by Susan Tepper

For fifteen-some years I had this stinking old refrigerator.  It was a side-by-side that came with the house.  Old when I acquired it.  It hardly held any food.  It was too damned narrow.  The freezer side couldn’t even fit a standard Carvel ice cream cake.  You had to put it on its side and hope it was frozen enough not to squish.

In the refrigerator side food used to get lost.  Sometimes for years.   Once I found a tin of Easter biscuits shoved way in the back behind six rotting lettuces.  I figured those Easter biscuits had to be a decade old.  I opened the lid and they looked so perfect nesting in the waxed paper.  Except… My mother who had baked them way back when suggested I try one.  Are you nuts?  I said to her.

Anyway, the food thing was getting me down for years.  I would open the fridge and it was all so stuffed and sloppy.  Kind of dark and spooky looking inside.  Jars of things that looked old and evil.  Plus it hadn’t been scrubbed out since my mother did it for me about seven years earlier.  The only reason we hadn’t contracted a food-borne disease was because everything was kept in packages, or containers, or some such thing.  Yep, it was a scary place— that old side-by-side.

Then one day I woke up and said to myself “enough is enough.”  I sent my husband out to get us a new fridge.  He went to a small appliance store and ended up in an argument with the old guy who owned the place.  I didn’t get my fridge.  I suffered another few years with my stinking side-by-side.  Then one day last month I woke up and said to myself “enough is totally enough.”

And I went to the old guy’s appliance store and ordered a new fridge.  We didn’t argue.  Of course, things being things, they couldn’t get the stupid old side-by-side out the door and ended up ripping the doorframe.  Then they brought in my brand new fridge and it was the wrong model.  Too small and no ice-maker!  Damn!  I’d waited this long, I was definitely getting an ice-maker.  So out it went.

Finally the right one was delivered.  And I cleaned it lovingly and put all my food inside.  Now I can see all my food.  There’s a lovely covered bin for cheese.  A roomy slide-out cold cut bin.  A nice big freezer for my bag of coffee and box of frozen waffles.  Now you are reading this and saying to yourself: So how did all this change her as a writer?  Well, I’ll tell you how.  It made me feel I had accomplished the un-accomplishable.  Somehow that old side-by-side was holding me back.  Then I got my new gorgeous white fridge.  And here I am writing non-fiction!

I never wrote non-fiction.  People used to tell me I should write non-fiction.  No, I’d say.  Not me.  No non-fiction.   I am a fiction writer and poet, I’d say.  Well here you are!  This is my fourth non-fiction piece in a month!  Since the arrival of the new fridge.  I also did a few other things I won’t mention here.  But blame it on the fridge!  And I made a solemn promise to the fridge:  I will not cover you with magnetized photos and all that other fridge junk.  At least one of us will stay virginal forever.

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Susan Tepper has published well over 100 stories, poems, essays and interviews in journals worldwide. She writes a bi-monthly interview column called MONDAY CHAT on the Fictionaut blog, as well as the advice column “Madame Tishka Advises on Love & Other Storms” at Thunderclap Press. Tepper curates the reading series FIZZ at KGB Bar in New York City, and has received six nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Deer, the title story of her collection, was nominated for NPR Selected Shorts.