Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Pasta Breakdown

I lost it at Pathmark, in aisle seven, pasta and rice. I don't know what happened; I just broke down. I was trying to choose a pasta. I wanted fusilli, and De Cecco is my favorite brand, but they didn't have any De Cecco fusilli. They had De Cecco ziti, De Cecco linguine, De Cecco spaghetti, and De Cecco rigatoni, but no De Cecco fusilli. The only fusilli I could see was Ronzoni, and I don’t care for Ronzoni. I didn't know what to do. Was I more committed to fusilli or to De Cecco? Should I buy the Ronzoni fusilli in order to satisfy a craving for fusilli, or should I choose an alternate shape from De Cecco? I wondered: how does one choose among ziti, linguine, spaghetti and rigatoni when what one really wants is fusilli? And then it happened. I started screaming, uncontrollably, at the top of my voice. I am sure it was the kind of scream that could be described as "blood-curdling." I clutched my cart, which already contained a quart of 1% milk, a package of toilet paper, four cans of King Oscar kipper snacks and a Hillshire Farms kielbasa, and I began to scream a blood-curdling scream, crying at the same time, for I don't know how long. People were approaching, but also keeping their distance. "Sir, are you all right?" I heard. I still had the presence of mind to think, through my screams and cries, what a stupid question to ask somebody who is losing it. "Somebody call the police," I heard. "No, call an ambulance," I heard another voice say. "Call Bellevue," I heard.

A man in white, maybe he was the butcher or something, grabbed my shoulders. "Mister, please, calm down," he said. My screams must have scared him off, because he let go of me and backed away.

I couldn't really see, everything was a blur, but I could feel the presence of people all around me. Then came the words, through screams and cries, "Get away, get away, get away from me!" People were scampering in all directions. The next thing I saw was the hospital ward that surrounded me, and a bunch of nuts, my ward mates, some giggling, some moaning. Great, I thought, I'm Olivia de Havilland in "The Snake Pit."

I had apparently been given a sedative, or a tranquilizer--I don't know if there's a difference. I felt groggy, but otherwise fine. I remembered just about everything that had happened in the supermarket, up until I had, apparently, blacked out, but I couldn't figure out why it had happened. Pasta has never had that effect upon me before. A nurse noticed that I was awake and approached my bed.

"Mr. Cherches?"

Obviously they had gone through my wallet. "Yes," I said.

"Mr. Cherches, do you feel well enough to speak to a doctor?"

"I suppose so."

About a half hour later a doctor arrived. He looked like Leonard Nimoy. No, make that Martin Landau.

"Mr. Cherches?" he asked.

I thought: since I've been here a large percentage of what has been said to me has been my own name. "Yes," I said.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

I was feeling fine. "I don't know," I said.

"Do you remember what happened?" he asked.

"I started screaming in the pasta aisle, and then I blacked out," I said.

"Yes," he said. "We'll continue this later. We don’t want to overdo it. Get some rest."

I wondered how much rest I had already gotten. My watch was gone. It was replaced with a plastic bracelet that had my name written on it, spelled wrong. I looked around the ward. There was no clock. I yelled out, "Hey, anybody got the time?"

The next thing I knew, these three big, ugly orderlies were battering me with clubs, two more orderlies with bad skin and swamp breath were putting restraints on my arms and legs, a doctor with coke-bottle glasses and a hideous grimace was sticking a long needle in my left arm, and another doctor, a chubby dwarf, was sticking an even longer needle in my butt. All the while, Martin Landau was taking notes and cackling.

Then, all of a sudden, I was back in the supermarket, in aisle seven, pasta and rice. I was trying to figure out what kind of pasta to buy. They didn't have any fusilli in my favorite brand, and I didn't like the brand they did have. I began to wonder what would happen if, unable to make a pasta decision, I broke down and started to scream uncontrollably. I picked up a box of De Cecco rigatoni and put it in my cart.


Anonymous Jimmy Cantiello said...

Hopefully when you found yourself at the supermarket the second time, you came to your senses and returned the Hillshire Farms kielbasa to the meatcase from where it came.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole story is completely believeable, except for it being predicated on the notion that you were actually buying groceries with the presumed intent of cooking them yourself - as far as I can remember, the only recipe you ever mastered was making ice cubes.
Besides, it's the sauce that should determine the pasta shape - for Kippers & Kielbasa, I think perhaps Strozzapreti, or, to be even more authentico, some unfilled pierogi dough, cooked al dente. Yum!

Park Row

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Bibianne said...

This reminds me of the very first episode of The Sopranos, when Tony passes out when the ducks fly away. The psy further tells him what it is all about …

2:45 PM  

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