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.
Dale was demonstrating to his children how to best peel an orange using a knife when he accidentally cut off his finger. They phoned for an ambulance and it set out immediately only to crash into a cyclist at an intersection. The cyclist was killed. At the cyclist’s funeral, or more particularly at the cup of tea afterwards, old Mrs Clifton choked on a cucumber sandwich and was beyond revival by the time anyone performed the Heimlich manoeuvre. At Mrs Clifton’s funeral, Jack met Rachel and they fell in love and got married and Rachel was expecting but it was an ectopic pregnancy and they lost the baby, but later they had another baby who grew up to be a tyrannical man who beat up his wife and children, and one of the children was a malfunctioning individual and murdered three people, all of whom were destined to become great artists of one sort or another, but their careers were through before they had even started. The painting that one of them was destined to paint, and never did, would have been lost in an attic for decades only to be found by a destitute widow who was trying to feed her eleven children. She could’ve sold it for millions. One of her eleven children was the great-great grandchild of Dale, who was now home from hospital minus the missing finger, and was about to demonstrate to his children once again how to best peel an orange using a knife when his wife declared vehemently DON’T YOU DARE! DON’T YOU DARE!