Cooking with Karma

Our writing group did a few prompts using Thema‘s guidelines. This one in particular had the target theme – “In Kay’s kitchen”

Cooking with Karma

“Name, please.”

“Mary Elizabeth Kilpatrick. Most folks call me Mrs. K. But my magical name is Karma.”

Gus Peroni glanced up from the paperwork, and paused for a moment, not sure how to respond. He decided to treat the answer in the same way he treated her large, pointed hat and black cape – pretend it didn’t exist and get through the application as quickly as possible so he could make her go away.

“Current occupation?”

“Kitchen witch.”

The pen dropped along with his pretense of considering her a legitimate potential employee. “Okay, Mrs. Kilpatrick…”

“Karma.” she interrupted.

“Mrs. Kilpatrick,” he said firmly, “I really don’t think you have a place with this restaurant.”

“And why would that be?” Her well aged face looked genuinely confused, as if she couldn’t possibly fathom the reason why he wouldn’t hire her as a cook for the diner that was always jam-packed on Sundays with the worshippers from the Baptist church two doors down. He sighed, and pushed away from the desk, intending to remind her where the door was. “Mrs. Kilpatrick,” he huffed as he fought against gravity to get his bulk into a standing position.

“Please, call me Karma,” she persisted.

“Mrs. Kilpatrick,” he said after a deep breath, “I appreciate your… enthusiasm, but we’re looking for someone with much more experience.”

“How do you know what kind of experience I have? You haven’t even asked me yet! I’ve been making dinners for my family for over forty years, and they all think I should share my talents with the community. What better way than to become your new cook?”

He edged towards the door. “I’m talking professional experience. Have you ever worked in a restaurant setting before?”

“No, but I have fed an entire high school basketball team after they won their division championship. Do you have any idea how much those tall boys can put away?”

He smiled briefly, and realized why her name sounded familiar. James Kilpatrick had been two years ahead of him in school, but everyone in the small town knew the popular athlete. He wondered briefly if Jimmy had any idea his mother was here in her Halloween getup. He’d heard stories that she was a bit on the eccentric side, but this was something else.

“Yes, we’ve had teams stop in after games, and I’m well aware of their ability to clean out our stock.” He patted his belly almost proudly and said, “They can even give me a run for my money, but that’s not the point. I thank you for coming in today, but I’m afraid the answer is, ‘no’ as far as the job goes.”

“But you didn’t even give me a chance to bribe you with some fresh baked goodies, Mr. Peroni”, she said mournfully. He glanced at the clock over his desk, and decided a few more minutes of this charade couldn’t hurt.

“Well, it’s not time for my next interview yet, so I’ll give you a chance to convince me. What is it that you’re offering?”

“How about these?” She produced a cellophane bag from her oversized purse, and placed it on the desk. He squeezed back into his chair, and pulled out the paper wrapped treats. Two delicious looking seven layer bars stared up at him like a pair of chocolate coconut eyes from his desk blotter.

“You made these?”

“Yes I did,” she said with more than a touch of pride. “Always the best seller at the PTA bake sale.”

“These are those bars? Wow, I remember spending most of my allowance on these every year!’ Man, this takes me back…” His voice trailed off as he went to work on them.

She smiled, and settled back in her chair to watch while he ate. In very short order, he was picking up stray bits of graham cracker and walnuts off his desk with his thumb, while enthusing about how they lived up to his memory. “However, I’m afraid that being able to make such wonderful baked goods doesn’t translate into being able to handle the pressures of a short order cook. Are you sure you understand what the job entails?”

“After raising three boys, how difficult could it be?” She adjusted the hat, which was slowly sliding down on her forehead, and said, “Besides, think of the publicity you’d get for having a bona fide witch working magic in your kitchen.”

He laughed, understanding now that the costume was a gimmick to get his attention. He considered for a moment telling her the bars were much better at making her stand out than the Bewitched attire, but he pictured her trying to wiggle her nose at him, and decided it was a bad idea. Instead, he said, “While I appreciate the effort you’ve obviously put into this interview, I’m afraid my answer still stands. However, if you’d like, I’m sure we could figure out some kind of deal where you supply us with desserts. I bet I’m not the only one who remembers your bars fondly.”

She sighed, and stood up. “No thank you, Mr. Peroni. I guess I’ll have to share my magical cooking skills some place else. Good day to you, sir.”

He made a half-hearted attempt to stand again, but she was out the door before he had the chance, her black cape flapping indignantly behind her.

A few blocks away, Mary Elizabeth took off the hat and cape, and dropped them in the Goodwill container at the corner. It was later in the afternoon than she planned, and she’d have to hurry to have dinner on the table before her husband got home. She wasn’t sure what prompted her to stop by Walgreens and grab the costume before her interview, but it made her feel more confident about her plan, and pretty much assured that she wouldn’t be stuck with a job she had no intention of taking. Turning it down would look suspicious, and she was hoping to avoid scrutiny.

She checked her watch, and made sure that the alarm was still set to 1:11am. She doubted she’d fall asleep tonight, but she didn’t want to leave anything to chance. All that was left was an anonymous phone call to the police about an erratic driver heading West on Route 101 with Peroni’s plate number and description of his SUV, and the suggestion that he was spotted ingesting something stronger than beer at the bar, then it was all up to fate. Or Karma, since she felt she was acting on behalf of her recently deceased black kitty.

The neighbor who brought Mary Elizabeth’s cat home wrapped in a white bath towel said she didn’t think Peroni even noticed he hit her. Not surprising, considering his usual routine of visiting the bar a few towns over every night after the restaurant closed. Her son told her Peroni would brag that he knew just how much he could drink so he could pass a breathalyzer – a fact he’d proven a couple of times in recent months. This time when he got stopped however, it wouldn’t be a simple drunk driving – the couple of handfuls of poppy seeds she mixed in the batter of her seven layer bars would guarantee that. She was thankful to her mother-in-law for pointing out the article in the New York Times a few years back, talking about poppy seeds registering a false positive on drug tests. At the time, it was just another “oh my god can you believe this?” news story about some poor dad who lost his job as a result of his fondness for that particular type of bagel, but now it was the final ingredient in her recipe for justice.

“My mother always said, don’t mess with Karma.” she murmured under her breath as she crossed the street, and smiled up at the October sky.

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