1794. Peeling potatoes

Caitlin was halfway through peeling the potatoes for dinner when the phone rang. It was Uncle Philip phoning to say that Great Aunt Philomena had died. Caitlin hardly knew her. Once or twice when she was a child her parents had visited Great Aunt Philomena and Caitlin was each time ordered to “behave like a lady”. Even back then Great Aunt Philomena was as proper as one could get, and now she was dead. It was no great shakes. Caitlin went back to peeling the potatoes.

The announcement of Philomena’s death brought back some vivid memories for Caitlin. The spinster aunt would sit in a huge armchair while Caitlin’s parents sat on the sofa and made small talk. Two or three times throughout the visit, Great Aunt Philomena would rise from her chair and grandly announce, “I shall be back shortly. It’s time for a little Coca Cola.” She would depart the room only to return a few minutes later smelling of gin.

Her death was five years ago. Throughout those five years, every time Caitlin peeled potatoes for dinner she thought of Great Aunt Philomena. That phone call had associated Philomena with potato peeling. Forever, it seems. Why can’t I think of something else when I peel potatoes, thought Caitlin? The association remained. There was no escaping it. Great Aunt Philomena and potatoes were inextricably bound. It was an existential annoyance. There was only one thing for it: Caitlin would have to give up peeling potatoes.

Of course, Caitlin peeled the potatoes only to be useful and “ordinary”. She didn’t need to do the peeling. These days one of the scullery maids does it. It helps that Great Aunt Philomena left Caitlin her mansion and all her millions.

30 thoughts on “1794. Peeling potatoes

  1. Herb

    Well, it’s probably appropriate to peel a few potatoes now and then to remember Great-aunt Philomena whether you liked her or not. Apparently she liked something about you.

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  2. dumbestblogger

    Those millions sure come in handy. I just want to point out how difficult this must have been for Caitlin’s parents. First Aunt Philomena doesn’t share here Coco-Cola with them, then she passes them up and gives her fortune to their daughter. Rough.

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Caitlin’s parents were so high that when Great Aunt Philomena said “Coke” they mistook her meaning. Anyway, Caitlin probably murdered her parents in an earlier story for all I can remember.

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  3. umashankar

    If only I had a Great Aunt like Philomena, I would peel potatoes. Later on, I would switch to Coca Cola and potato chips, or whatever those stand for. Now, I don’t remember what my aunt reminds me of. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember the fact that she existed. It certainly explains why of all things I ran out of potato chips recently.

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Once again, Uma, you bring a stunning logic to the discussion. And sometimes I think (and this should in no one reflect on the intelligence of other commentators) you make the most sensible of statements in the guise of otherwise.

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  4. Andrea Stephenson

    Never mind peeling potatoes, judging by the picture of the house, Aunt Philomena is still rocking away in her rocking chair somewhere, when her niece isn’t using the potato knife to despatch young women in the shower….

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  5. Nitin Lalit

    Maybe she needs to peel potatoes to not forget to remember her Aunt. Or the shock of inheriting such a fortune created a sense of guilt in her which is partially assuaged by peeling potatoes. Anyhow, Binky will peel potatoes for you. And he’d do it for free. I’ll claim the inheritance! Lol kidding!

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