The Boy’s fleet of four cars is excessive – my front lawn looks like a second-hand car lot, even though the neighbour’s yacht has set sail permanently and a beloved cousin has taken my desperate hint relieving the lawn of the Jayco (a brand name for a 4 X 4 caravan but fondly referred by Aussie campers and single finger wavers as ‘The Jayco.’)  When Cousin Paul drove off with the caravan, I celebrated The Boy’s loss with a half bottle of champagne as a victory for myself retrieving another pocket of grass from the car yard.  That was a winning week – John’s office and staff and their cars departed the house for good also, with an encouraging poke from me.

I have menopausal cleansing syndrome (MCS in my book.) 

Finally, we are down to two cars and two four-wheel drive vehicles at the last count.   

It is January with summer holidays. The street is busy with pedestrians walking to and from the beach carrying picnic baskets, umbrellas, water bottles and the more energetic youths run by carrying their surf boards.

 Our front door is constantly open to the street as an access for the tradesmen working on this home. The staircase is just inside the doorway.  The first step has become a shelf for handy things over time. Car keys, especially, are all dumped down on that convenient spot but I worry that any bored and curious child could walk in, see the keys and take his pick from the car lot in the front yard.

I collect the Toyota keys one day to take them upstairs to store in a more secure site.

That’s the last I can remember of them.

“Where are the keys for the Toyota?” The Boy asks a few days later. He’s used to asking for the whereabouts of anything – socks, jackets, tickets, bread, and milk – you name it.  As he asks, he often stands already staring at that item. I mutter quietly, “What’s that, fog?” but aloud I say, “Just look harder, darling.  Seek and ye shall find.” 

The Boy pulls out the sock drawer two inches, looks from side to side, and declares there’s nothing there.  “I’ve never lived with any woman ever before who thinks I must have only one foot.  I used to have 20 pairs of socks and now I have 20 singles.”  It’s not my fault the new washing machine seems to whizz his washing around and sends single socks up to Stocking Heaven in the sky.  I have made life easier for The Boy as he doesn’t need to look for so many socks these days. 

Men’s inability to search properly ranks in the same category as their global weakness in hearing wife’s voices. That’s the pathological category.  Baby boys are born deaf.  Boys can hear girlfriends say yes, but men become profoundly deaf from their wedding day.  That explains acoustic signals of car radios and television sets being set at twice the level households require. 

Talking about all these cars, I drive only mine as I learnt from nearly losing my hearing once. On entering The Boy’s car, I turned off the radio before starting the ignition.  In a hurry to buy necessities at the local store, I grabbed the nearest keys to the nearest car from that bottom step, unlocked the car door, jumped in, threw the ignition on while I still had the door open, and before I had a second to strap on what would have been my life-saving seat belt, megaphone blasts of electromotive energy blew me clear off the car seat and out into the garden below.  Well, sort of.  The shock of my traumatised eardrums being blown apart from The Boy’s car radio left my thinking process temporarily numb, so it took a few seconds to register that a terrorist bomb hadn’t gone off in the car as I threw the engine into action.

So none of us are perfect, I remind The Boy as we start hunting for the Toyota keys.  “Gosh, did I move them from the bottom step, after all? Maybe, I did, maybe I didn’t………” I could be described as vague right now.  I end up searching by turning the house upside down.  For once, I could be thankful of the renovations.  I only have a quarter of a house to search.  I come to the conclusion after two weeks of scouring and scavenging the house, that maybe I may have mislaid them, but they are here ‘somewhere’ between the staircase and the whole area of the first floor.

As time goes on, the spare keys become the only keys.  That’s alright.  There are plenty of cars, and plenty of other keys, to lose??

Six months pass.  Winter comes.  The renovations are well under way.  At least after living under tarpaulins for half a stormy year, the new roof is positioned by crane and life takes on some sense of normality. 

This day starts with The Boy choosing my car to drive to work that day.  “Flat tyre, watch it, ” I warn. “It just needs air in it, ” the reply comes from out of the car window as he waves and reverses away.  “Gosh, do I need a medical degree, as well, to be able to work that out?” I mumble.

I decide, with at least a quarter of a kitchen, I will prepare a normal dinner that day, but cook in what? The gas/electric monstrosity of Italian cooking ingenuity is in place but it hasn’t been connected yet.  The microwave won’t to do the trick. The new induction hob/pot had been sitting alone on the kitchen bench for several months. Tradesmen had moved it about from time to time. I set it up and find the new directions, neatly stored in my neatly labelled file for New Appliances and Warranties.

I’m thankful I am a woman and I know where everything is, except if I bring anything new into the house.  Where I put things down is questionable as distractions often occur when I arrive home.  I am convinced a wireless connection links the front door to the telephone which rings whenever I enter the house.   Maybe a direct line runs from the toilet seat to the telephone, as well.  Each time I sit down and put weight on a toilet seat, the telephone rings.

“Lamb shanks are the go tonight, ” I decide and relish adding the meat to the new appliance, and preparing the accompanying vegetables, wine, herbs and spices. The induction cooker roars into life at the flick of my switch heating immediately to 1300 watts of power.  “Oh, I’ll just give it a bit of a burst” and I turn the new toy up to the maximum heat of 1800 watts. “Nothing like zapping it at the beginning, ” I say agreeably to myself.  “Spot on, look at it go!”  The stew bubbles effortlessly. “Oh, crumbs, starting to burn already, I’ll turn it down to only 300 watts to simmer.” With a masterly swirl of the wooded spoon scraping up any burnt bits from the bottom of the pot and mixing all the yummy ingredients around about, I turn my concentration to choosing a good red wine to complement our first dinner in the ‘new’ kitchen.

The front door bangs shut as I can hear The Boy returning home.  He flings my car keys onto the bottom step and dumps his briefcase on the second step.  He calls up the staircase, “Mary McCaskill brought you her cumquat marmalade in for you today. Mary added whisky this time.  Could you ring her please to let her know what you think of the new flavour?  Here’s a jar for you, and my honey man came for another appointment.  There may not be too many more of these coming your way.  He’s giving the bees away next year. You are a lucky girl, you know.  My patients all feed you, what would you do without them?  They think I don’t look after you well enough, ha! Ha!”

I’ve rarely known The Boy to carry out a conversation in the same room.  He can talk forever through walls and, he imagines I can hear him.  We attempt to converse at the dinner table, but he immediately turns television on, and up, up, up and I give up competing and wrecking my vocal chords. 

“Mmmmmm, ” he utters in appreciation, “What’s cooking?”

“Kiwi favourite – lamb shanks are coming up on the new hob.  It’s so fast, sweetie-poops; it must be the new version of pressure cooking.  I wouldn’t like to have stuck my finger in the pot while your dinner bubbled and plopped its head off like a Rotorua mud pool! Let’s eat!”

Wine glasses clink and we give a cheer to celebrate the end of a long day, for The Boy at least, as we settle down to savour the delicious evening meal.

“Ha! This smacks of fantastic food! I’m a lucky man to dine like this and you’re a lucky woman to have me!” states The Boy.

The deafening blare of a non-descript television programme prevents any effort of riposte from myself.

Dinner is gorgeous.  Sometimes, there are eating experiences which are better not shared, such as standing eating a juicy orange over the bath, and I discover another one tonight – devouring lamb shanks, as tender as a baby’s bottom, with the meat falling off the bone onto your tongue as it catches drips of zesty, port-filled gravy.

The only hint of remains of the aged cabernet sauvignon is the unfiltered sediment at the base of the carafe. The dinner plates look as though we have licked them clean as it was cook’s night off.  But no, we scrape and relish every tiny last morsel of the dinner which I have served.

“Perfect, just perfect!  Thank you for such a fantastic dinner.  You couldn’t get that in any restaurant in town, only here at Barbiedoll’s! Ha! Ha!  The news is coming on…….”

That is my cue to clear the table.  With the largest soup ladle I have, I begin scooping out the remaining casserole into Tupperware containers.  There are three extra meals in the pot, and I plan to put them down in the freezer.  Having prepared meals is ideal for week nights’ dinners.

A metallic clunk against the ladle sounded from the bottom of the pot.

“Oh, Lordy, what’s that?”  I ask the brick wall. 

The other brick wall hears me speak (wonders will never cease) and he says, “Are you OK?”

“There’s something like metal in the bottom of the casserole, ” I reply.

“Well, what is it then?” inquires the brick wall.  Heavens, he has spoken twice during the news broadcast.

With a definite plunge of the ladle, I hook the game and draw up my catch.

“Gee whizz! It’s the Toyota keys! Yippee, I found them.”  I start laughing and laughing and I can’t stop.  I am doubled up with giggling so much I am not aware for a minute or two that I am laughing alone.

The Boy is on his feet and moving fast into my space.  “I don’t see how they can be.  They can’t be in there.  You can’t have cooked with them.  You must have checked the pot; you must have washed inside before you used it.  Didn’t you???”

I hold up my prize catch.  The plastic alarm part of the keys has half melted away, but it is definitely them alright!  “Isn’t that amazing?” I exclaim.  Well, what else can I say?

“We’ll get lead poisoning for sure! What if we ate some lead?” The Boy stammered.

“You already have, and you enjoyed it, ” I retorted

 “How could you do this, Barbiedoll?  How could you have even lost the car keys in the first place?  They are always on the bottom step.  Nobody loses car keys!”

“Smart talking, Brick Wall, ” I whisper to myself.

Ten minutes ago, the atmosphere was one of dining delight.  Now, we have a cuisine catastrophe on our hands, and it’s not going to let up by the look of it.  I snap Tupperware lids over the leftovers, rinse dishes, fire them ceremoniously into the unchristened dishwasher and promptly stomp off to the sanctity of the bathroom!

Next morning, after a few nods for “Good morning” I go downstairs to prepare for an early pupil, prior to school beginning.  I peek outside to check my car tyre, and it is as flat as a pancake. 

“You never dealt with that flat tyre, yesterday, did you?” I call up the stairs.

Another staircase conversation proceeds.

“I didn’t have time, ” comes down the predictable answer.

“You’ll have to get NRMA, ” I suggest.

“I am not” roars down the reply.  I know why.  He’s too embarrassed, maybe.

“You have that car today and take it to the tyre shop for air!” the heavens command.

“Oh, yes, and my name is Stupid, ” I curse to myself. I ring NRMA roadside service immediately and they tell me that their local man, Michael, isn’t too far away.  “Gee, Michael’s on.  He’ll call me ‘darling’ as he always does.  I won’t mind him today.  No one else will be calling me ‘darling’ today, that’s for sure, ” I comfort myself.

I settle the student onto the piano stool for his lesson and his Mum waits and watches on the couch.

Knock on the front door.  No use expecting The Boy to come downstairs to answer the door so I do.  It’s the tiler.

“I just need to OK some things about the tiles for the verandas with you!”

“Fine, I’ll be with you in half an hour, ” I reply.

The phone rings then, “It’s Dave the plumber here, Barb.  Did you find a roof plumber for the three and a half meter flue for your oven?”

“Yes, Dave.  I’m on the case.  Thanks though.  Better go, I have a pupil.”

I apologise to the mother and pupil for a third time in 5 minutes.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that Michael in the NRMA vehicle has arrived to save the day for the flat tyre.

I leave the piano room, and fling my head up the staircase, “Hurry up, NRMA is here for the tyre.” I return again to the student, who is yet to open his book.

The Boy stomps out to the car, and greets Michael.  I heave a sigh as I feel I can now deal with the little boy and attempt to win some attention from him.  Ten minutes into his lesson have been eaten up by interruptions and, probably, welcome distractions for him.

The door is flung open as The Boy is knocking on it.

“Where’s the keys to your car?” he requests.

“I don’t know.  You drove it yesterday!”

There is silence as the mother, the student and I all watch The Boy thinking. I look out the window onto the street.  Michael is out at the car with his hands in his pocket.

There’s a glimmer of hope in The Boy’s dreamy brown eyes.  Inspiration! “Where are my trousers?”

“Which trousers?” I ask.

“The pair I wore yesterday, ” the deciding reply announced.

“They are in the wash.  Can’t you hear the washing machine going?”

“The keys are in the pocket.  I suppose you have used very hot water for the wash!” The Boy volunteered.

“My goodness, no one loses car keys!”

The music lesson failed.  The mother and the student departed, in credit.

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