My daughter considers me a bad influence. If you want to know why, you can tour my kitchen.
On the outside, my refrigerator displays the usual collection of family snapshots and kiddie crayon art, heavy on lopsided hearts over drunken letters that spell out, “I Luv You, Grammy!!” The magnets run to ads for security equipment dealers, bloody daggers, and signs that say, “This Refrigerator Is Bugged.” Posted on the front is a used body target from the firing range, with bullet holes in the lower left forearm and about three inches west of the right ear. Its purpose is inspirational. Dangling from the handle is a locked pair of handcuffs that I intend to remove as soon as I find the key.
Inside, the refrigerator is well-stocked with beer, Chinese take-out cartons, limes, and tonic. The limes are for medicinal purposes. They stave off the kind of colds that can develop into bronchitis and put a sixty-one-year-old senior citizen like me in the hospital, where she is bound to catch something worse and leave in the back of a hearse. I think there may be some milk back behind the cream cheese, but if so, it went sour sometime around New Year’s. In the freezer compartment are several bags of frozen peas marked “Do Not Eat.” These serve as ice packs to treat the sprains and other minor injuries that plague people my age who lead an active life.
The cookie jar on the counter holds a set of picklocks. But its primary purpose is to cover a small stain from a chemistry experiment that got out of hand.
The dishes in the sink are dusted with white powder. The fingerprints showing through the powder provide a record of everyone who has eaten or drunk in this kitchen in the past twelve hours — except the cats, of course. The cats have left their own traces in the small hard bits of food and kitty litter that crumble into grit underfoot.
There’s an empty gin bottle in the garbage can under the sink. Fortunately, I have more.
There’s a small palm tree on the kitchen table, with a hangman’s noose attached to one of its fronds — a product of my studies in knot-tying. Hidden behind the palm is a small voice-activated tape recorder so sensitive that it can pick up a cat’s yawn at four feet. Also on the table are a surveillance supplies catalog and a forensic medicine textbook. When the grandkids come to visit, though, my reading matter gets stashed on top of the refrigerator.
You can see why this kitchen disturbs my daughter. It is not the kitchen of an apple-cheeked, sweater-knitting, cookie-baking, all-American grandmother. It’s the kitchen of a detective-in-training.