Out of Place

The speck of something, I don’t know what, lingers in my head, refuses to go away, rests happily atop the left-hand corner of my place mat next to a bowl of cherry yogurt with milled brown flax seed sprinkled on top. Is the intruder to my breakfast a random flax seed? Or is it left from last night’s dinner plate, perhaps a kernel of dried baby broccoli undiscovered until now? Whatever it is, the light-colored speck on the forest green placemat is ruining my place setting, ruining the order in my meal, the order I have created in my life. Yet another distraction that must be eliminated.

I lick my pointer finger — no particular flavor detected — and press down on the speck of whatever. It sticks to my skin, only to be released a moment later into the tiny succulent that adorns our small, round table. A table designed just for two, not for a speck of something to break the order.

The speck now gone, I can proceed with my thoughts free of clutter, free to create, dream, imagine myself elsewhere, perhaps with waves lapping gently at the side of my boat as I float in warm, clear water. No summer smoke. No chaos. No demands.

My granddaughter awakens and interrupts my reverie, tiptoes out to the kitchen like a hungry mouse. In her tiny pink pajamas with the laughing unicorn emblazoned on the front, she greets me with her own cheery face. She tosses her blonde curls to one side as she slips into the chair across from me without a sound.

Ready for breakfast? She shakes her head yes.

I gather up my dirty bowl and empty glass to take to the kitchen sink. Her favorite pancake batter awaits as I heat the griddle. It is the third morning in a row for pancakes.

What shape today? Kitty, she cries.

The batter to make a cat head, body, ears and tail is poured with care. I flip the cat pancake until both sides are golden brown and slide it onto a small, red plate. I place the cat and a bottle of Minnesota, tourist-size syrup in front of her, warning her to be careful with the sweet syrup. It pours easily.

She reaches for the pancake, then folds it in half as though it were a sandwich, with the cat ears flattened together and the tail hanging out from the folded edges. I realize I have forgotten to give her a fork. She holds the pancake in mid-air with her left hand, then reaches with her right for a speck of something, a speck resting on her forest green placemat. She picks it up and deposits it into the plant on the table. I hand her a fork and breakfast proceeds in an orderly fashion, followed by an orderly life, a penchant for everything in its place, poor girl.

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