I stood before the microwave the other day when a bolt hit, stopping me dead as a frozen fish stick, which as you know is the very sign and signal of the grimmest reaper on the planet. From fish stick death there is no return. Frozen fish is so far from life it reaches extraterrestrial alien status. With fish sticks I have no quarrel, other than avoiding them and feeling sorry for them in their little cardboard coffins in the freezer section. The decent thing would be a deep hole and a tasteful service; taste being otherwise denied said frozen fish except for salt making them salty.

Anyway, there I was, pacing impatiently for water to bubble, when the bolt zapped. I’ve had this before. My principal complaint with the microwave, with any microwave, is its slowness. To me fast means fast, not minutes later. Ten seconds should do for all but a twenty-pound ham, which I wouldn’t need anyway. My first microwave had a timer dial and a decorous “ding” when the task was finished. The new models are improved—not with speed, mind you, but with choruses of beeps I find most annoying, like having a cashier checkout at dinner time. If an appliance is going to dawdle, I think it should shut up about it and not chirp for every little burp and gurgle produced.

The first microwave won me over with its simple servitude and polite “ding,” but the slowness grew more and more annoying until I was roused to action to improve matters. If 110 volts were good, then 220 ought to make it better, which to me meant faster. I dreamed of zapping full dinners for eight (I’d need to check that I had that many friends) in a few dial twists and dings. I ran a new line from the panel box conveniently below the kitchen. One hole in the floor did it. I had 220 volts in a number 10 wire. That should improve things, giving me meals in a jiffy. But things did not improve. I mentioned the bolt earlier. That incident gave the first. My assumption that the microwave would appreciate  the extra energy given it and would speed up was proven wrong. There was a zap sound that doesn’t translate well in English, and there was smoke, a big boil of it, followed by a poof as the kitchen went dark. The experiment was concluded.

There was still the old reliable gas range, so it was some weeks before I took my microwave for repairs to Duluth, where I was promptly commended for having done such a fine job. I begged his pardon. He said, “Never saw one with its side black and bulging. What did you do to it?” I spoke a simple lie: “Lightning.” He nodded, whether dubious or not I do not know. “Well then, you’re lucky to be alive.” So was he. We were even, in my book, and I much resented a $35 charge for telling me Mr. Ding was dead as a slab of frozen fish product. There was no disposal fee those days, and optimist that I am I took it to one of those charitable used goods places where we take essentially useless goods for a final fling at life. When no one was looking, I left it outside the door and hurried away. I didn’t think a note was necessary, as technically it was not an actual orphan and I had no basket.

The latest bolt was discovering a song in my head. From nowhere the tune and words to “My Happiness” were in my head, brought there no doubt by some evil conjuring of micro beeping design. I have no fondness for the song, but it was important to me and the words stuck because I heard them often enough, along with the “Tennessee Waltz” and others, mostly sugary about lovers parting. (I was not at all into love.)  The importance of the songs was in the fact that my parents (for years I privately dubbed them Fang and Funseeker) could go from battlefield hostilities to harmonic song in the time it took Lawrence Welk to say “An’ a one, an’ a two, an’ three.” If I was not penned in my room or stuck on plush upholstery in the back seat of our car, the outbreak of song meant I could quietly slip away. Destination: kitchen, where Salerno Butter Cookies were held prisoner in a jar with a lid I’d learned to lift with barely a rattle. My bane was our dog, who favored cookies and being up to no good along my lines. One bark from him and the game was up. “Harry, what are you doing?” It is difficult to either lie or be truthful with six cookies in your mouth. Saying “Nuff-ning-muff-fur” never got me farther than being sent to my room.

It was a bewildered me suddenly hearing “It’s a million years it seems since we shared our dreams” unfold melodically in my head. The song was better than microwave beeps, but truly, I wanted neither, especially since I knew I’d be stuck for hours with the words of “My Happiness” replaying on endless repeat until something would dethrone it. Bothering the innocent and guiltless such as yourselves with the tale was my best choice for doing away with the tune. Bad for you but good for me, so here it is instead of what I had planned, a happy review of how to have fun with tourists. I’m especially fond of speaking well above a whisper in restaurants to ask, “What’s the name of the river we’ve followed the last hundred miles? At the last place they said it was some lake, but it’s too long for that. Has to be the Misasagawaggia River. Isn’t that the one empties into the Gulf of Hudson off the Labrador Trench near Trinidad?” Lucky the visitor who will have that tale to carry back to Peoria.