"Being the Millers" by Natasha Kochicheril Moni

Mr. and Mrs. Miller were not the sort to keep rum in their kitchen cabinets.  They would rather keep it out, usually on the glass-topped buffet cart that wheeled its way so elegantly from their hallway down the corridor, to the entertaining lounge (or equally as well to their downstairs bedroom.)  For the Millers believed in celebrating and more importantly believed in rum.  Spiced rum.  Heated rum.  Rum overtop vanilla ice-cream.  And of course, the classic rum and coke, always with a twist of lime.

It was for them the essence of existence.  Once, George decided he would see how long a person could sustain himself on rum concoctions.  It was not just his idea, for the Rutherfords had been there the night prior and everyone knows John and George could not be anywhere within a mile radius of each other without bringing about some sort of “testing plan,” as they called these.

Over rum and Belgian chocolates, George was oohing and aahing about the particular sweetness of such a mix, when John shot George that knowing glance.  “Why I do believe George that you’re onto something here.”  John spoke in a rising voice while sweeping his arms about in appraisal of the arrangement.  Chocolate and rum.  Rum and chocolate on French lace doilies that Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Rutherford had crocheted during their latest holiday in mainland Europe.  John continued.

“For is it not of supreme decadence to be adding cucumber sandwiches, roasted turkey, and candied fruits to such a spread? What I mean to say is, is this not a meal within itself? Look at the components of rum . . . we all know it comes from a tropical plant, and we all know that tropical plants contain those healthy fats, the ones that have been mentioned so often in the papers. It is also a liquid and its appearance is full within itself, but once complimented with fine chocolates . . . Yes, they really are fine. Thank you, my dears. Or a coke, which we all know has beneficial properties with its inherent fizziness.”

“Get to the point, John.”

“Well, I do believe a testing plan is in order, George, for what if a man could survive off of such? Rum and cokes. Rum and candies. It matters not the combination. Why think of the importance of such a study. Do we not owe it to the world, for the sake of science, for the tackling of human impoverishment?”

“I dunno, John.”

And so, the night carried on with John making his claims and George registering disbelief and the two women Ada and Estelle adjoining to the secret women’s chambers where they traded gossip like cards, playing bluff and waiting for the precise moment to lay down their full hand.  That night stretched into morning and George found himself doing something he hadn’t done in years, submerging himself into a neatly drawn bath.  As George settled in, his feet marking against the drain register, the weight of his head balanced on the gold trim and tile, the vapor soothing him in a way he had only vaguely remembered.  John’s discourse began to sweep through him and George found a lonely tear releasing itself from one of his eyes.  “Perhaps he’s right,” he grumbled.  “Perhaps this is all in excess.”  So George vowed to himself and to the gold-trimmed tub that he would accept the testing plan, beginning right away.

In the morning, Estelle located the passed-out body of her husband, George, surrounded by a heap of fancy silver chocolate wrappers, an empty bottle of Jamaican spice entwined in his left hand, and a half-consumed pint of vanilla ice cream now melting into the burgundy carpet by his matted head.  Estelle shrieked, as she thought any good wife would do, and then ran to phone the Rutherfords.  John and Ada came over at once and John spent the rest of the day re-cooperating George, while searching for a way to explain how this was all some sort of a gross misunderstanding.  Ada and Estelle played cards, this time with a deck, and shared puffs from a Cuban cigar they managed from John’s inside coat pocket.

After some time, Estelle and Ada busied themselves in the kitchen preparing whatever meal it was that consisted of biscuits, peppered salads, and mandarin wedges surrounding a platter of fresh cod.  George was wobbling rather well by this point, not requiring John’s assistance nearly as much as two hours prior, and the two of them weaved their way toward the mixing smells of foods.  They chose to sit in the entertaining room, among the remnants of the previous night’s fun and settled in, each of them on a pillow by the squat table.  In the light of George’s testing plan, they vowed to accept the proof of his result and reasoned that certainly it must not be in excess to include such things as nibbles into one’s diet.

From this point on, the Millers and the Rutherfords agreed that excess was excess and this included the excess of deprivation.  They were not the type who required learning their lessons twice, thus, they vowed to keep the refrigerator shelves heavily lined with food items, so nuzzling close would these cartons and tubs and loose items stand.  Henceforth, the bottles of rum would be contained in their proper living space on the glass-topped buffet cart that guarded the hallway.  Men, it was spoken, would be tucked into their assigned house beds next to their wives and order would be restored.  For what harm could be done once everything was so accurately ordered, Estelle and Ada agreed.  Thus came the day when the cart became stationary.  John and Ada returned to their country home and George and Estelle stayed in theirs and continued to do what they did best, being the Millers.

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Natasha Kochicheril Moni, a recent editor/publisher for Crab Creek Review, writes and resides in the Bay Area.  Three of her poetry mss were semifinalists in Black Lawrence Press competitions.  Her work regularly appears in journals including: Indiana Review, Verse, Rattle, and Main Street Rag.

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