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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2004

Home-lunch bag clues in wife on plot to pitch pasta

By Michael C. DeMattos

My wife opened the blue insulated lunch bag and pulled out several containers. It was a ritual she repeated nearly every evening. She laughed to herself remembering commercials from her childhood in which beautiful housewives, elegantly dressed and bejeweled, danced around the kitchen making dinner and washing dishes for their smiling families.

She was just about to wash the empty lasagna dish when she noticed something troubling. It was clean. Well, not clean enough to skip the washing — clearly there was once food in the dish — but something strange had happened. She knew that she was staring at the scene of a crime.

The interrogation

"How was lunch today, honey?" my wife asked. "Did you like the lasagna?"

"It was great!" I replied, disturbed by the question. (Actually, it was not the question itself that disturbed me, it was the timing. We were watching "American Idol," which in our family amounts to sacred time.) She kept the questions coming; the second volley was less discreet and more to the point.

"What did you do with your lunch, Mike?" she asked.

She caught me off guard.

"I ate it, of course, like I do every single day," I replied, suddenly scared and intimidated.

"You sure?" she asked. "Because I think you threw it away. Your fork was clean, apparently unused."

The confession

I stared away in silence, my mind drifting back to lunch. I tried in vain to make excuses, but she shot each one down with a sniper's precision. I was caught and I knew it. As I spoke my thoughts aloud, the filter between my mind and mouth suddenly lifted.

"We had a potluck at school, but I couldn't attend; my social work class started at noon, the same time as the luncheon," I said. "I figured I would just eat my home lunch after class. Everything was fine. The trouble began when a colleague offered to make me a plate to go. I pondered the offer, thought back to my home lunch, and then checked out the spread in the conference room.

"I suppose it was the katsu that got me; it gets me every time. I knew you would be upset if I did not eat my lunch. You made that low-carb lasagna dish replacing the pasta with cabbage. It was heartfelt, but all I could think about was the crispy chicken katsu.

"It was then that I conceived the crime. I ran into my office and pulled out the lunch container. I darted out to the courtyard and was about to pitch my lunch into the garbage can when I was hit by a sudden case of guilt. I hate it when that happens. I could not waste the food. It was then that I saw the little feline. A black cat strolled across the roof of our one-story building, and I knew in an instant what I had to do. I was like a little kid crossing the street by himself for the first time. I opened the container, looked around, once, twice, three times. In one monster heave I sent the lasagna sailing through the air, landing square on the roof with a thud. It was the perfect crime."

The verdict and punishment

I didn't hear a sound. I looked up and saw my wife, tears running down her cheeks. I felt bad.

"Come on, baby, it won't happen again," I begged. "I'll make it up to you, I promise."

It was then that she burst out in laughter. She had done everything in her power to hold it in. She was doubled over in pain, laughing so loud she nearly choked. I blushed.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"You are so pathetic," she replied. "No matter how old you get, you just will never grow up will you?"

I smiled. She was right, of course.

To tell the truth, I was expecting worse. My home lunches were cut off for several days, but soon enough I was toting my little blue lunch bag to work again.

The meals have been less extravagant than they once were, but I am confident that those too will return to normal. I thought I was going to be given cat food for lunch, but I guess one of us really has grown up.

I learned some important lessons that night, but perhaps none more important than these: Make sure things look normal. Smear the food around. In fact, leave some food in the dish. Use your fork! You might even want to drip a little of the sauce on your shirt. There is nothing like a stain to prove your case.

Family therapist Michael C. DeMattos has a master's degree in social work.