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Short Story: March 15, 2019

            He ripped open the pasta box, the Safeway logo torn in half, and haphazardly poured the noodles into the boiling water.  His attention was directed at the minute hand directly across the room.  6:15 pm.  A few noodles leaped from the pot, diving head first onto the floor; not a single noodle broke.  He picked them up, envious of their resilience but he knew their secret.  Boil in water.  Off they went to their inevitable doom; the hope of escape brought about an overwhelming feeling of despair.

            As the noodles were engulfed in their watery grave, he went downstairs into the cellar.  Domaine Leroy Musigny.  Egon Müller-Scharzhof  Scharzhofberger.  Ah, Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru.  He had been saving this bottle for a special occasion.  No other event could top tonight.
            He entered the kitchen to find the pot fuming with a rage fueled by the despair of the noodles.  He quickly began to stir the water and gain control of the situation.  This action came with grave consequences to his forearm.  The scolding liquid left a mark that would stain him until his deathbed. 
            The burnt smell of flesh awakened his appetite.  The flesh had a very distinct and familiar smell.  In fact he could have sworn there was a hint of parsley in the air. Ding!  The oven timer reminded him that time was up, the meatballs were ready.  He stretched out his arm in order to reach the oven mitt while continuing to stir the noodles.  Clash!  The glass pot cover slammed onto the floor as he snatched the oven mitt from underneath it.  He sighed. 
*                                                          *                                                          *
            The meatballs cooled on the counter as he rinsed the noodles over the sink.  It took every fiber in his being not to look at the clock.  He set the noodles next to the meatballs and went to look for the broom.  The broken shards of glass lay there, never again being able to reach their true potential.  With one fell swoop the glass was gone.  The floor looked like it had before the crash.  The floor continued as if nothing had ever happened.
            He put the glass in the recycling bin.  He washed his hands and prepared himself for the big decision: vodka pasta sauce or four cheese?  He knew what his choice was but wondered why he still felt nervous. 
*                                                          *                                                          *
            The sauce slithered over the noodles, slowly trapping them in a liquid tomb.  The meatballs absorbed this pseudo life force; their burnt dry skin finally being soothed after spending thirty-five minutes in the dark inferno.  The vodka did well to complement the parmesan cheese, a cheese that would have been overwhelmed had he made a different choice. 
            The noodles, meatballs, and sauce all rested peacefully on an imported dish from The Middle Kingdom.  Legend has it that the dish had been passed from generation to generation, surviving civil wars, city riots, and toddlers.  It had been a gift from his dead mother, and since her passing he had refused to use it.
            His footsteps echoed as he walked the plate over to the dining room.  The long expansive table could comfortably sit twenty people.  Only one chair was ever used.  He carefully placed the family heirloom on the table, trying to make sure the meatballs did not roll away. 
His body sank into the chair.  He looked at the grand cru and his mind began to swim in the bottle.  He finally felt free. Free from his problems, free from his despair, free from…7:36!  How had so much time passed?!  He bolted out of his chair, almost tripping on the lavishly long table cloth and ruining his dinner.  If that had been the case, and if tonight had been ruined, his interior decorator would have hell to pay. 
            Thank God!  The bread was safe.  He hugged the basket of bread with his right hand and carried a wine glass with a stick of butter and a knife in his left.  As he set the glass on the table, he noticed butter skid marks on the glass.  This would not do.  This dinner had to be perfect.
*                                                          *                                                          *
            The aged wine delicately flowed out of bottle and gracefully settled into the immaculate wine glass.  He looked with pleasure at the bounty before him.  He bit into the bread and then drank the wine.  Both of which seemed to be giving him new life.  As he was about to plow into his salacious feast, he felt his stomach knot.  His nerves were preventing him from enjoying his favorite meal.  He put his fork down and took a deep breath.  8:22.  Another breath brought control of his body back to him.  One last breath and his mind was at peace.
            The room echoed with sounds of his lips smacking and throat swallowing.  He had considered playing his favorite song or watching his favorite movie but he truly wanted to enjoy this meal with all his senses.  The pasta and meatballs ignited a celebration of flavor in his tongue while simultaneously charring the roof of his mouth.  Aged wine soothed the burn and helped him forget about his pain.
*                                                          *                                                          *
            His steady hand placed the dish back into the display case.  The dish had been carefully washed using a name brand soap, and was then gently wiped clean with a recently bought towel.  With everything clean and stored, he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a slice of tiramisu.  The tiramisu stood firm, the cold had helped keep its composure.  Before he left the kitchen, he grabbed a wooden box from under the sink.  The way he grabbed the box had made it seem like this was an everyday occurrence. This was not the case.  In fact this was only the second time that he grabbed the box since he bought it ten years ago.
            He walked into his living room with his hands full.  The box rested on his right palm, with the tiramisu on top of it.  The cake was beginning to sweat from the long trip.  His left hand grasped the half empty bottle of wine.
            He placed the box on the glass coffee table and sat in his favorite loveseat.  The bottle sat next to him and gently rested its neck on his arm.  He picked up the tiramisu with his hand and took a bite.  Slowly he chewed and the ambrosia started to march down his tongue and into his body.  Each bite brought him an ecstasy that could only be imagined and experienced in a long forgotten dream.  With his free hand he grabbed the bottle, popped it open, and gulped down the remainder.  Two more bites and the tiramisu was gone.  That was it.  No proof of its existence could be found as all the crumbs were licked off the plate.
*                                                          *                                                          *
            9:01.  Back on track.  He let out a sigh of relief.  His feet rested on the coffee table, slightly touching the wooden box.  He pulled out a silver cigar case from his pocket.  The case contained one cigar and one match.  The cigar was not the typical Cuban one would associate with a man like him, but was instead a stogie from the Dominican Republic.  Similar to his first cigar that he had tried so many years ago with a friend who was long dead. 
A slight hint of phosphorus filled his nostrils as the match united itself with the cigar.  It was a temporary union.  They always are.  He sat there in the living room with only a small lamp and the glow of his cigar lighting the room.  Puff, puff, puff.  The fragrance emitted by the cigar put him in a trance.  He was in a world not bound by silly little rules.  A world where he just existed, where he didn’t have to worry about the silly games people play and the silly ways people act.  Puff, puff, puff.  He felt himself rising with the smoke, the weight of his body ceased to exist.  The smoke filled him with a primordial warmth that had been curiously missing from his existence.  Puff, puff, puff.
            He pulled out a letter from his other pocket.  His eyes carefully absorbed every line.  The strokes, the spacing, the length, it was all perfect.  He was surprised that he had written such a beautiful letter.  It would be his most memorable work.  This letter reassured him that the night would be a success.  Now with the dishes clean, the wine bottle empty, and the cigar butt in the ashtray there was only one thing left to do.  He grabbed the wooden box and opened it. 
*                                                          *                                                          *
He fell through the coffee table.  Clash!  His body hit the floor.  The floor was not as cold as he had imagined. His blood had made his breathing awkward and weak.  He felt his stomach knot.  He started to panic as the empty wine bottle rolled off the loveseat and transformed itself into thousands of little glass shards. In a few days a broom would wipe everything up and the floor would continue as if nothing ever happened.    He took a deep breath and looked at the clock.  11:59.  He smiled.  Another breath escaped, along with his control of his body.  One last breath and his mind was at peace.