The Curse of Salmon Pea Wiggle

Here it is. Finally. Been working on it, bit by bit, during my breaks at work. Still working pretty fucking hard, though thankfully it’s let up a little bit. I’ll be starting a “final” project (“final” as in the final project for this part of the training, not even halfway through the training yet) tomorrow, so it’ll probably return to that level.

In addition to finishing this, I’ve also started a short (probably very short) story that I’ll probably wrap up soon before getting back to some of my longer projects.

Also, this is about as pure of a non-fiction story I’ve told. I may have slightly rearranged things, but that wasn’t even necessarily purposeful, since this happened like four months ago and I’ve just been gradually writing it, and gradually losing detailed memory of it at the same time. Now, obviously, it’s not that crazy of a story or anything, but I sort of realized during it that my writing is exactly why I don’t really care about this kind of thing happening any more. Something bad will happen and it will become “oh, well this will make for a good story”.

This is a pretty dope album I listened to recently. It’s… fuzzy, glitchy electronic? Like múm? But it’s also post rock? But kinda metal too? It’s great.

~

It all happened because of that damn salmon pea wiggle. Well, not so much that as the seemingly never-ending construction work going on at the house I shared with a few other people. And that was more or less caused by the house’s mold infection – or rather, the house’s owner’s obsession with mold as some sort of bogeyman.

But let’s just say it was because of the salmon pea wiggle. It was lunch time, I was hungry, and the house was empty which allowed me to make a less smell-friendly meal than usual. If you don’t know, salmon pea wiggle is basically SOS (shit on a shingle) with canned salmon and mixed with peas, served on crackers. I didn’t have crackers, but I did have some bread, and I had a can of salmon, so I decided to make it for lunch. Take a nice big dose, have a nice big meal, and maybe watch a movie or something. I really needed to work on my teaching certification, the time limit was running out, but I could take the next hour to relax for a bit.

I looked in the freezer for peas. There weren’t any. Someone must have eaten the rest of my frozen peas. Or maybe they were someone else’s peas and I had been eating them all along and they finished them off. But I thought someone had a can of peas somewhere around here. They might be in the basement, but I thought they had probably been moved out to the garage with a bunch of other cans, so I headed out. I searched the front and back of the garage, which in reality was only two-fifths of the space there, it had two attics and a basement but nobody kept anything in there, but no can of peas. I headed back to the house, but the door was closed – and locked. I guess someone had left a window open so the door closed easier without me noticing.

We had a spare key, though, so I reached around for it and… Oh yeah, they had moved it for the construction, and didn’t tell me where they put it. Apparently all the other windows, the ones that I might be able to squeeze inside through, were closed, the only open ones were the two that had screens that were directly connected to the wall, so they couldn’t slide. So I was stuck.

I had nothing on me. No phone – though that wouldn’t have helped much anyway, since I don’t have cell phone service – no books, no food, no water. And I didn’t expect anyone to be back home until six or seven that evening. I did, however, have access to the garage.

Buildings in New England are often unusual. They’ll have been around for a while and passed from generation to generation and owner to owner, accruing random additions every time, until they’re a bloated version of their original form. That was something like our garage. There was the main garage building, which had an attic. Then a workshop was added on to the end of the garage, with an attic of its own, separate from the main garage’s attic. Then, for some reason, there was also a basement, but only for the workshop.

As such, everyone in the house stored a lot of stuff out there. I mean, for fuck’s sake, the house’s entire basement was basically emptied into the garage for this construction work. The more important thing, in my situation, was that I had a bunch of boxes of stuff in there, mostly books.

The other main problem here was that I had something I needed to do, which is why I didn’t go with the rest of them that day. I had been working on getting certified to teach English as a foreign language. I had procrastinated – or, as I would prefer to say, “focused on other things” – with it for a while so I didn’t have much time to finish it up, and needed to do three or so lessons that day.

As it happened, I had an old laptop out in the garage. And I mean old, I bought it about ten years ago and it was already pretty old at that point. But it had wifi capabilities, which I could probably reach from outside the house, and I didn’t have much choice other than to try it.

As soon as I turned it on, I remembered why I stopped using it. It was slow, it was beaten up, like half of the keycaps were missing, and – most important for this story – the battery didn’t work, which meant I had to plug it in with it’s stupid fucking short cord with the plug that barely holds in the computer whenever I wanted to use it. The only plug in the back of the garage, where I was testing it, was on the ceiling. It’s a weird building. But that meant that the cord, heavy converter box and all, was hanging off of that plug, and I didn’t really trust it to hold.

The username that greeted me once it turned on was not my usual one, and that reminded me of the last thing I had used it for – essentially creating a “safe house” computer, something completely unrelated to myself that would serve as a secure backup. The side effect of that was that it had a long and complex password that I didn’t remember any more. I gave a few attempts at what I thought it might be, but failed. I had it written down somewhere inside, but obviously that wasn’t an option.

What could be an option, though, would be reinstalling the operating system. It would be a pain but, hell, I was probably going to be stuck out there for six hours, it was worth trying. I dug through one of my bins, the bin that held all of my old games and other software, looking for unlabeled CDs. I burnt a lot of CDs and DVDs with operating systems, and was sure I still had one somewhere. After finding a potential one I popped open the DVD drive – oh god, that’s right, the entire DVD drive assembly wasn’t connected to the laptop and would just slide out and I’d have to jimmy it around to get it to work – turned it on and booted from disk drive, and was greeted by the nostalgic, weirdly blurry default Ubuntu background image. I went through the steps – wondering, as I always did, how it knew what day and time it was – and, while it was installing, pulled out my guitar. My old guitar, or really my dad’s old guitar that he had given to me a long while back – was surprisingly in tune, considering how I hadn’t used it in several years.

I tuned it as best I could by ear, then was trying to remember some of the tabs I used to know. Failing at that, I dug around for my piano chord and key bible to figure out some of the chords I had forgotten… And the laptop died, and I remembered why I called it the craptop. How the fuck had I used it for so long?

I got it started again, and thought about what I’d do for food and water. The reason I came out here in the first place was to get food, but the only things I could find were canned pumpkin, canned coconut milk, bottles of ketchup and salsa, and some of those weird squeezable apple sauce packets. I wondered who was buying those.

All the same, I grabbed a couple and put them in the back where I was getting the laptop set up. I had a bunch of brewing equipment back there, including some flip-top bottles. I took one of these and stuffed a few mint and basil leaves from someone else’s garden in there, topped it with some water from the house, and shook it up. Might as well try to give it a little flavor, or at least cover up the somewhat gross taste of the water.

I found a little salt shaker in the garage and shook a little into one of the teacups I kept in one of my bins full of tea and coffee equipment, mixed it with water, and took it like a shot. It was hot. I was sweating already. If I was going to be out here for hours, I’d need some way to replace electrolytes.

Yes, New York time zone, yes, QWERTY keyboard, no, I don’t want to connect to the internet to install updates while installing, yes, here’s my password.

And the bar was slowly sliding across again.

Time to dig through my books. I had a hell of a lot of books out here. God damn, how many boxes did I have? For some reason I thought I only had two, but apparently I had four. Mostly non-fiction, since my lust for escapism demands I only keep fiction nearby, but there were a bunch of books out here that I had loved when I was younger. Unlike most people, I mostly read non-fiction when I was younger, not caring much for fiction, then got heavy into fiction in my early teens and more or less gave up any non-fiction I didn’t have to read.

Once it had finally finished installing and I had updated it, just to let it “refresh” – the amount of subtle superstitions people have about technology in particular is astounding – it was time to get connected to the wifi. The difficulty with that, however, would be the combination of ridiculously short power cord and completely useless battery. If I was to get it anywhere near the house, I’d have to find a plug toward the front of the garage and somewhere to set the laptop.

Which I did. However, the shelves I was going to set the laptop on where that nasty wooden paste shit that crumbles under the slightest strain, which it had.

I went back to my boxes of books, pulled out a few thick ones, and supported the shelf with them. I think that shelf is still supported by those books, actually. The cord depended entirely on the grip of the plug, since the heavy converter box was just left dangling with nothing to support it.

Suffice to say, it was ramshackle.

I could, actually, just barely get connected to my wifi signal. There were still a few difficulties, though.

The username and password to get access to my course were randomly generated and sent to me in an email. I hadn’t memorized them yet, so I’d need to get access to my email to do so.

The second difficulty was that I couldn’t remember the password to my email. It had been changed, added on to, and modified so many times that I didn’t remember which was the current one and which was a past one.

I tried a few, but no success. “Forgot your password?” it is, I guess. Now some bullshit password recovery question, or rather a normal question I had given a bullshit answer to. Knowing myself and what sorts of things I’d normally put in, I tried a few ideas but, again, no success.

Send a password reset to another email, then. This wasn’t a problem, I had literally dozens of emails, most of which I knew the password to, so I chose my iCloud email and sent it there.

Almost there, right?

Right?

I went to the iCloud site. Apple, as ever, more focused on form than functionality. It had some fancy smooth animated background while loading that slowed my computer – and its already weak connection to the internet – to a crawl. A moment later, a popup appeared on the site that said it couldn’t be loaded.

I tried again. Hell, I tried restarting my computer and trying again, but the same message over and over. How the fuck had I used this thing for so long?

I needed to get through this course. I only had a few days left and there was a limit on how many lessons you could do per day. I was cutting it close, and being stuck out here and unable to do them for a day would seriously set me back.

I saw someone, through the open door of the garage. I saw someone – a last resort – standing the neighbor’s porch.

It was the neighbor.

I ran out there, shirtless, shiny with sweat and hair either stuck to my forehead or sticking up wildly, toting a bottle filled with random leaves. I threw my shirt back on to make myself at least a bit more presentable.

“Hey, can you call Matt? His phone number is ___-___-____. I need to know where they left the spare key.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. She went inside and reappeared a moment later. “It went to message, so I left one saying you wanted to get ahold of him. I’ll come get you if he calls back.”

“Thanks.”

It was like that moment in a survival show where they’ve just conceded, used the walkie talkie to call in the helicopter. I was almost kind of disappointed that I wouldn’t have the excuse of having survived the whole six or seven hours, but beyond relieved that help was soon on the way.

A few minutes later, I saw my neighbor coming across the yard and ran out to meet her. She handed me her phone.

“So what the fuck man, what happened to the spare key?”

“Didn’t we tell you?”
“No you fucking didn’t.”

“Oh, it’s __ the ______, inside a _______ __ _______ ____ on ___ shelf with ___. I don’t know why we didn’t tell you.”
“Yeah, I don’t know either.” I had wanted it to be some sort of a biting retort, but it came out just sounding like an agreement. Silence for a moment. “Well, thanks.”

I hung up and handed the phone back to my neighbor, and thanked her.

I got the key, put at least some of the stuff I had disturbed away, pulled the power cord out of the wall – no real point in shutting the computer down first, it was completely fucked anyway – and grabbed the laptop and cord together to bring inside.

I had finally made it. I was back inside. I was ready for lunch at 2:45.

Turns out we didn’t have a can of peas in the basement either. I only found out later that there actually had been a can of peas, there, on the shelf, all along. I just hadn’t looked.

But I made a roux, added milk and the canned salmon and French-cut green beans. Salt and pepper to taste – why did recipes always do that, say “to taste” without even giving a ballpark of how much to add – and toast some bread. Butter it, heavily, lay it out on a plate and drench in the salmon pea wiggle.

Before that, though, it was time for a dose. Nice big dose – gotta make up for lost time, right? – then eat. Eat the whole plate in a few minutes if you need. Maybe even toast some more bread and fill out another plate, just to empty it. I had a piece of toast or something for breakfast, but other than that hadn’t eaten in twenty-something hours. That was the excuse, at least.

I sprawled out and watched something on my computer. Moved out to the one room in the house that had air conditioning – the owner’s, of course – and played a bit of a game before the tiredness began.

I could feel my nerves thrumming and my eyes drooping. I laid down on the rug out there. My stomach was full, so full. Eating doesn’t make me tired, but getting little sleep the night before did.

I laid down on the rug. My stomach was too full. My previous tiredness made way for that warm feeling that comes with nausea, the increased saliva production and swooning sensation. My stomach tensed and released, and I ran to the bathroom.

I threw up, a lot. A ton. I felt drained, spent, and the tiredness returned. I cleaned up, rinsed out my mouth, and headed back into the AC after grabbing an apple. I sat down on a chair, ate the apple, and brought my laptop up to use it as it was designed – on my lap.

I turned on a video of Dan Gheesling playing Dark Souls II, and tried to relax while watching it. Watching something requires keeping your eyes open, and that should keep me awake. But as always, my eyes closed without me noticing, and the audio swam in my ears, muddling together into a mess of sounds and snippets of words barely understood.

And I slept.

I woke up about half an hour later. It wasn’t exactly “sleep”. As it is for me every time I sleep during the day, it was a sort of half-sleep. The sleep/dream state, but still being just slightly aware of my surroundings.

I started getting dinner ready. My earlier so-full stomach had, by this point, realized that I threw up everything in it, and it wanted more. Maybe it regretted demanding so much at once earlier. It asked for a more moderate amount, slower. And right around that time, my housemates got back.

I hadn’t done any of the TEFL work that, theoretically at least, kept me from going with them. Listen, I would’ve liked to have gone. They drove down to one of the nearer proper cities around here, the closest place to go to a number of stores, many of which I like. But I missed it all because I had to do that fucking TEFL shit, which I didn’t even get to do, so I’d have to crunch on it that evening.

And that, that, is the Curse of Salmon Pea Wiggle.

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