Self Cleaning

Abbigail I walk in the door, put down my keys, and start flipping through the mail: New York, New Yorker, Con Ed. Abbi emerges from the kitchen, kisses me, and collapses into my arms.

“The first day back from vacation always sucks,” I whisper into her ear.

“It’s not that,” she says looking up at me and grinning. “I’m starving, and I don’t know what to cook.”

She pauses.

“So we’re having chicken.”

I follow her into the kitchen where two breasts lay marinating in a shallow bowl.

“It smells weird in here,” I say. “Is there a gas leak?”

“I’m pre-heating the oven,” she responds.

Her eyes widen. She opens the oven door, looks inside, and points at a shallow, congealed and slowly smoldering pool of white liquid.

“I don’t know how that got there,” she says, insinuating with her expression that my poor cheffing played a role.

Just then, the fire alarm screams a piercing, three-bar tone. I race down the hallway to silence it. Seconds later, it goes off again. I grab a chair from the bedroom, climb atop it, and silence it again. Before I can descend, it goes off again. And again. The air is growing thick with gray, acrid smoke. I stay atop the chair, my finger on the reset button.

Abbi opens the back door, then props the front with a shoe. Soon, a howling, 30° gale is blowing through our living room. The alarms sounds. I climb atop the chair a third time, and remove the battery. The alarm continues to chirp and squeal. I remove it from the wall, and discover a tangle of wires connected to the building’s fire system. It screams in my ears, which have begun to go deaf from the almost percussive assault of the alarm. Abbi waves a towel. I blow and blow and blow. Finally, the alarm falls silent….mostly.

Twenty minutes later, Abbi sits at the dining room table in a down jacket. The doorbell rings. Dinner arrives: sushi.

The oven is nineteen minutes into a three-hour self cleaning cycle when the smell begins to creep through the apartment, like burning plastic, only worse. Intermittently, a brief, clipped chirp flies from the alarm.

We sit shivering on the couch watching The Closer.

We laugh when the alarm sounds.

We eat our sushi.

All the while, the oven cleans itself. The marinated chicken waits for another evening. And all is well in our frigid, wind-buffeted New York City apartment.

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