

“What’s this for?” asked my husband as he came in the kitchen door.

I turned towards Kyle. He was holding a brass key, his eyebrows continuing to the ask the question he had just spoken. He crossed the kitchen, gave me a quick hug and a kiss, and set the key on the counter next to where I was forming dinner rolls.

I felt my heart trip on a beat as I stared at the key. I searched for an easy, casual answer, all the while knowing there wasn’t one. The longer the silence continued, the more empty my mind became. How do I explain this to Kyle, I thought. Could he ever understand?
“I… I don’t know. Where’d you find it?” A lie to buy time. Quick, quick. Think of something.

“It was in your car. I dropped my cell phone on the way home and while I was feeling around the floorboard, I found the key. I don’t remember having a key like that around the house. It says ‘Best’ on it. Ever seen it before? Oh, well, you must have. It was in your car. Ring any bells?”

Bells? Bells!!! I had a five alarm fire exploding into a conflagration, and my mind was blank.

“That reminds me,” I said. “I’ll need my car on Friday. Any news on when yours will be ready?”

“Yeah, I called the garage today and Ed said the part should be in tomorrow. If it is, he’ll have it done by five. I’ll give you a call as soon as I know for sure. What’s going on Friday? And what’s for dinner? Smells good.”

Kyle leaned over my shoulder to peer into the bubbling pot on the stove. My addled brain lunged at the chance to change the subject again.

“Moose stew,” I said, “and fresh Sourdough dinner rolls.”

“Oh, Lordy, woman, I am falling in love with you all over again.” Kyle leaned down and kissed my neck just above the collarbone. At any other time, my knees would have turned to water. This time, all I could think of was the key.

“”I’ll go down to the Book and Bottle and get a nice bottle of Gamay Boujolais to go with dinner,” said Kyle. “Okay?” With that he was out the door.

On the counter, the key almost glowed. It seemed to be calling attention to itself, shrieking out its secret, daring me to try to hide it.

I did just that, opening the drawer beneath it and sweeping it into the mess of rubber bands, pens and pencils, twist ties and recipes I’ve never organized or tried. Half of me said I should throw the darned thing away; the other half knew I never would.

On this day, looking into my husband’s brown eyes, I uttered my first lie of commission. Its weight was no more or no less than the many lies of omission.

***

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