The Case of The Missing Chicken

It happened two or three weeks ago, and it’s still bothering me so I might as well write about it.  Harvest Ranch Market, in Encinitas where I work, makes a pretty good rotisserie chicken.  I don’t have much time to cook during the week, so many Sundays I’ll head over there and pick up two whole cooked chickens.  On Sunday night, I separate the breasts from the legs and thighs, and tear up the dark meat and skin for the dogs—that is, what I don’t eat while I’m doing it because secretly I like the dark meat better, even though it’s not as good for you.  I put the dark meat into a Tupperware container and the chicken breasts, plump and juicy on a plate, cover them with saran wrap and use them in salads and sandwiches during the week.  That is my routine.

Sunday nights are also TV nights around here.  Dexter’s off the air now, and Game of Thrones’ new season hasn’t started, but Homeland and The Good Wife keep me occupied so that I can delay laundry and bill paying until the wee hours, the better to put off Monday.  So two weeks ago on Sunday night, I did my chicken thing, and then settled down to watch my shows.  I must have been a little distracted because I have no recollection of putting the saran wrap on the chicken, or opening the refrigerator. By the time I was done with TV for the evening, I folded laundry, cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed.

Monday morning I went to feed the dogs, and the little dog Yoda, who never liked kibble, waited patiently for his ounce of chicken breast.  I opened the refrigerator door, and looked for the chicken breasts.  I did not see them, which is not at all unusual in my refrigerator, which is even less well organized than my desk.  So I shrugged, gave the little dog some dark meat and went off to work.  But the fact that I couldn’t find the two pounds of cooked chicken breast in my own refrigerator was bothering me, so I called my husband who works from home.  I said, “Please go look in the refrigerator and tell me that the chicken breasts are there that I cut up last night.”  He dutifully went to the refrigerator and reported back, “No, I don’t see any chicken breasts.”  I said, “I KNOW that I put 4 half chicken breasts on a plate.  But I don’t remember what happened to them after that.  Could I have been so distracted I threw them away?  Please go look in the garbage can in the garage.”  I heard a sigh on the other end.  Moments later he said, “The chicken breasts are not in the garbage can.”  I said, “Did you REALLY look for them?”  He said, “Yes, I really looked for them.”

My youngest son had stopped in Sunday evening to pick up his mail.  He was there while the chicken was being dismembered.  I said to my husband, “Please call E. and see if he was hungry and took the chicken breasts.”  He said, “I don’t think he would have taken an entire plate of chicken breasts.”  I said, “Call him!” Twenty minutes later he called me back and said, “E. didn’t take the chicken breasts.”  I had a long day at work, but when I got home at seven I did not go into the house to change my clothes.  I went directly to the garbage can, in my nice brown wool suit and my silk blouse, and I rooted around.  I knew that those chicken breasts must have been accidentally thrown away, probably by my husband, who likes to clean up after me.  Twenty greasy minutes later, I confirmed that indeed, there were no chicken breasts in the garbage. Or in the refrigerator.

I love my deerhounds, even though at times they’ve been known to steal and hoard.  Izzy was famous for taking ALL of the toys and stuffing them behind the seat cushions of the couch.  He also stole everyone else’s bones, and buried them in secret places where they still wash to the surface during a rainstorm, white and glistening, two years after his death.  My old boy Magic has never done a thing wrong.  He is a huge dog, 34 inches at the shoulder, but he is unfailingly polite, waits his turn for meals, never once chewed on the furniture and never peed in the house.  He uses the kitchen counter as a chin rest without even a slight stretch.  But two pounds of chicken breast, right after dinner?  And as I said, he’s never done a thing wrong.

Looking back, I was a little distracted by that Homeland adrenaline rush.  Those chicken breasts are around here somewhere.  I just hope I don’t run into them tucked behind my leather armchair’s cushion, or under a far corner of the rug.  Queen and Quicksilver aren’t telling, and Magic just grins when I ask him.

Monday Monday

I wonder if I will still hate Sunday nights when I retire.  I’m quite sure that I am not the only one who feels this way.  Sundays used to be a day of rest—perhaps for some it still is.  But for me, it’s panic day.  So very much to do, so little time to do it.  I just came in from grooming and feeding the horses, brushing three deerhounds, clipping forty-eight dog toenails and then cleaning the results off the garage floor, it’s almost 7 and I haven’t showered or washed my hair or paid the bills.  Damn it, the leftover turkey is gone and I have nothing in the house to take for lunch tomorrow. Run to the store. Oh, no gas in the car?  Damn it. Most Sunday nights I stay up til 1 or 2 am, because that’s what it takes to get ready for Monday.

This particular Sunday night panic is even worse than usual, because it is coming after I have had an entire week off work.  I briefly check the list of things that I had promised myself I would do during my week off, most importantly, as I mentioned in a previous post, get rid of many of the superfluous belongings I have accumulated in the last 15 years.  In this task I failed, despite my father presenting me with the gift of one of his favorite books, entitled “Clutter’s Last Stand”, likely destined in my hands to become another piece of clutter. I had even planned to take a picture of my three now adult children for a Christmas card (wishful thinking, I know) since they were all home and actually in one place at the same time—well that idea was roundly vetoed with painful choruses of  “you gotta be kidding me!”  Which prompted me to remind my daughter of her childhood girlfriend’s family, the parents and six children, still dressing up each year in matching outfits with a theme—I’ll never forget the eight matching red and white Ducati motorcycles, with matching leather outfits, and their matching long blond hair flowing as they simultaneously shook their ringlets out of their helmets, but I digress.  Some things you just can’t compete with.  At least the white table cloth and napkins that were hiding out in the rarely used dining room are finally washed and put away.

Re-entry is always tough—take it from NASA.  I’ve learned over the years to try not to think too much about my patients and my staff when I am off, otherwise it’s not a true break from the routine.  But being away from cancer patients for a week is a double edged sword.  Oncologists tend over time to become, in the words of that old Pink Floyd song, “comfortably numb.”  Coming back to work after a week or two off is like reentering a world where the colors of panic and pain and sorrow are suddenly more vivid, and more deeply felt. It takes a few hours, or even a day to get back into the rhythm of the cancer center, and then suddenly, it’s like I never left— “just another manic Monday.” Thirty times tomorrow, I will open an electronic chart on my desktop, walk into an exam room, and say, “How are you feeling today, and how was your Thanksgiving?”  I hope they had a nice holiday.  I know that I did.