Short Story: Who Ate The Olive?
It felt easy and comforting writing the first two stories in the first person. Perhaps even too easy. The point of this project is to work my writing muscle, and do things that are difficult for me.
As such, today’s story is in the third person. The focus is less on emotion, and more on telling a seamless story with short, punchy descriptions.
I chuckled when I discovered the ending. And yes, I didn’t know how it was going to end either. I figured that out along the way.
“It’s your turn to do the dishes tonight, love,” said Tina, her hand on her husband’s shoulder.
The members of her cozy family were all seated at the table, finishing their dessert. Luke and Linus, the twins, were licking the last of the chocolate off their spoons and making faces at each other. Julie was staring at her phone, like all teenagers do these days. Deedee, who had just celebrated her 13th birthday, was staring at her father intently.
“I’m on it!” Phil said. He flashed his wife a big grin. “You know I always keep my end of the bargain. Boys!” he said, clapping his hands. “Help me take these dishes to the kitchen please. Tonight the ladies get to relax.”
True to his word, he stood up and began collecting dishes. The twins leapt up as well, saluted him and yelled “Yes Chief!”. They each picked up whatever they could fit in their hands and marched noisily towards the sink.
Phil smiled, then wordlessly began to hum to himself as he collected the dishes. He picked them up with his left hand and piled them onto his right forearm, a remnant of his college days as a waiter.
“Finish fast Dad!” Deedee pleaded. “You promised we’d play on your old computer tonight before bed.”
“Relax kid. Like I told mom, I always keep my end of the bargain,” he responded. He turned to the twins. “I’m a man of my word, aren’t I boys?”
“Yes Chief!” repeated the twins as they passed their father several plates. Linus passed one too quickly, and Phil caught it just as it slipped through his son’s fingers.
“Alright boys, I’ll take care of the rest. Go take your bath.”
The twins scampered off to the bathroom as Phil emptied the last of the leftovers in the sink. He ran the water and watched everything swirl into the garbage disposal for a moment, then turned it on. The familiar sound of food being ground flooded over him, then suddenly got louder than it should.
He winced at the ugly sound, like two pieces of metal grinding against each other. Brows furrowing, he turned the garburator off. He reached under the sink for his flashlight, which he used to light the way as he leaned over the sink and peered into the drain.
“An olive pit?” he thought. “Who was eating olives? I didn’t see any at dinner.”
He reflexively began to reach into the garburator before catching himself. He snapped his arm back and blinked, suddenly sweaty.
“Now now old man,” he said to himself. “Let’s not be stupid about this. Haven’t you ever seen a horror movie?”
He let out a soft chuckle and reached under the sink to disconnect the disposal unit. Then, just to be safe, he tested the unit by turning it on. Silence. Satisfied, he turned it off.
“Ok, now that it’s safe, what can I use to reach into the garburator?”
He scratched his head thoughtfully, then rummaged through the kitchen drawers, seeking inspiration.
A soup ladle? Too wide.
Kids’ plastic utensils? Not long enough.
Barbecue tongs? Not a bad idea…
He grabbed the tongs and approached the garburator, then paused as he was about to insert the tongs. He retracted his hand, double-checked the switch was off again, and leaned under the sink to make sure the unit was still unplugged.
In horror movies, the garbage disposal was always accidentally on, even when you thought it was off.
Once again satisfied it was safe, he leaned over the sink. He clicked the tongs together a few times, like a crab’s pincers, before finally extending the pair towards opening. He gingerly inserted the apparatus and began rooting around.
After several minutes of pulling, pushing, and trying unsuccessfully to catch the offending pit, he withdrew his hand, leaving the tongs in the garburator. He leaned back against the counter and stretched his neck, as the twins wandered into the kitchen, smelling like soap from their bath.
“You look tired Chief,” said Linus.
“Yea, tired,” Luke chimed in.
“That’s because I am tired.” He explained the situation.
The twins looked at each other knowingly. They each fetched a chair, placed them in front of the sink.
“Don’t put your hands in there,” their father warned them. “I don’t want any chopped up hands in my garbage disposal.”
They boys looked at him disdainfully.
“We’re not stupid dad”, said Linus.
“Yea!” said Luke. “We’re very careful.”
They leaned over the sink to peer inside the disposal.
“Oh, I found the problem dad,” exclaimed Linus.
“Yea,” said Luke. “You can’t reach the bottom if you have these pinchers in there.”
Before their father could respond, Linus slid a fork under the point where the tongs connect, and lifted it out.
“I did it!” yelled Linus.
“Yea!” responded Luke, just as loud.
They hopped down from the chairs and did a victory dance around their father. His mood lightened, and he grinned.
“I’ll admit, you guys are marvelous. But I still have to get the olive pit out of there.”
The twins obliged by hammering him with suggestions.
“Did you try a hanger?”
“Or coloring pencils?”
“What about shoelaces? You can tie a knot and make it like a lasso and catch the olive pit like a horse.”
“Did you try a horse?”
They were terrible suggestions. Despite the twins’ victory with the tongs, they weren’t very useful with the olive pit.
“What if I stuck my arm in there? I think it’s thin enough that…” Linus began.
“No hands in the disposal!” said Phil sharply. “Does no one in this family watch horror movies?”
“Nope,” responded Luke. “You never let us watch them. You say they’re too scary.”
“Right,” said Phil. “Then listen carefully boys, because this is the golden rule. We never, ever, ever put our hands or arms in the garbage disposal. Got it?”
“Yes Chief!” replied the twins, before leaving the kitchen.
Phil found himself alone again, no closer to his goal. He decided to look for inspiration in the kitchen drawers once more.
“Daaaaaad, I’ve been waiting for you for twenty minutes.” Deedee scolded him as she entered the kitchen, followed closely by her elder sister. She crossed her arms and glared at him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking care of this kitchen problem and then I’m yours.”
“Well hurry up!” Then, seeing the distressed look on his usually happy face, she softened. “Can I help?”
Phil explained the situation for the second time that night. Deedee tilted her head and listened thoughtfully. Meanwhile, Julie opened the fridge and helped herself to a glass of orange juice. She took a sip then addressed her father.
“Can I take the car tonight dad?” she asked, extending her hand for the car keys. “I want to go see a movie with Anna.”
“Mmhmm.” Phil absentmindedly reached for his pocket, fished the keys out and placed them on the countertop. He bent down and began looking under the sink for a way into the disposal from underneath it.
“Thanks, I won’t be out late.” Julie gave him a kiss on the cheek before heading out. Just before leaving, she paused in the doorway and looked over her shoulder: “Did you try chopsticks? Mom has some long ones she uses for cooking.” She closed the door behind her.
Phil’s raised his eyebrows, then rummaged furiously in one of the side drawers. He triumphantly pulled out a pair of wooden chopsticks. They were just over a foot long and dark brown, with red silicone tips.
He clicked them together expectantly. Like a skinnier, longer crab’s pincers, he thought, and placed them in the disposal.
“I’ve… almost… got it…” he muttered to himself as he wrestled with the pit. He nearly had it several times, but he couldn’t seem to hold onto it long enough to lift it out. The damn thing was too slippery. He concentrated harder, and a thin layer of sweat began to form on his brow. Steady now, steady.
He finally caught the pit, and clamped the chopsticks hard around it, then slowly began to lift.
“Dad, can you open this jar for me?”
Startled by the sudden question, he dropped the pit. It landed in the bottom of the disposal with a muffled, taunting clink.
He sighed, and realized that he’d been holding his breath. He wordlessly reached for the jar of honey and strained against the lid for a second. It opened with a pop.
“I’m sorry kid,” he sighed, handing her the jar. “I don’t think we’ll have time to play tonight. It’s going to take me a while to take this thing apart and put it back together.”
He quickly turned and headed towards the basement, unwilling to face his daughter’s disappointment. He located his toolbox, released a sigh of eternal suffering, and walked upstairs.
He entered the kitchen to find Deedee lying on her stomach on the counter. Her right arm was in the sink, and it looked like her hand was in the garbage disposal.
“Get your hand out of there!” he yelled, panic rising in his chest. “If this was a horror movie you’d…”
Then abruptly stopped as Deedee pulled a long fork out of the disposal. She gave him a triumphant look, and handed him the fork. The teeth were covered with a thick layer of golden-brown honey, in the center of which was the source of his evening’s frustrations: a black olive pit.
Dumbfounded, he looked at his daughter.
“Can we go play now?” she asked. “I still have thirty minutes before bedtime.”
He nodded, still amazed as his daughter bounded out of the kitchen towards the games room, yelling at him to hurry. He glanced at the honey-covered fork once more.
“Well isn’t that something,” he chuckled. “Next time, I’m asking her for help first.”
He made sure to throw the pit in the garbage before placing the fork in the dishwasher, and luxuriously stretched his back.
Then he smiled, and wordlessly hummed to himself as he followed his daughter down to the games room.
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