We gathered plump pink potatoes from their moist earthy nests and baptized them in boiling water. We speared them with our forks and ate them whole, with fresh shelled peas and parsleyed butter sauce. having our fill, we lay the remains in repose . Cold, in a shroud of clotted sauce and shriveled peas, they languished in a refrigerated tomb. They were in purgatory. There was no escape, they were trapped and must do their time. They must pause in their journey from dust to dust. How long must they stay there? Who knows? Perhaps a day or two, a week, a month, or months?
If the keeper of that purgatory is a genteel soul, a day or two is sufficient. There are others, who have no taste for cold potatoes. For them, just the thought of potatoes in purgatory is sufficient, and direct disposal is allowable. There is a much larger group, who require a sign, an odor, perhaps a spot of mold on the surface, before they are comfortable in allowing any passage from purgatory.
An earlier wife, who, knowing full well that a dollop of mashed potatoes would never pass over the lips of man or beast, condemned the white fluffy bits of tuber to some far corner of our avocado green cold confinement chamber. And there they sat for weeks until, in her eyes, it had served a proper penance, and then, and only then was it dispatched to the trash bin. For her the signs defining the end of purgatory were profound and immutable. The mere presence of mold was indefinite and inconclusive. She wanted real proof, a sign that, whatever was owed in purgatory, had indeed, been paid in full!
She required the incarcerated object to undergo a transmutation of shape and form so profound that recognition was rendered impossible. Often in achieving that exalted state of purgatorial purification, the object could not be pried from it’s container, and Like some ancient king, the small scrap of potato passed on into the hereafter in the company of it’s favorite bowl.
There was a time when the chamber was overflowing with hairy scraps and gray bits of food and there was no room for a half bag of rubbery and wrinkled potatoes. A person of lesser resolve would have commuted their sentence, but, kind and genteel as she was in all other matters, she did not shirk when it came to produce and purgatory. There was room under the sink, and in that dark confine, they remained for the better part of a year! I came upon them as we were moving and giving the place its final cleaning. Most of the potatoes had rotted, but a few had sprouted, and living on the remains of others, had put forth long, lanky vines that snaked out of the bag like pale spindly ghosts.
The light was dim under the sink, but I could make out at the terminus of these wan and etiolated tendrils, a few perfectly formed baby potatoes. I must say, it was not an easy thing, disposing of those tiny tots. They were born into purgatory and had been there far too long. Although I realized they were only potatoes, and I was just being phytopomorphic, I still felt sad that we had treated them SO badly.
SOCKS TO “DUST”
My professional training has been that of a scientist, but for the last thirty five years of my life I have made my way as an artist. For the most part, the union of these two careers has not been one of complete miscibility. My art has suffered and often been stifled by the contentious questioning of a scientific nature. Conversely my life as a scientist has been corrupted by the undisciplined inventions of an artists eye. However, on rare occasions, these two aspects of my mind have put forth a cooperative effort and allowed me a few peculiar insights into the workings of the world.
On one such occasion, when I lived alone, I found myself on a quest for three missing socks. For whatever reason, compulsion, or mental imbalance, I conducted a complete and total search and found no trace of them. Over the period of a week, I searched and re-searched that small house over and over with the same negative out come. Later as I perused the refrigerator for some small bit of sustenance, my eyes came to rest on the remains of some aging mashed potatoes. There were some sizable colonies of mold growing on the surface. In the middle was a convoluted pelicle of blue penicillin and to the left of it was a black velvety mass of aspergillus while on the edge, a cottony wisp of rhizopus reached up and spread along the plastic cover. Ironically, or by coincidence, the missing socks were the precisely the same color as these fungal mats growing on the mashed potatoes!
At first I had merely mused to myself, “ were these events connected”? And then I remembered a hypothetical event I had read in some chemistry text. It was called “ colossus of coincidence”. In short, it is a theoretical event brought about by the simultaneous and unidirectional vibration of the constituent molecules of an object.
Tea in a teacup undergoing such a phenomenon would fly out of the cup and splatter on the ceiling! However, by the same manner it is also possible for the tea to instantaneously vaporize into it’s gaseous state, and seemingly disappear.
The transformation of a solid to it’s gaseous state is a common occurrence. In elementary chemistry classes it is demonstrated by heating solid iodine. The brown iodine immediately vaporizes into it’s pink gaseous state. The pink vapor can then be observed condensing back to a brownish, and silvery solid as it contacts the cooler upper surfaces of the heated beaker.
With considerable excitement I wondered, what if there were some special conditions that exist in the clothes drier? And wasn’t that the last place I had seen them? I asked, “could it be that these swatches of color are actually my missing socks”? Of course , by microscopic examination one could easily conclude, these pads of growth, were clearly fungal. But having granted that, the question came to mind: were these bits of fungi, reincarnations of my missing socks??!! If that were true, did all of these ,and similar life forms spawned in the confines of the purgatory chamber, share a common origin. Was it so simple as that ? My socks were simply functioning as the primordial ooze (or vapor as it were)that had given birth to the myriad of life forms I had observed in my refrigerator?
It was disturbing to contemplate how much sock “vapor” there might be, presently floating about in the ether. Was there sock vapor from some previous and departed inhabitant presently gathering on my mashed potatoes!! Pondering this and other ramifications too disturbing to mention, I abandoned my line of reasoning and began to peel more potatoes, thinking tomorrow I would buy new socks.