I put the grapes on the counter and turned to say hello to the other occupant of the house I live in. She inched to the left and leaned over, peering around me at the counter with the lone bag of grapes.
“Where’s the ice tea?” she said. No paltry hellos necessary in this tough crowd.
“Ice tea?” I repeated dumbly.
She stared at me in amazement, “Two things. Just two things. I asked you to stop by the store and pick up two things.” She held up a pair of fingers in a V to lend credence to her opening argument, “I see the grapes, although you got green and I said red, but where, oh where, is the ice tea that I intend to serve my guests arriving in 15 minutes?”
“Oh,” I say, immediately blaming the victim, “did you ask for ice-tea? I mean, of course I heard you say something about ice tea but I was uncertain if that meant I should pick some up.”
“That’s why I put it on the list, so you would be clear. Two words, grapes and ice tea.” Her frown beat any upside-down smile I’ve ever encountered.
“List?” I said, pronouncing it slowly, “I didn’t see a list.”
“I know. I tied it to your car keys so you couldn’t miss it. You must’ve pulled it off and tossed the scraps back down on the counter. When you left I threw them away as I watched your disappearing taillights.”
I stared back. You know that three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell? Well, even that bad boy would’ve had the sense to back off. Not me, I plowed ahead, “I think ‘ice tea’ qualifies as two words so, technically, we’re dealing with three.”
“Three what?” she said, incredulously.
“Well, three words. You said there were only two words on the list but I think anyone would agree that actually there are three words on your list. Now just hold on, making a little mistake like that is nothing to get upset and start screaming about. I’ll just run back to the store and get you your ice tea. Although, strictly speaking it’s just tea because the ice is an ingredient added separately, so really, you could have gotten away with two words after all. Hey, I said I was going, there’s no need to get all like that about it. Sheesh!”
So, 10 minutes after leaving the grocery store, I’m back again picking up the things my wife should have put on a list that I was actually aware of instead of leaving it hidden on top of my car keys.
The check-out clerk said, “Say, weren’t you just here?”
“Yeah, uh, my wife didn’t remember to remind me not to forget the list I didn’t know she made causing me not to pick up the ice tea,” I said.
“Actually,” the clerk replied, “I think until you add the ice, it’s just tea.”
Driving home, I had an odd feeling that I was channeling the spirit of the captain of a Chinese clipper ship bringing the season’s first crop of tea into London Harbor. The year is 1866 and thousands of raging Brits line the docks, banging empty teapots.
The guests all turned and looked at me when I walked in holding the iceless tea aloft. There was a hushed silence until my wife explained that everyone had decided to have wine instead.
We pulled anchor and sailed off in a huff.