The Missing Plum
"I don't think it was them," he said, stirring the red pasta in the tall metal pot.
Seated comfortably at the kitchen bar, she said, "Then who do you think it was?"
"Probably," he said, taking a taste from the pot, "someone saw the tree from the park, climbed over the fence, picked the plums, and left."
"Right. Someone saw the plums, climbed over the fence, knocked them down, and just left?" she said, crossing her arms. "The plums are still just lying there on my lawn, rotting."
"Well, maybe it was dark, and the culprit didn't see some of the plums fall to the ground," he said while rummaging in the wooden cabinet above the stove for a particular spice. He found the container empty and shook it. "I was sure I'd bought paprika last week."
"Then how did the so called culprit see the plums in the first place?"
"Now I'm not sure if I should add basil instead or run down to the store to buy more," he said. "I remember putting paprika down on my grocery list."
"Chris-to-pher," she said.
"You're making this seem so much more intricate than it actually is," Christopher said, preoccupied with the search for basil. "It would take too long to go to the store." He sighed. "Basil will have to do."
"I care about those missing plums," she said. "And they seem like the best suspects."
"Why don't you just ask them about it?" Christopher said, adding the basil with a regretful frown.
"No criminal admits to his own crimes."
"It's not a crime."
"It's trespassing, destruction of private property, and theft," she said, making full use of grandiose hand gestures to drive her point-it worked on T.V.
"Someone just knocked a few plums off a tree!" Christopher exclaimed, and she knew that he was more upset over the cooking than with her.
"That isn't the point, it's the principal I have in mind. They've been after us since the first day the two of us met."
"They've been perfectly polite with me," he said, taking a tentative taste of the pasta.
"That's just an act. They secretly think that you're not even responsible enough to water and mow the front lawn. You know it irritates them when you wash off the dirty water unto their driveway." They still like you though, but this she did not add.
"They've never complained before-and where did you hear any of that?"
"You'd be amazed what people say with the window to their kitchens wide open," she said, spinning on the bar stool.
"Did you spy on them?" Christopher said. His full attention suddenly landed itself on her.
"Yes, you did," he said. "I told you to quit doing that. It's creepy. When I found you digging through my trashcans in your pajamas I almost got a restraining order." Then after a pause, as if it would give reason to and excuse the previous comments, he said, "That was a few years back though."
"It was trash day, and my trashcan was stuffed while yours barely had anything in it. I was trying to even out the odds," she said, in a practical and reasonable voice. She was not defensive. At all. "Besides you know how those garbage men are about the fullness of a trashcan-the fees they charge are ridiculous, paying them would leave me broke for a month. Obviously, their ultimate goal lies in hindering my ability to purchase the four basic necessities of life by charging excessive fees. That way in the end I will either die slowly of starvation or give in to their political agenda."
"You have to get over your paranoia. You can't suspect everyone around you as being part of some nefarious organization bent on destroying your life," he said, moving the pasta off the stove. "The Millers across the street asked me to tell you, by the way, that if they ever catch you on their property again they'll call the police. Then, they said, it won't matter how many trays of home baked chocolate chip cookies I promise to bring them."
"The Millers are the worst of the lot," she said, and an incredulous thought came to her. "I can't believe you'd consider bringing chocolate chip cookies to them, when you won't let me eat any of your boxed cereal."
"You're allergic to whole grains, and that's the only kind of cereal I buy," he said, filling a kettle with water.
"Ridiculous. It's all you ever say when I try to make you see sense."
"This is my first time saying it-and it is ridiculous," she said, reaching far over the kitchen bar to move the pot with the pasta closer. "I'm not allergic to whole grains. That time you drove me to the Emergency room was because the Millers had added a little something to the cereal. That's why I snuck into their kitchen when I thought they were at work. I was wondering how they knew on what exact day I would eat the last handful of cereal, from that particular box, at your place. Their information was too good. I had to find out how they got their tiny perfectly manicured hands on it-because Mr. Miller goes to the salon with his wife."
"And that's all you ever say when I try to make you see sense. Mr. Miller really does get manicures," she said, dipping her index finger into the pasta, "I saw the bill in their mailbox."
"No one is trying to poison you, blackmail you, kidnap you, maim you, kill you, or cause you any kind of harm," he said, snatching the pot of pasta away from her. "This isn't for you." Christopher sat the pot down out of her reach. "I hope you've washed your hands.
"I always wash my hands. They always cover the objects I am most likely to come into contact with deadly bacteria. It's an angle they've been working for years. Too bad they haven't realized that I've discovered the benefits of hand washing," she said, after licking the pasta of her finger, "but as I was previously saying, yes, they are. The entire neighborhood is part of the conspiracy. You're the only one I can trust."
"As much as I appreciate you trusting me, I worry that you'll be wearing foil hats one day and muttering about alien abductions," he said, and put the kettle on the stove.
"Oh, I already have a foil hat. I found directions on how to make it on the Interconnected Net; though of course I added a few of my own modifications to the design-want to see it?"
"No, I actually have a date."
"I hope it's not the girl with the fake blond hair and orange tan."
"Why? Does she want to kill you too?" Christopher said.
"No, but she's only using you for your looks and reputation. She wants to brag to all her friends that you're her boyfriend."
"Did you find that out by eavesdropping outside her kitchen window?" he said.
"No, this is the twenty-first century. Espionage has evolved. I tapped her phone and hacked into her e-mail."
"You're one creepy girl."
"Says the guy who doesn't believe that the Millers poisoned his cereal," she said, and reached for the pasta again.
"I told you it isn't for you," he said, moving the pot as far away from her as possible in the small kitchen. "It's for my date. I'm making her a romantic dinner at my place. That means you're leaving now and please don't get caught spying on anybody while I'm on my date."
"I never get caught."
"Well, good bye, Sylvia," he said, escorting her towards the door and outside by the elbow.
"Good luck with the bimbo," she said, standing on his doorstep in nothing more than her Sylvester and Birdie pajamas, pink bathrobe, and bunny slippers.
"Seriously though, that was sarcasm. Dump her."
"Bye, Silvia," he said, and closed the door and making sure to turn all ten of the locks.
"Closing the door in my face won't keep me from interrogating her in the driveway!"
"Go home, Silvia!"