It’s thrice fallen out of the freezer, regularly rebounding reminders that I’d better eat it.
I keep at least one frozen pizza—just in case— at all times. But I only remember because my poorly packed icebox allows it to slide out, crashing to the floor regularly.
I slip up occasionally and refer to the freezer as an icebox. It’s a freezer. I keep it plugged in. The iceman never comes by the house to offload his frozen blocks of sawdust-covered, river-derived ice.
My grandmother always called the freezer an icebox. I felt it to be a proper name when visiting her home. I never questioned why she referred to it as an icebox. I came up in a time when you only questioned adults once you became an adult. We can argue about the nuances and outcomes of days gone by, but it was a better time and created a more resilient brand of adults. But I digress.
As I got older, I surmised why she called the freezer an icebox. An icebox was an upgrade from keeping your milk in the stream and only consuming canned or salted meats. A freezer is merely an icebox without a need for weekly human intervention, so she was right.
While my generational comrades rejoice that we no longer have to talk on the telephone connected by a wire to a wall outlet, she lived during the transition bridging the gap from traveling by horse to being able to fly across the country in five or six hours. What a time it must have been to be alive. However, I question whether she ever ate a previously frozen pizza.
Just before I headed out for a short hunting outing, my emergency pizza fell out of the freezer again. I shoved it back in, propping it back in the compartment with a pound of bacon that almost fell out twice while I doubled down on my icebox Jenga skills.
My afternoon outing was pleasant. It was cool, but a breeze picked up before dark, reminding me I should have added one more layer. I saw no game, but I was happier with that outcome. I don’t hunt anymore with the notion that success is revealed only with a bag limit. I go for a celebration of personal traditions, like calling a fridge an icebox—if I want to.
On my way home, I was unable to suppress the craving for a local truck stop’s open-face chicken sandwich. After all, it was Fri-yay night; I deserved a visit with like-minded chicken sandwich-seekers. At least, I thought I did.
For ten miles, I went over the menu in my head. I’ve been supping there—on and off—for fifty years. Even after considering other options, I was determined to have an open-face chicken sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes. I’d skip the post-dinner pie. I realize I appear to be a man who hasn’t missed many desserts, but I am most intimate with the other food groups.
I pulled into the parking lot and picked a space. I shut off the truck and looked through the pitted windshield toward the human aquarium containing the head-bobbing silhouettes of early arrivers. Suddenly, I was awash with new feelings, wanting to be alone, not sitting solo at a freshly sanitized table.
The recalled resonance of the third thud of a frozen pizza hitting the floor beckoned me home. It was time; I hit the key and drove to the house.
Ellie was pleased to have the company and her tail wagged as I input 425 degrees into the propane stove’s control screen; a beep accompanied each five-degree uptick. These electronic notifications caused her ears to perk and drop in rhythmic unison.
The recent rash of sliding impacts had sent all the freeze-dried pizza toppings to one side of the pie, every morsel of bacon bit and processed chicken chunk captured in an overburdened pocket of stressed cellophane.
I shook it side-to-side before removing the plastic; some renegade toppings fell to the floor, clearly accustomed to the frequent high-to-low transitions, like little astronaut trainees who prepared their entire lives for this special day. My home security supervisor quickly scavenged each renegade escapee, all their training for naught.
The graphics on the box prominently featured the word gourmet in the title. I felt confident it was a misstatement, but the proof was in the burning.
Twenty-five minutes later, I settled in on the couch to fervently gnaw on the chicken & bacon-topped gourmet delight. Yes, I burned the roof of my mouth; it’s the standard of a correctly cooked pie.
I should have taken my chances with the head-bobbing early arrivers—and the extra gravy I longed for. Ellie had three entire slices, all caught midair, long before they could hit the floor again. She also had random bites of the slices I attempted to ingest. After a few more nibbles, I discarded the remainder into the standard 13-gallon trashcan. It did the trick, but not too well. I believe— now— the pizza was attempting to tell me something as it threw itself out of the fridge on multiple occasions, hoping to save me from discovering the truth about the contents.
By the way, when I removed the pizza for the last hurrah, the frozen one-pound package of thick-cut bacon fell out of the icebox. At least I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow.
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From the Jagged Edge of America, I remain,