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         He left work at 5:00 pm preoccupied with the faulty lock on the laundry room
door. Last week his wife assigned him a new and urgent maintenance job, “It locked by
itself and I had to use my key to get into the house. Make sure to fix it.” And he replied
“I’ll have to get a new lock and replace it.” And just to be on safe side, he hung an extra
key on a hook in the garage. Every minor issue in his marriage had a potential to turn
into a big headache. “I was busy this, but I’ll get it done this weekend. In the meantime,
if you get locked out, just use the extra key by the door.”

         He arrived home around 6:30. As he pulled into the alley and one house before
he turned into his garage, he waved to his backdoor neighbor and he waved back with a
friendly smile. This neighbor always worked on classic cars and his latest project was
rebuilding a red 1965 Ford Mustang in his driveway. Although seeing a dismantled
engine, a fallen muffler or loose pieces of a cylinder scattered around the neighbor’s
driveway was not a pretty sight, witnessing a gradual reincarnation of an extinct species
was truly exhilarating. He’d never developed an interest in working on his cars, yet his
neighbor’s perseverance and endless patience in divinely breathing life into a corpse
had earned his utmost respect.

          Upon his arrival, he snatched a cold beer from refrigerator and checked his
emails. The he changed his clothes and put his cell phone in his tee-shirt pocket and
went directly to the kitchen to cook dinner. His wife once again had taken refuge in her
parent’s house to be away from him after an intense argument. Judging based on their
fight history and severity of their latest clash he was certain she wouldn’t be back until
Monday and if he was lucky Tuesday. So, he was looking forward to a relaxing weekend
all for himself and determined to make the best of it. He set his laptop computer on the
Kitchen counter where he could watch the UN general assembly meeting on nuclear
proliferation on You Tube while cooking. He was craving chicken curry. All he needed
was chicken, curry paste, garlic, fresh cilantro, white onions and coconut milk. His
stomach was growling, the intoxicating aroma of curry sauce lifting his spirit even before
he started cooking.

         He grabbed the ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator and darted out into
garage to get chicken from the freezer. He stretched his body into the garage and kept
his right foot in the door to keep it open and skillfully managed t get two pieces of
chicken. As he turned to come inside, he was startled by the cell phone ringing. He
swiftly changed hands and held frozen poultry by the left and fished the phone out of
his pocket with the other. The split second before he got a chance to flip it open and as
he was still keeping the door ajar with his torso, both chickens flew out of his hand. In
an effort to catch them before they hit the dirty garage floor and answer the phone at
the same time, he lost his balance and fell. In the midst of this pandemonium, he
grabbed the door frame to regain balance and seized the hinged side of the door jamb.
He tumbled and the heavy spring loaded door slammed shut on his right hand locked
inside.

         For a moment he felt like he’d been electrocuted. An excruciating pain zapped
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his entire nervous system and knocked him out. When he deliriously gained
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consciousness, the garage was darker and devastating pain had erased his memory.
Four fingers were crushed inside the jammed shut door and his dark blue thumb was
swollen beyond recognition. His body had given out and his brain was not functioning.
The horror of the incident flashed through his head and once again he passed out. Next
time he woke, his eyes were filled with tears. His right hand was swollen all the way up
to his arm and the throbbing pain was ravaging his entire being. His hand was morphed
to the door as if it’d been designed by an artist with a bizarre imagination. Seeing the
eerie artistry in this horrific scene made him realize that he’d never be able to paint
anymore. He sobbed silently into a coma.

         Cut the chicken breasts in cubes. Add extra virgin olive oil in a wok and sprinkle a
pinch of mustard seeds and cumin and turn up the heat. In a few minutes seeds start
popping in hot oil unleashing the heavenly aroma. Now add the chicken and sauté until
golden brown. While you’re doing this, empty a can of coconut milk into a pot and bring
to boil. Then add a tablespoon of curry sauce and thoroughly mix. Remove the chicken
from wok and add to the sauce and let it simmer on low heat for half hour.

        The ring of his cell phone woke him. He reached to his shirt pocket but the
phone was underneath car’s rear axle. He could see the fluorescent light of its front
panel. He scanned the rest of his garage and saw a host of tools and gadgets, a medical
emergency kit and a stylish oversized red panic button. So many rescue devices
conveniently placed on the shelves, mounted on the wall, or laying on his work bench,
yet too far for him to reach.

         The very first time he passed by his neighbor’s garage in the alley and as he
stretched his hand to push the button on his garage door remote opener, his neighbor
thought he was waving at him, so he waved back. This unintentional gesture repeated
several times until he realized that he’d inadvertently demonstrated courteous
behavior. Since then, every time he returned home, they waived at each other. Despite
the fact they’d never been introduced, they managed to establish a remote
acquaintance based on a simple misunderstanding.

         Blood was crusted on the door frame. As he desperately reached for the
doorknob, his wife’s voice pierced his brain and his gaze was drawn to the extra key on
the wall. The small red dot on his cell phone was blinking. The caller must’ve left a
message. It wasn’t from his wife not because he didn’t recognize her distinct ring tone
but because he knew her too well. In a way, he was glad that it wasn’t her. Otherwise
by not answering her call on a Friday night he would’ve created a whole new issue in
their marriage. His dying hand was still bleeding.

         Timing is crucial to the artistic endeavor of cooking. Sauté onions and crushed
garlic together but separately from the chicken and before they’re fried, add to your
sauce.

        He stretched his neck to see the glowing numbers of the digital clock on the
opposite wall. The time now was 1:30. Even if he screamed in midnight silence, he could
not be heard. His corner lot house was only neighbored by a vacant house for sale. His
anemic body was in the throes of collapse. He desperately stretched his entire body in
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every direction yet he reached nowhere but to a higher threshold of agony. He cried for
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help, but his muffled squeal tainted with unnerving pain faded in his solitude.
Add chopped cilantro to the sauce and sprinkle some on the plate to garnish.




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posted:8/19/2011
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