The Afternoon Nap – Chapter 3, Chili & Bread

I had no idea what I was going to eat for dinner and I was too tired to care. I had never made the much-needed grocery store visit that had been last on my list of errands today but luckily, there was take-out food.

It had been a long first part of the day and I was exhausted. My errands began at the gas station and each leg of the trip around town became more frustrating, probably more from my lack of the “ability to deal” with the growing pile of errands gone wrong.

At the gas station, I was not the only one needing gas and it took more than fifteen minutes just to get a spot at the pumps. Waiting fifteen minutes at a gas station is like waiting a whole day. I suspect the blizzard prediction for the next afternoon was to blame and in theory it made sense to get gassed up. But it is not like we would be driving anywhere if a blizzard hit. Although, there is always someone who shows up on the news with an emergency for being out and about in that kind of weather. I, on the other hand, was at the gas station because my tank was on “E”. That is not unusual, it is a character flaw of mine. One of them any way.

After making it through the gas station stop I headed to grab some cat food at the vet. Nothing particularly frustrating happened there aside from paying over $50 for a bag of prescription urinary health cat food. Ouch. That kind of culinary extravagance must be why he is so crazy healthy at nineteen-years old. He has eaten nothing but the best for most of his nine lives.

With my wallet over $100 lighter from gas and cat food alone, I had buzzed along to my next stop. I needed a haircut. That stop was bound to be frustrating since I have had very few haircuts go as planned in the last three years. I usually hack away at my own hair until I can no longer manage the thickness of it in a presentable fashion and then I have no other choice but to head out for assistance. I have not had an opportunity to find my hairstylist “match” so I hop around to whoever is open when I decide I need a haircut. Therefore, I have no history with someone who “gets” my hair.

I had gone in armed with pictures and specific directions as I have done many times before. Because I have such thick hair, I think they start to feel like they are in a Dr. Seuss story tackling hair that just keeps growing back before their eyes. Eventually they get tired of taking it in baby steps and they begin drastic measures. This is when I should exit, no matter what I look like at the moment, because it always gets worse. Always. Today would be no different. After many months of enduring the “grow out” period of my hair so that I could go to the hairdresser with something for them to work with, I was back to the hacked away short hair that I started with. Too short and too hacked. Ugh. I had felt my face go red as I wondered if the people in the salon watching me while they waited for their appointment thought that it went as I had planned. That I had actually asked for this hairdo and that I was really as happy as I was saying that I was (I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, you know). I could not get out the door fast enough.

Back in my car with my frustration bubbling, I had examined the head shots from the magazines that I took in to show my stylist. I know I have crazy hair. Maybe it was a pipe dream to think that I could look like this fabulous female but couldn’t I get close? Was that too much to ask? My hair looked nothing like any of the hairstyles in the magazine clippings! Ugh, it had happened again. What was that saying about fool me once and fool me twice? Yes, that was me and I had wished for a hat.

There were still more errands to run but I had lost the interest to finish. What I really wanted was to stop for lunch and enjoy a “moment” but there was too much to accomplish and there was no way that I was going to meander in public with my hairdo until I had too.

So, I had settled for a quick trip through a fast food drive-through, which took the hunger edge off, and then I worked my way through some more errands on my list. By the time I had completed my sixth or seventh errand, I had enough. I had no more energy or patience and with all of that running around taking up the day to that point, and I was tired, cranky and hungry. I had also missed my afternoon nap.

I had decided to go home and regroup. If there really was a blizzard coming the next day, I would need to get to the grocery store sooner than later, but for now, I needed my afternoon nap. It was late afternoon now and I was not sure if I would be transported into the magical snowy world that had been welcoming me for the last two naps, but at this moment, I was too tired to care. Almost as soon as I set foot in the door at home, I crashed onto the couch. I had barely covered myself with my favorite blanket before my eyes were closed shut.

The first thing that I saw when I opened them were big black simmering pots in a huge walk-in cooking kitchen fireplace and a warm glow from what looked like a bread oven on the side of it. My stomach gurgled, it was still hungry. I figured that I must be having one of my nap “moments” since I have never been here before but it had the same cozy feeling that I was getting used to. This place was different from the house that I had seen previously. It had that cozy warmth but it was more of a cabin than a cottage. The interior was darker due to the color of the wood that the house seemed to be made of, like a log cabin and the glow from the fire was the only light inside as far as I could tell. There was a wonderfully delicious smell, just like in the cozy cottage, but this smell was hearty and spicy and the sounds of a crackling fire and bubbling pots replaced the holiday music that I had heard in the cottage. Again, no one seemed to be around but the kitchen was filled with cooking activity.

I could not see into the other rooms since they were dimly lit from the fireplace. I was in a kitchen again but this one was much different, it was more rustic but still full of charm. It was long and narrow and there were six thin rectangular wooden tables laid out next to each other in two’s. Floor to ceiling shelves lined the walls and they were stacked with various things; dishes, pots, pans, food, serving platters and bowls, linens and so on. The kitchen had windows on two opposite walls that flanked the shelves. It was nighttime and dark outside but the fireplace reflected a beautiful orange-yellow glow in the windows.

I wondered why I had been brought here and I began to look around for a clue. I called out, but no one answered. I did not really expect them to and would have jumped up to the highest shelf if someone had called back. I was guessing that the simmering pots might be something of significance so I wandered close and peeked inside. The most delicious looking chili was bubbling and steaming away. It smelled like no chili I had ever smelled before and it was such a heavenly aroma. A few feet to the right of me was the bread oven and there sat a loaf of fresh-baked bread. It was a round loaf that was buttery and salty and the crust glowed and glistened in the oven. I wasn’t sure that I had ever seen such beauty. My stomach let out a pitiful whimper that turned into a long moan. I was even more hungry now.

Ok, well that had not given me any idea of what I was supposed to do, it just made me really hungry, so I turned and looked at the tables behind me. There it was. A note. I stepped closer and sat down to look at it. It was written in a hasty manner and somewhat hard to decipher but I managed to read it. The note had a few stains on it as if the person who wrote it was busily cooking all the while they jotted down their thoughts.

It read, “Lots to do, we like to help out when we can. It’s a chilly evening and there are many hungry bellies waiting to be fed. Help yourself to some chili and bread, then please begin as soon as possible. The instructions for packing are on the next page. Everything you need is stacked on the shelf in the back of the kitchen.”

This really was not making any sense to me but I turned to look at the shelf as if that was what I was supposed to do. I saw containers and lids, napkins and bags, and many other items. Curious about the instructions for packing, I turned the page and started to read.

“We need you to pack two hundred and fifty of the small containers with chili and put fifty loaves of bread paper bags. To pack them, please put ten containers and two loaves of bread in each large-handled bag. “

Then there was a list of additional items to add to each bag. The note ended by instructing me to load all of the large-handled bags onto the sleigh that was out the back door and someone would be by to take the sleigh to deliver the food. I was thanked for my help and was told that it made a big difference.

I was bewildered. Who was “we” and who were the “hungry bellies”? I read through the note again and from what I could gather, I was being asked to help some people, or elves maybe (there was that imagination again) who needed a nice warm meal. I wasn’t sure whether I was assisting people who didn’t have food on a regular basis or maybe just some people (or elves) that were working hard outside tonight and needed to eat. I decided that it did not really matter.

The fire began to glow brightly and the pots sent up a cloud of steam. Was that some kind of winter magic telling me that it was time to get moving? The fire glowed again and the pots hissed. I took that as a “yes” and figured that I had better get going on my new mission. My stomach growled as if to remind me that it was still hungry. I doubted that my hungry belly was the one that the note was referring to but it did say that I could help myself. I went over to the shelves and selected a bowl, a spoon, a knife and a few other things that I thought I might need.

My next stop was at the simmering black pots of hearty savory chili. It looked so amazing and I helped myself to a big bowlful and then made my way to the bread oven. There was only one loaf and I wondered how I was supposed to help myself let alone pack up fifty loaves but figured that there must be a recipe somewhere for me to make more. Feeling a little unsure and a lot guilty, I took the last loaf. It was so buttery and crusty looking that I forgot my manners and acted more like a famished animal than a civilized human being.

I found a spot at a table near the giant kitchen fireplace because the glow from it made me feel so happy and warm. It was a chilly evening and even though the fireplace warmed the cabin, there were spots that seemed to have a bit of a chill to them. Failing to come up with some sort of “chili” joke to refer to the chilly cabin, I gave up and decided to look for a drink. I had remembered seeing some sort of glass jug that looked like a drink near the back shelves so I headed over to take a closer look. I did not want to seem greedy, despite my willingness to take the last loaf of bread, but with the buttery salty crusty bread and a bowlful of hearty chili I knew that I was going to be thirsty. The note did not say that I needed to pack drinks so I figured that it was ok to take a glassful.

It looked like some sort of icy cranberry-looking drink that was a deep rich red color with delicious fruit slices floating in it and I helped myself. When I got back to my seat I stirred my chili to let off some of the steam to cool it down, then I broke into the bread. The steam and the smell of all things delicious surrounded me and I could have lived in that moment forever. I took my first bite and the bread was the best bread I had ever tasted. I had not even added extra butter and I always add extra butter. I just knew it would taste perfect dipped in my chili so I did and boy, was I happy. The tastes complemented each other so well, it was a perfect meal. The recipient of this meal was in for a real treat. I took a sip of the icy cold cranberry drink and it was the most wonderful finish to the flavors in that meal, sweet and tart. Aside from cranberry juice and fruit, I could taste the depth of a nice red wine. Even though I was having an amazing moment savoring everything in front of me, I figured that I should finish up and get to my task.

Before I had a chance to stand up I heard a slight noise and looked over to the area near the bread oven. There sat two more loaves of bread. I did not see anyone and assumed that it was more of that winter magic that had been surrounding me. Now that was one bread oven that I would like to have.

I took my dishes over to a corner near the sink and then headed back to grab all of the things that I would need to pack up two hundred and fifty containers of chili as well as the accompaniments and the bread loaves. By the time I had a pile on the table I saw that bread loaves were appearing at a fast pace now in the oven. It was as if they had waited until I was ready so that I would be working with fresh bread. That is some winter magic!

Setting up the tables in an assembly line fashion seemed like the best plan so I got to work laying everything out. I laid out the large handled bags and then made the groups of accompaniments. That way, I could pack the food last and everything else would already be in place. Then it was time to pack up the chili so I grabbed a few trays and topped them with the empty containers. I thought that I could fill a few groups of trays at a time, which would give them a chance to cool a little before I put on the lids. Then I could get to work on the next groupings.

I got into a groove very quickly and even though I had started to work up a bit of a sweat I was having a wonderful time and felt so relaxed and happy. It was a nice change to the cranky day that I had running errands. I did not even mind my awful haircut at that moment. Knowing that I was helping out where there was a need diminished my “poor me” feelings from the day and it gave me some perspective. I love how that works!

I finished spooning chili into the last container and grabbed the last two loaves of bread from the oven and put them in the bag. Figuring that I should double-check that I had packed the bags correctly I went back through each one just to make sure. Then I brought all of the large-handled bags over to the back door so that I could take them all out at the same time instead of leaving the door open as I raced back and forth through the kitchen to the tables. Sometimes I can be quite clever.

The chilly air rushed in at me when I opened the door but it felt nice now since I was feeling as warm as the bread in the oven at this point. As I stepped outside, I gasped when I saw the most magical sleigh sitting right out the back door. It was a beautiful pale gold color that seemed to be all lit up in the moonlight even though it did not appear to have any lights on it. And, oh my, was it huge! I felt a little intimidated to approach it and had to tell myself that it could not possibly be “his” sleigh. I was letting my childlike imagination run wild and it really did make sense for people in this kind of environment to have sleighs, although maybe not quite as fancy. Santa was not the only one in the world to have a sleigh.

I wasn’t really buying my logic because this was no ordinary sleigh but my instructions had told me to pack up the sleigh so I had to get beyond my own issues and “get ’er done”. I grabbed the first two bags and stood up on the step to the inside of the sleigh. I was squinting because I decided that if it was “his” sleigh I was not sure that I really wanted to know what it looked like. Through my squinty eyes I saw that there were some wooden crates filled with bottles of that ice-cold cranberry drink. I guess those would be delivered too.

Back and forth I went and after the last bag was on the sleigh I took a step back to pause and take in the whole night scene. It was amazing. The cabin glowed from the inside and it warmed the pine trees surrounding it with a cozy glow and I stood looking at a beautiful winter scene. Stars twinkled brightly in between night blue clouds and the moon shone brilliantly.

The crisp chilly night air-filled my “being” and I felt the sparks of magic like tingly butterflies inside me. I closed my eyes for one last moment and then I went back into the cabin and started to get it cleaned up. I put back all of the extra items that I had not needed and washed up my dishes. I noticed that there were two more loaves of bread in the oven and that the fire had died down some. The simmering pots of chili were not bubbling now, only steaming. It was as if the kitchen knew that the work was done for the evening and it would now just keep things warm for any late night lingerers.

It was at that moment that I thought I heard jingle bells outside. I raced to the back of the kitchen to look out the window and saw that the sleigh was starting to move away from the cabin. I opened the door and hurried outside to hear the jingle bells and I felt like a child. I had not wanted to see if there was a Santa Claus but when push came to shove, I couldn’t help myself. I did not see a driver but then the sleigh was so big that I could not see around the back of it, nor could I tell if it was being pulled by anything, perhaps some reindeer? Just then, the sleigh lifted from the ground and the pale gold color shined against the dark blue color of the sky. Wow! If only I was heading home on that.

I watched the sleigh disappear over the tops of the pine trees and then I stepped out onto the snow. I just had to see if there were hoof marks. The unmarred snow was now tossed around from the sleigh’s departure but I could not make out any particular tracks. I stared into the sky and then once again turned and headed for the back door. My mind was reeling from seeing such a magical event and I was a bit starry-eyed as I opened the door and stepped inside.

Wow! This winter magic was so incredibly amazing and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the events of this trip. The fast pace of the evening was over and now my body was starting to feel sluggish and tired. I suspect some of that was from the hearty chili and warm crusty bread in my belly that had made me so happy. Reality was starting to filter in and I began wondering how I was going to get home. I knew I needed to sit down for a moment so I decided to see if I could get my own self home the same way that I had arrived. I peeked into one of the dark rooms near the kitchen and saw a big cozy chair. It seemed like it would do the trick so I tiptoed in and plopped down. I was so sleepy that I snuggled back and was asleep within seconds.

I woke feeling very groggy and lazy and in my own house. I had done it, sort of. I guess I really did not do anything but fall asleep in the chair but in my mind I had some impact on getting my own way home. On instinct, I turned my head to look at the table next to the couch as I sat up and what to my wondering eyes did appear, a bowlful of chili and a crusty bread too. Oh yeah, and a glass of the icy cold cranberry drink sat right alongside all of it.

The tingly sensation in my belly subsided. Grinning, I happily sank back into the couch. I was not going to have to make a grocery run tonight after all, and I was so thankful. I was really starting to dig this magical nap.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elaine
    Dec 13, 2014 @ 05:09:25

    Love it.



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