From a work in slow & fragile progress.
Jabu and Sozen were buying a butternut squash together.
‘That one looks a bit moldy,’ said Sozen.
‘Oh yeah,’ said Jabu.
She put it back.
Bunrakuken and Uige were buying a butternut squash, a red onion, garlic cloves, a red chili, an aubergine, frozen peas, cumin, mustard seeds, fresh coriander, a tin of light coconut milk, and a lime together.
‘Hei!’ chirped the self-checkout machine. ‘Teette curryn tänä iltana?’
As Bun scanned the other items, Uige solemnly lurked behind. Uige bore the butternut squash tenderly, half baby, half siege engine held in reserve.
‘Pardon?’ said Bun.
‘Making a curry, huh?’ said the machine.
‘Any plans for this weekend?’ said the self-checkout machine.
‘You’re so funny,’ Sozen told Jabu. He smirked.
Jabu smiled, mystified. ‘Am I?’
Sozen drew out his phone to pay and said, ‘It’s just so funny that you’d pick that particular butternut squash.’
Uige whispered fiercely: 'Don't tell the machine our plan!'
‘Oh no,’ said Bun. ‘No, we’re not making no curry. The cumin is actually for swirled harissa hummus. The mustard seeds are for a celeriac and parsnip bake. The chili is for a crab linguini. The lime is for gin and tonic. Coriander, for his part, goes excellently in an orange drizzle cake.’
‘The frozen peas are for our friend who hit their head,’ said Uige.
‘The garlic …’ said Bun.
‘Cake? Save me a piece!’ said the self-checkout machine.
‘Space vampires,’ said Uige. Her eyes narrowed and she checked for space vampires.
‘Yes, I’ll bring one slice to the store next time,’ said Bun.
‘Sounds nom,’ said the self-checkout machine. ‘Up to much this weekend?’
‘Can we finish,’ said Bun. ‘The onion, we’re just going to eat that,’ Bun said sadly.
‘You know what goes great with that!’ enthused the machine.
And then fell silent.
‘Because it’s shaped exactly like your …’
‘No,’ said Sozen mysteriously.
Jabu briskly scanned the butternut squash. ‘Well, it’s fine! They're both fine --’
‘Exactly. You chose a handsome vegetable. You’re just so illogical,’ grinned Sozen, as he paid. ‘It’s so cute.’
Uige handed Bunrakuken the butternut squash. The final item. She said, ‘And how do we explain the aubergine? Simple. There are pomegranate seeds scattered throughout our hostel so we thought we’d buy one aubergine, and mix ourselves an aubergine and pomegranate salad as a snack.’
Bunrakuken Hirai nodded vigorously. ‘Yes. Yes! All the guests trail pomegranate seeds as we go, hoping we can one day find our way back to this planet. And the curry paste …’
‘So the salad is on the cards for the weekend. And the curry paste …’
‘The curry paste …’
‘Anything else I can do for you guys today?’ said the self-checkout machine.
Bun looked at Uige. Uige looked at Bun. They both looked at the curry paste.
‘What are you guys' feelings about a receipt tonight?’ said the machine.
‘At home,' said Sozen, 'you always cut away the rotten parts of the vegetable, and never let anything go to waste.’
Jabu tucked the vegetable in her handbag. ‘No thank you,’ she told the machine politely.
‘But in the store, you always select the freshest one you can find. You could have cooked with the moldy one.’
‘I guess you’re right,’ said Jabu. ‘Ag well. Too late, neh.’
‘Now that other one might get thrown away! You're just so funny.’
‘No worries guys, have an amazing weekend!’
As she zipped up the handbag, Sozen kissed her cheek.
Bun scanned the butternut squash.
‘And the curry paste, actually I have a confession,’ said Bun.
‘Yes,’ Uige said. ‘Not a lot of people know, but actually a bit of curry paste is really delicious in a Mexican mole. Not too much. You’ll want cloves, cilantro – this is for marinading – and a bunch of garlic in there. And then fold it into crème fraîche, or real Mexican crema if you can get it. But mainly we love that little fucking jar.’
‘We don’t even care what’s in it,’ agreed Bun.
‘So that’s everything,’ said Uige. 'Tonight we're having snapper fillets in a Mexican marinade with just a parsnip bake and a linguini and some hummus, and the cake but that's the three of us. And then salad on the weekend. And hanging out with that little fucking jar.'
‘All the other ingredients may be foraged at the Happy Sleeps Hostel,’ said Bun. ‘Abandoned by former occupants, along with the rest of this planet.’
‘You guys into a receipt this evening?’
‘The coconut milk!’ said Bun.
‘We are going to try to put back into a coconut,’ said Uige. ‘The coconut is our friend.’
‘Not the same friend who hit their head,’ said Bun.
‘Actually it was the coconut who hit him,’ said Uige.
‘Our one friend fell on our other friend’s head,’ said Bun.
‘You guys down for a receipt or you good?’ said the machine.
‘No time,’ said Bun. ‘It is a medical emergency.’
‘Ah crap we forgot naan,’ said Uige.
‘That butternut squash looks a bit moldy,’ said Bun.
‘Do you need me to order an ambulance?’ said the machine.
It was weirdly tempting.
‘We can cut it out,’ said Uige.