I thought it couldn’t get any worse until I noticed we were low on Diet Coke.

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By Tim Clark

COVID-19 lockdown, nothing is open, travel is restricted, all dressed up and nowhere to go. Central Ohio monsoons have settled in and the world has been reduced to a living room and a kitchen. It couldn’t get any worse until I noticed we were low on Diet Coke. There was enough for a week, maybe a little more. This could be a disaster

There is a scene in the movie Heavy Metal where the diminutive Hannover Fiste is possessed by the spirit in the evil green orb and grows to monstrous proportions. He turns on the handsome, despicable Captain Sternn threatening to “rip him into little bitsy pieces and bury him alive.” He chases him through the space ship smashing things indiscriminately. It is the same reaction my wife has when she wakes up and can’t have a Diet Coke.

I didn’t tell her, not for a while. There had to be a way to sneak out, make my way to the store and buy some Diet Coke. I would pay full price, I might sell a kidney. Social distancing be damned, we are talking unimaginable evil, in the morning, before I’ve finished my coffee.

When she asked for another Diet Coke I demurred.

“How about water, instead?”

“No, not enough of the good stuff, caffeine.” She said, her eyes lighting up as she thought about her next can of Diet Coke.

“Maybe a glass of iced tea?” I was reaching, it was a roll of the dice.

“Oh, that would be good.” She said.

“We don’t have any iced tea,” I said. “I never thought you would accept it.”

“Just get me a Diet Coke.” Her eyes flashed the same green as the orb. As her eyes are usually brown, it was a little troubling.

One thing I’ve decided to do since I am laid off is expanding my consciousness, if you count learning how to cook new things as expanding consciousness. Today, I decided to try to make Polish Haluski. I love cooked cabbage.

“Those aren’t one inch.” My wife said after I had finished slicing.

“They don’t mean exactly one inch. It isn’t engineering.” I replied.

“Some of them are a half-inch, some are an inch and a half. They are never going to finish cooking at the same time.”

“This will be soft and mushy,” she said, holding a half-inch piece in her right hand. “And, this will be crispy and undercooked.” Raising an inch and a half piece in her left.

“It’s the same problem you have when you boil potatoes. You have to be more consistent. You just get in too big of a hurry. Slow down, you need to relax. You are too impatient, too tense. Just breathe and enjoy the act of cooking.” She smiled at me.

Oh, yeah, I thought, the potatoes always turn out fine.

“We don’t have enough coke to last for three weeks,” I said. Now let’s see how worried she is about cabbage.

Her eyes narrowed, and she raised up on the balls of her feet. I started to step back, this was looking grim. Her hand flew up, quickly, accurately, with a lot more force than I thought she could muster at her age, and she punched me in the nose.

My eyes were watering, and I was having trouble tracking her movements. She was dancing around, her fists up in front of her face, she was moving, right, left, but always forward. I backed into the stove, trapped, nowhere to go. She took one last step and jabbed a quick left. I managed to slip to the right and avoid the punch, but my range of movement was limited.

I grabbed the pan of frying onions, almost caramelized, soft, slightly brown, translucent, beautifully done, a real masterpiece, and swung. I thought it would force her back and give me enough room to counter-attack. She saw through my plan and held up the cutting board.

The pan hit the cutting board and the butter and onions fell to the floor, it was really a shame, they were so perfect.

She threw the cutting board at my head and started to wind up an awful right hook. Her hand started back, by the coffee maker. It gathered speed and power as it swung past the toaster. As she stepped forward, to really add some power, she stepped in the butter took and slipped. Her arms were flailing wildly trying to keep from falling. She grabbed my shirt, it was tie-died with a message that extolled the virtues of peaceful coexistence.

We both ended up on the floor, next to each other. Onions and butter smeared over both of us.

She looked at me, grabbed my hand, smiled and said, “Would you get me a Diet Coke? You’re right next to the refrigerator.”

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