By John McDonnell
"The neighbors are all getting their kitchens redone," Dolores said. "Why can't we?"
"I’ll be leaving now,” Murphy said, hoping to get out the door before Dolores told him for the 100th time that he needed to make more money.
"Did you know that the British actor Michael Caine was teased because he had a habit of reciting inane factoids and then saying, 'Not many people know that?'" Larry said. He was eating fish and chips at the kitchen table and wearing a mackintosh raincoat. Dolores did not know where he got the fish and chips, certainly not from her kitchen.
"I like Michael Caine," Edna said, coming into the kitchen in her nightgown, which had a raised collar and a long train, and looked like something Liz Taylor might have worn to the wedding of a close friend. "’To be or not to be, that is the question.’ Wasn't he terrific in Hamlet?"
"I don't think he played Hamlet," Murphy said. "You couldn't play Hamlet with that Cockney accent he has."
"Oh, dear," Edna said. "That must have been my father I'm thinking of. Yes, he played Hamlet in 1949 at the Stratford Festival in Canada. I remember it well, because we had to share a bedroom with Charlie Chaplin."
"Fascinating," Larry said. “In a parallel universe sort of way. Now, as I was saying, you could fix this kitchen up in a jiffy."
"Would you?" Dolores said. "I mean, you seem to be able to do anything, Larry, so--"
"I wouldn't recommend that," Murphy said.
"Because Larry might come up with something different than what you're expecting."
"Nonsense, Murphy,” Dolores said. “Why Larry has the most wonderful taste--"
There was a shimmering in the air and everything seemed to go foggy for a second, and then the room was transformed into a Viking castle kitchen, with a stone floor, a huge oak table, pots of boiling chicken entrails cooking over a roaring fire in the hearth, and a whole hog roasting on a spit. The place stunk of cabbage, moldy cheese, blood and seaweed, and Dolores’s stomach did a somersault in response to it.
What smelled even worse, though, was the very large hairy man wearing ill-fitting clothes made from animal skins who was standing in the center of the room and blinking. He was carrying a large axe, and he looked like the type of fellow who settled the finer points of philosophy by using it.
"Larry, who is that?" Dolores said.
"I think his name is Athelred the Disemboweler," Larry said, "and I would say he's ready for his supper."
"By Thor, I need a hog's haunch and a mug of ale now!" Athelred said, and chopped off the corner of the table for emphasis.
"My, he's a bit high-strung," Edna said. "Although I do admire a man who knows his mind. The last time I met a man like that it was 1953, and I was introduced to my future husband at a barn dance. I had on a red pleated dress and a sky blue petticoat. Of course, you'll want to know why I had that color petticoat on--"
Athelred threw his axe at her head, but it missed and clanged off one of the pots on the fire, sending scalding grease and water all over the kitchen.
"I'll be leaving now," Murphy said, making for the door. "I’m not a fan of angry Vikings."
"By Odin's beard, I'll not miss again!" Athelred said, picking up his axe and hefting it in his large hands.
"Do we have any herbal tea?" Edna said. "If ever anyone needed a cup of tea it's this poor fellow."
"Larry, do something!" Dolores said, correctly surmising that Athelred was about to throw his axe again.
Larry went on calmly eating his fish and chips, but he stuck his foot out and tripped Athelred, causing him to fall hard on his head on the stone floor. The Viking got up quickly, but seemed to have misplaced his higher mental faculties.
"Now, that's better," Edna said. "Let's go in the other room and watch some TV." She took the dazed Viking’s hand and led him away, saying, "Do you have game shows where you come from?"
“Thanks, Larry,” Dolores said.
“No problem,” Larry said. “How do you like this layout? Of course, the ventilation is not great, and you get a lot of smells from the carcasses in the storehouse next door, but--”
“Larry, I’m fine with the kitchen I had,” Dolores said. “Could you change it back?”
“Are you sure? I know I didn’t include utensils, but they didn’t really use them back then--”
“Larry, change it back.”
And Dolores decided her kitchen was not so bad after all.