Prompts: Reader Responses — “I regretted putting it in my mouth immediately”

Young Girl Sits at a Table for Lunch With Her Father, Sticking Out Her Tongue in Disgust at the Food

[prompts] — I immediately regretted putting it in my mouth.

In the April 2014 issue, we asked readers to respond to the following prompt: I immediately regretted putting it in my mouth. Here’s what we heard:(and, here’s a link to participate in next month’s issue.)

A Taste of Office Life

“Carrie’s still sick. Can you help us out and do her section report by Friday?” My boss’s request hit me like the sour taste of a kiss from a drunken uncle. You know the feeling: reluctance swallowed in the face of obligation, your eyes initially averted, but ultimately the acquiescence of your proffered cheek.

I knew he was in a tight spot, short-staffed, with deadlines looming. Instead of holding my tongue and resisting the pressure to bite off more than I could chew, I choked back my hesitation. I opened my mouth and volunteered. “Sure. No problem.” I had the fleeting satisfaction of his appreciative smile, but as soon as the words of agreement left my mouth, he ran off to his next task.
Of course I was eating right out of his hand. Using a blend of urgency, spiced with equal parts flattery and guilt, he continuously fed extra jobs to me, and l continuously gobbled up anything he threw my way.

By late Thursday afternoon, I was wolfing down someone else’s data, binging on jargon, and spitting out paragraph after paragraph. Why had I agreed to do this? Carrie’s department was not my responsibility. I’d polish off this one extra report, but never again. By 7:00 p.m., long after most people had left the office, I was done.
The boss appeared at my doorway and I handed him the report. “I really appreciate it,” he said. “You’re such a team player. He flipped through the pages. “It looks like you’ve done a terrific job.”

Knowing it was not the last time I would taste the bittersweet facts of life working in that place, I lapped up the crumbs of his approval.

— Karen Zey, Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada

In a Pickle

When I was 10 or 11, my parents took me out to a steakhouse. Who could resist my chocolate brown hair, dimples and clever puppy dog eyes? My parents gave in to my request to let me fix my salad like a big boy.  The appeal of crisp green lettuce and cucumbers, black and brown olives and red, white, orange and yellow salad dressings, and sliced dill pickles had me enthralled. I loved dill pickles like a fat kid loves cake.

There they were, beautiful little green pickles, sliced to perfection. So, with enthusiasm and my eyes wide open, I filled my giant white plastic bowl to the brim. I couldn’t wait to get back to my seat and chomp down.

Without hesitation, I sat down and begin to shove the gherkins into my mouth. Within a matter of seconds, my cheeks became rosy and I felt like a fire-breathing dragon. I was in tears, and in between gulps of iced water, I managed to utter, “Mommy, daddy, these pickles are hot.”

My mother looked over at my bowl.

“Those aren’t pickles, honey. They are jalapeno peppers.”

Tyler Paul Stocks, Greenville, N.C.


What Fell From the Sky?

It had been a good fifty years since the last time I tasted it, and, oh, baby, the world was a different place back then. Dad drove a Country Squire Station Wagon and we had no idea that the emissions coughing from the exhaust would one day cause the polar ice to collapse, sunsets to burn brighter and bring us such brutally cold winters during which I’d line my trousers with flannel pajamas and wrap a scarf across my face just to walk to the curb for the mail.

That something as innocent as the gently falling snow would become nearly as toxic as radioactivity!

“Dad!” I cried out to my dead father, “Look what they’re doing to our beautiful world!”

Before logic could stop me, I brushed off a handful of snow from the railing outside my door and swept it into my mouth. Quickly it melted and I cupped my bare hand again and stuffed more into my waiting mouth. And did it again and again.

The mail truck with chains on its tires chugged up our hilly street.

–Ruth Deming, Willow Grove, Pa.


Hold the Hot Sauce

When it comes to food, if it’s sweet, bring it on. Salty? More, please. As for spicy, well sure. Okay. But in moderation. Let’s not go crazy.

Which brings us to hot:  Chile peppers, jalapenos, cayenne pepper. Don’t even go there. Call me unreasonable, but I don’t believe Novocain should be required as an appetizer.

It was a night of Olympic watching, the year Nancy Kerrigan rose to more fame than she would ever see again for being whacked on the knee.  I was with two friends, drinking wine and wolfing down Chinese food from an array of open cartons.

“Why?! Why?!” Kerrigan had sobbed into camera, a clip that kind of lost its impact after the 112th viewing.

Bitches that we were, we laughed at her.

All was merry, until I dug my fork into carton of benign-looking beef. It only took one bite…


I regretted putting it in my mouth immediately. Fluids began rushing from places on my body that I didn’t even know had exits.

“Cut out my tongue!  Cut it out!  Cut it out!” I screamed, as I rolled on the floor in agony.

My so-called friends were also rolling on the floor, also screaming, also shedding copious amounts of fluids – in laughter.

I frantically pointed to the tiny red little bastard I had spit across the room.

“You ate one of those?!!” BAHAHAHA!  “They’re just for decoration!” BAHAHAHA!

WTF?!  Parsley is a decoration!

If something is served with my food, I assume I can eat it.  Is that so wrong? And why isn’t there a warning label on the carton? A simple drawing of one of these things with a big red line through it would have sufficed. It’s not like I was a newbie to Chinese food. I’d eaten it all my life without such an encounter.

Suddenly, I knew how Nancy Kerrigan felt. You’re just walking along one minute, minding your own business and WHACK!  As I sat on the floor, stunned and guzzling Chardonnay straight from the bottle, I could only sob, “Why?!  Why?!”

— Jayne Martin, Santa Ynez, Calif.

The Chocolate

I immediately regretted putting it in my mouth. Maybe it was the same impulse that had me draping her scarves redolent of Chanel around my neck, smearing on her lipstick. My daughter was dead, and I was in her apartment, lost beyond any sense of even communicating loss, dabbling and daubing with her possessions, clutching them to me. In the kitchen I opened a drawer—notes in her handwriting, groceries lists, reminders—and also the bag of miniature Dove bars, cut open at the diagonal, cut by me a week before when we’d watched TV together.  I tore open a wrapper and shoved a chocolate in my mouth.  The candy stuck and cloyed and I couldn’t chew. I leaned over the sink, her necklaces hanging and clanging against it, dripping both drool and tears. I clutched at the windowsill with its rose-patterned sugar and creamer I’d bought her, unable to move,
unwilling to realize I could spit out the chocolate, but her loss I’d be forced to swallow.

— Jackie Davis Martin, San Francisco, Calif.

What He’s Having

My wife and I attended a birthday dinner for a friend. Her husband is a sportswriter, and most of the guests also were couples: spouses and “hacks,” as the sports guys affectionately call themselves.

We knew the group fairly well, so I should have known better when it came time to order a drink. “I’ll have what he’s having,” I told the bartender.

“He” was Pat Dooley, a sports columnist who partook of serious liquor. I was a news writer who partook of domestic beer—usually light.

The proffered drink tasted like acid. I must have winced because a few people chuckled. I don’t remember what it was, but that stuff could have stripped paint off a pole. One sip was enough. Those sports guys can really put it away.

Years later Pat and I wound up working in the same newsroom. It’s been a long time, Pat, I said when I saw him for the first time at work.

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

I was surprised he remembered that night. I told a mutual friend about the encounter and he laughed. Oh, Pat’s been having fun with that story for years, he told me. Great. Like I needed any help feeling like a dweeb among the sports-writing crowd.

Later, Pat was in New Orleans covering the University of Florida Gators’ bowl game. He sent out an early morning tweet, commenting on the young people on Bourbon Street who already were guzzling brews.

“I’ll have what they’re having,” I tweeted back.

“Well played,” he replied.

— Jim Ross, Ocala, Fla.

With Ice Cream on Top

This happened during Sunday breakfast with my family at a restaurant in San Francisco when I was around seven years old. I ordered pancakes, a special treat. The waitress set the plate, stacked high with golden brown cakes, in front of my eager little girl self. A tiny pitcher of maple syrup sat next to the round, delicious-looking pancakes. But what was that on top of the stack? A tiny scoop of

. . .vanilla ice cream?

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I dug into it with my spoon and popped the whole thing in my mouth.

Butter. Not vanilla ice cream.

When you are expecting ice cream and get a mouthful of butter instead, there are no words to describe the feeling of disappointment.

I’ve told my children this story and have come to regret it. Now, whenever anyone orders pancakes when we’re out for breakfast, they never fail to point at the tiny scoop of butter on the plate and say, “Look, Mom—ice cream!”

— Rise Nye, Oakland, Calif.

Maine Course – the story that inspired the {prompt}

Jasmine and I told Lindsey not to open the bag of ice because we were more seasoned campers, and we knew that the loose chunks would melt and drown the cardboard and other packaged food items in the cooler. It’s best to have one cooler with loose ice for drinks and another with ice packs or bagged ice for the food. Before dinner at our Acadia National Park campsite, I grabbed a Miller Lite from the cooler; the can was floating among cheese, eggs and lunchmeat. I kept my thoughts to myself as I cracked open the beer and took a sip, ending by sucking in the liquid pool that formed atop the can.

I gagged.

I ran to the end of the campsite, by the main road, and threw up. A couple was walking by. Still hunched over, hands on my knees, I made eye contact and all I could say was, “sorry.” All I could think was that they assumed we were partying, and I had too much.

When I made my way back to the picnic table, the gang was laughing, wondering what made me puke.

“Bacon fat water, ” I concluded. And then gave Lindsey the eye.

I imagined that, as we drove around the curvy park roads, the cooler became a bartender’s shaker; melted ice ripped through its contents, including an opened-but-poorly-resealed package of bacon. The result was a salty sea, a crummy cocktail that had seeped its way into everything, into my mouth and then onto the gravel.

— Donna Talarico, editor

P.S. Submit YOUR response to this month’s {prompt} here.

  2 comments for “Prompts: Reader Responses — “I regretted putting it in my mouth immediately”

  1. What a great group of stories. Jackie Davis Martin, your exquisite recount of that painful moment broke my heart. Karen Zey, loved how you took the prompt in such a different and interesting direction.

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