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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Perfectly Rational Fridge-a-phobia

(This week’s Secondhand SCIENCE saga is all about radioisotopes. It sounds like some itchy disease you’d get from listening to NPR. But no. It’s another thing entirely. Go see.)

I’ve never been drugged in my sleep, kidnapped and whisked off to another location that’s a near-exact replica of my home.

Well. Not so far as I know, anyway. Though I have wondered who keeps getting crumbs all over my couch, which I usually notice soon after I’ve eaten dinner on it.

I’ll keep an eye on that.

In the meantime, I assume my kidnap-slash-disorient scenario hasn’t ever happened. To me. Probably.

But I did buy a new refrigerator recently. And it’s pretty much the same thing. Everything seems normal, but something’s a little… off.

It wasn’t that way right away with the new fridge. No, at first, it was waaaaay the hell off, because it sat, half-dismantled, in my living room for three weeks. Because math. Or hinges. Or narrower-than-regulation Victorian era doorways or some shit like that. I don’t know. And I don’t really care.

What I do know is that one day some large men from the appliance store came back and, for all I know, opened a goddamned wormhole in my living room and shoved the fridge through it into the kitchen. Or maybe they miniaturized it with a shrink ray and recombobulated it in the next room.

Or they learned how to measure a doorway.

Something. But when they left, the new refrigerator was sitting nice and neat in a cozy corner of the kitchen. And no rifts in the fabric of spacetime near my crumb-covered sofa have opened up in the meantime, so it counts as a “win”.

So now there’s a fridge back in place, and restocked with milk and beer and sandwich pickles and a three year old nearly-full jar of capers that no one remembers using or buying, but don’t throw those out because as soon as you do, you’ll need a bunch of capers for something.

“It’s an odd feeling, like accidentally using someone else’s phone or discovering your underpants are on backward.”

Like, I don’t know, inducing vomiting, maybe. Or playing a game of tiny soft marbles. How should I know what you do in your kitchen?

The point is, everything is back where it should be, and things are back to almost-normal. But they’re also… different. It’s an odd feeling, like accidentally using someone else’s phone or discovering your underpants are on backward. All the regular stuff is in the fridge, and the fridge is more or less where a fridge used to be. But nothing is exactly right.

Take the sodas, for instance. Two liter bottles go on the door. They’ve always been on the door. I’ve lived in this condo for six years, and it’s been exclusively a sodas-on-the-fridge-door experience. But no. The sodas don’t fit in this fridge door. Now sodas are middle shelf. You reach for a fridge-door bottle of soda in this fridge, and you get a handful of Newman’s Own Italian dressing. You don’t want a glass of that with your pizza. Or with your anything else.

For that matter, the whole orientation is different. The old fridge, a built-in that came with the place — because there was no good way to get it out, I’m guessing — was a righty-fridge, lefty-freezer model. All the coldest stuff was in the left hand door. Ice cream. Microwave burritos. Vodka. Penguins. Anything you wanted to keep extra-cold.

But no more. New fridge isn’t lefty-righty; it’s uppy-downy. The freezer is a big-ass drawer on the bottom you pull out, like from some kind of bedroom dresser. Only instead of old sweaters and backup swimsuits, you pull frozen peas and Otter Pops out of it.

Maybe that’s not odd to you. Maybe you’ve gone uppy-downy with your fridge for years. Or maybe you keep your bathing suits in the freezer. Again, your kitchen. How am I to know?

For me, it’s weird. And oddly, weirder than when I’m somewhere completely different. When I’m in someone else’s house, rummaging through their fridge — as one does — I just assume things are going to be in odd places. That’s half the fun of it. You put your butter there? Why is the jelly on the condiment shelf? What kind of monster are you, anyway?

But in my kitchen, I should know what to expect. And let’s face it, I need to know what to expect. Most of the time I open the thing, I’m half-asleep because it’s:

a. three in the morning, because I’ve stayed up doing something stupid like complaining about refrigerators for fourteen hundred words, and I need a glass of water before bed — or milk, or Hidden Valley Ranch Low-Fat Thousand Island, thank you very much; or

2. seven in the morning, because I’m up for some godforsaken early meeting at work, and I need a dozen eggs or a wheel of cheese or one of those delicious frozen penguins in me to make it through the nightmare.

If I can’t autopilot my way through these scenarios, then I’m in big trouble. And I’m in big trouble over here. I went for ice cubes yesterday, and wound up with three squirts of mustard in my glass. What I thought was jelly for my toast was actually sriracha for my sinuses — and don’t even ask me what I just sucked on that was in no way an Otter Pop. I threw it in the trash before I could make a positive I.D.

Eventually, I’ll get used to the new fridge layout — the wacky spot where the tall bottles go, the basement chest of frozen drawers and the weirdo cubbyhole just big enough for a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, like that’s a thing you’d bother to designate a special place for. Honestly, this fridge. I don’t even.

So yeah, I’ll adapt. If I make it that long. In the meantime, there’s a fair chance I’ll chug something gnarly that was in an unexpected spot, or chew through a glass jar because it’s sitting where we used to keep the leftover pizza. What I’m saying is, if I die in the next few weeks, I’m sure I know who the murderer is, and I can give you a clue up front:

It was the refrigerator. In the kitchen. And probably with that stupid-ass jar of capers.

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