cous cous

The other day I came home from grocery shopping, and when I opened the cabinet to put away my purchases I ran into a small problem: it seemed that there was already a can of refried beans in the spot where I wanted to put my new can of refried beans. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, though: I would just put the new refried beans where I usually put the—huh, more refried beans. Well, what about over—nope, nope, more refried beans there, too. I wandered around the kitchen for a while, but every spot I could think of was already filled with, you guessed it, refried beans. It was then that I came to two conclusions: one, that I really needed to start making a shopping list, and two, I desperately needed to organize my kitchen cabinets.

The first was never going to happen (by the time I went back to the store all of my good intentions would have turned into yet another can of refried beans) but the second one was actually doable, so I set about pulling everything out of my cabinets and piling it on the kitchen counters to organize. It was at this point that my son, Clyde, wandered in and started examining everything. Along with the wall of refried beans there was also at least ten different kinds of tomato product (stewed, diced, whole, paste, chopped, sauce, with garlic, with onion, with green chili, etc.) four different kinds of oatmeal, and no less than seven bottles of salad dressing. What he went for, however, was the cous cous.

It was in one of those thin plastic bags they give you in the bulk department. And instead of a twist tie, it was simply knotted loosely at the top. The bag looked pretty old, and if I had had to make a bet I would have guessed that there was probably less than a 10% chance it didn’t have a hole in it. Which is why I tensed up when Clyde started tossing it from one hand to the other.

“Just, just, put it DOWN,” I said, my hands full of refried beans.

“Why?” he asked me.

Because, I wanted to say, there are only two possible outcomes to playing with that old bag of cous cous. One was that nothing would happen at all. And the other was that something would. In the first instance everything would stay the same: there would neither be a positive, or a negative effect. In the second, though, there was only one possibility, and that was the possibility that something bad would happen. How did I know it would be bad? Because there was no scenario I could imagine that involved the cous cous leaving the bag that was not bad. None.

There was absolutely no chance of a cous cous fairy pouring out and granting our wishes, no chance of a magical cous cous garden growing in my kitchen, and no chance of the cous cous all floating out of the bag and over to the trash. None. Zip. Nada. The only thing that could possibly happen was that the cous cous would spill on the floor and that I would get pissed.

Why then, I wondered, given the choice between nothing happening and something bad happening, would Clyde insist upon going for the latter? What could possibly be the reasoning behind such an act? Of course, that’s when my husband wandered in the kitchen, tossing his heavy key ring up into the air and then catching it again—or not. And suddenly I understood.

Well, at least I understood the fact that boys were something I was never going to understand at all. That, and that there really is such a thing as too many cans of refried beans.

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