Tag Archives: groceries

When a Memory Palace Goes Wrong

Have you ever heard of the Memory Palace? It’s a memory trick to help you remember lists of things or whatever. Here is how it works: first you imagine a place you know well and then associate everything on the list with some place in the memory palace. Then you just walk through the house, mentally, and remember everything on the list.

Like this, but with memory. [*]

Like this, but with memory. [*]

I’ve never tried it before, but it sounds promising, so here goes. I don’t have a palace, so I’m going to the house I grew up in, which is in Grand Falls, Newfoundland. I can picture it perfectly.

Here’s a typical grocery list for us:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Bread
  • Swiss cheese
  • Sandwich meat (ham, turkey)
  • Orange juice
  • Paper towels

Now, I have to run through this before I go to the store, so I can make sure I remember everything. Try it with me. Are you ready?


I walk into the front door and my sock goes squish in a bowl of lukewarm dairy.

“Who left a bowl of milk on the welcome mat?” I shout. And why aren’t I wearing shoes? I don’t add. That’s not the sort of thing you think of when you walk into a memory palace.

My sister Anna walks in from the kitchen. “Oh, I left that for a stray cat I befriended. I named him Caterwaul.”

“Mom’s allergic to cats!” I shout, suddenly irrationally angry. “And you never knew Caterwaul while we were living in Newfoundland.”

Anna rolls her eyes. “Hey, this isn’t my memory palace.”

I have to continue. I’m leaving for the grocery store in twenty minutes and I have to memorize this list. I walk into the hallway and see a dozen eggs lying on the old-fashioned hot water radiator. They’re all different colors and one of them is growing and sprouting legs. I peer at it closer and closer until it suddenly screams in my face and jumps off the radiator, doing a double back flip.

These are great for warming up your coat before going outside on a winter day. And, apparently, for making mutant eggs.

These are great for warming up your coat before going outside on a winter day. And, apparently, for making mutant eggs. [*]

“Aha!” it yells and starts to fling slice after slice of bread at me. A whole loaf, in fact, while screaming unintelligible words.

“What are you saying?” I ask.

“Russian curse words.”

“I don’t want to buy Russian bread!”

The egg rolls its eyes. “Crybaby,” it mutters. It tries to walk away but steps in a piece of Swiss cheese that is lying in the hall. Its foot gets stuck in a hole and it topples over and rolls slowly away. Its eyes glare at me with every rotation.

I walk into the living room. The TV is having a heated shouting match with the armchair. “You’re a turkey!” the TV shouts.

“What a ham!” the armchair counters.

“You’re a turkey!”

“What a ham!”

“Come over here and say that, butterball!” the TV bellows. “I’ll cut you! I’ll slice you thin and serve you with cranberries.”

“I’d like to see you try it. I’ll smoke you in hickory, you fat swinehock!”

What a ham. [*]

What a ham. [*]

I leave them to their argument and walk into the dining room where horror greets me. The table is the site of citric surgery. An orange is lying there, its peel laid open and my older sister Sheila cutting into its flesh with a scalpel.

“No pulp,” she whispers. “No pulp.” Juice covers everything. She looks up suddenly and smiles, then reaches for some paper towel to wipe her hands. “We’re almost out of these.”

“What are you doing?” I practically shout.

She looks at me like I’m crazy. “Nothing.” Then she smiles again. “Want some orange juice?”


Epilogue: I made it to the store and remembered everything I needed to buy. However, I did accidentally swear at the cashier in Russian and fell down in a fetal position when I got to the juice aisle. My conclusion: the memory palace technique works if you think you are strong enough to handle it.

The Hieroglyphics Teacher Prevails

For some background (if you wish), read:

The Hieroglyphics Teacher

The Hieroglyphics Teacher Makes a Discovery

The Hieroglyphics Teacher Strikes Back


Ben learned two things that day: 1. Never put Elixir of Life in the refrigerator; and 2. Given the chance, broccoli just wants to watch the world burn.

 Ben had opened his fridge to see that everything inside (including the fridge itself) had come to life. He immediately had to stop the eggs from hurling themselves onto the floor in some pointless gesture of bravado. The broccoli threw the empty Elixir of Life bottle at him and the butter burst into heartrending sobs.

 It took a while, but he finally figured out what had happened. The Elixir of Life had expanded and burst its seal, dripping onto the broccoli. It had come to life and had started spraying the Elixir onto everything else, out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Now Ben was starving, but he felt bad eating anything that could object vocally to the process.

 Luckily, Pizza Pockets were frozen and the food in the freezer was still refreshingly non-living. He took out the box and felt the accusing eyes of the rest of the food on him, as if he were raiding the morgue for a quick snack. He shut the fridge door.

 The question now (besides dealing with Ben Two) was what to do with the food. Now that they were living beings, it wasn’t a simple matter of just eating them or throwing them away. This is why the Elixir of Life bottle came with a warning on its side: May cause the endowment of inalienable rights. Use with caution.

 He decided to take a count first. He opened the fridge door and caught an egg as it immediately hurled itself out into space, yelling, “Yee-haw!” He corralled the rest of the eggs, shut the egg carton lid and held it down.

 In total, the sentient food included six eggs, a stick of butter, a head of broccoli, a half-empty bottle of soy sauce and an ancient box of baking soda that had been pushed into the back. It was lucky that he had not gone grocery shopping in a while.

 “You can’t hold us, fascist!” the broccoli yelled at him. “We’ve got rights.”

 “I know,” Ben said. “I read the side of the bottle. Where are you going to go, though? You’re all food.”

 “So, it’s hopeless?” the butter asked and burst into tears.

 “Well . . .” Ben said, thinking of the butter’s chances out on the streets. “Look, I really can’t deal with this right now. I’ve got bigger problems.” Having no other friends to confide in, he sat in front of his fridge and explained his problems with Ben Two to his groceries.

 “Egg barrage!” the carton of eggs yelled in unison when he had finished. “We’ll get him good. Just throw us in his general direction.” The broccoli just snorted. The butter was still sniffling to itself and the box of baking soda was apparently asleep. The soy sauce said nothing.

 “I don’t know if any of that would help,” Ben said, imagining the cleanup, and the subsequent nightmares.

 “I have an idea,” the soy sauce said quietly. It had a smooth voice that made Ben instantly listen and respect its opinion. “Let me speak to this Ben Two, alone. I think I can solve your problem in a mutually beneficially way.”

 “Uh, okay,” Ben said, rather nonplussed by such a self-assured condiment. “Whatever you want.”

 Ben Two came in at about 5:30, carrying five 24-packs of beer. He seemed to have forgotten about the incident at the school.

 “What are those for? Are you having a party?” Ben asked. Ben Two looked up at him.

 “No, they’re all for me. I heard today that people like drinking alcohol as a way of relaxing. I’m going to try it.”

 “But it won’t affect you; you can’t get drunk.”

 “Well, at least it’ll make a good story.”

 “Uh,” Ben hesitated. “The soy sauce wants to talk to you.” He led Ben Two into the kitchen. The fridge was whistling a blues tune softly to itself. He got out the soy sauce and put it on the table.

 “Leave us,” the soy sauce said. Ben instinctively knew it was talking to him, so he went into the living room and pretended to read while straining to hear what the two were saying. After half an hour, Ben Two came in, holding the soy sauce.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll leave and let you teach your classes again. Kikkoman and me here are going to go start a crime spree.”

Ben coughed. “What? You can’t do that? They will think it’s me.”

“He has no fingerprints or DNA,” the soy sauce said, “plus I know exactly how to change his face to fool facial recognition software. And we will never, ever get caught.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have been aged,” the soy sauce said, “to perfection.”

With that, they walked out the door. Ben later found out that they had stolen his boat, but under the circumstances, he considered himself lucky.

And so Ben started on the long road back to somewhat normal life. He bought a kayak and through having to paddle between the different islands to teach his classes, he soon lost the weight he had gained. The food that had come to life soon adjusted to their new existence. The butter cheered up immensely after Ben convinced it that no one was going to eat it. Ben bought more food and the eggs guarded it from the broccoli, who had random fits of destruction at times. They all lived peacefully together, except for the box of baking soda, who expired peacefully one night.

Ben still had to stay at school until the end of the day, even when he had no classes, but such is life.

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