Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, October 24, 2003

Bone Dust, or My Strange, Strange Life

From the is-it-Halloween-yet-department.

Okay. Very little phases me in my interaction with friends; I just have known too many 'eccentric' people to bat an eye much anymore. But then something like this happens.

A friend gives me popcorn. It's not quite salty enough for me, so I head over to the stove for the salt. Now, I know there's the large-grained kosher salt in a ceramic mustard jar, but I want something finer for popcorn. I pick up the salt shaker and try a bit, knowing that it could just as easily be pepper as salt. Bingo. It's pepper. I pick up the other shaker and a few white grains come out, but not easily. The exchange went something like this:

Me: You know, the salt is usually in the shaker with the fewer holes.
Him: Really? That one has pepper.
Me: I see that.
Him: I thought you knew (and certainly I should, having been friends as long as I have). I wondered, but I thought, well, you might like pepper on your popcorn.
Me: Actually I do, a little. But no, I was going for salt. Then I tried the other shaker.
Him: The other shaker?
Me: Yeah (Demonstrating by shaking it again. A few grains spill out. His face takes on an interesting cast.)
Him: The salt is in...
Me: The mustard jar. Silly me. I thought there might be salt in the salt shaker. Is the salt in the mustard jar for any ritual use?
Him: Why do you ask?
Me: Because I'm on my period and I don't think touching your kosher salt would be good. Althought I guess since it's what you use to kosher things, you actually can't make it ritually impure, right?
Him: No, it's just salt. (I open up the jar and sprinkle some of the salt on the popcorn, then begin to eat).
Him: Did you use the other shaker?
Me: Yeah, why?
Him: Oh, don't worry about it. (A few seconds pass.) Let me know if you feel any different.
Me: Oh? (Looking up into keen eyes. I look over to the shaker.) Um...was was in the shaker? It won't hurt me, will it?
Him: Oh, I doubt it. Don't worry about it.

Our discussion continues on other topics but seems to come back to the shaker. At this point I've fed some popcorn to the dogs and given the cat a piece to kill, without protest. So...I'm pretty sure it's not poisonous. Surely he wouldn't keep an incense or one of the more unpleasant herbs to eat on his stove??? At some point he gets up and flings dried rice on the floor. Apparently he wants to see if I have a sudden urge to pick up the grains. No. Obviously there was something odd about that other shaker, so I press the point. Finally, I get my answer.

Him: Bone dust.
Me: Bone dust? Why the hell do you have bone dust on your stove? (Note, I didn't question why he has bone dust. As a pagan, I'm used to bizarre ritual ingredients, herbs, hell, I wouldn't be surprised by eye of newt. But he's also Jewish and it's a kosher kitchen, so I couldn't figure that one out). That's not very kosher!
Him: Well, it only breaks the kosher laws if there's heat to transfer it.
Me: It's on a stove!
Him: But that part doesn't get hot.
Me: It has ambient heat! Argh. (Sudden thought hits). It was animal, wasn't it? (No, I'm not friends with Hannibal the Cannibal. But graveyard dust is a common ingredient in some of the old recipes, and for all I know...oh, no.) Please tell me I didn't just break a Noachide law. (Obviously most people recognise a taboo against eating humans. Oddly enough, though, this was my first thought.)
Him: Why do you want to know?
Me: Because, if the Jews are right, I'd kind of like to get into heaven, you know. (Noachide laws are laws that, as long as a Gentile doesn't break, he or she can get into heaven. Jews, as the chosen of G-d, are expected to follow the other six hundred and something in the Bible. Noachide laws are pretty broad: No incest, no robbery, no murder, no eating from a living animal, having a justice system, that sort of thing. Oddly enough, afterwards I checked, and there actually is no prohibition for Gentiles in terms of eating another person. So, I guess that doesn't matter. Depending on the interpretation homosexual relations either count or don't count under 'immmoral sexual acts'. Fortunately, Judaism doesn't really recognise female homosexuality in the Torah, from what I can tell. :) Although I'm a pagan, I'm not an idolatrix. So, my main sticking point is one bounced cheque a year ago that did go on my record as 'theft by deception'--but I did pay everything plus the court costs, so that may make it okay, you think? Oh, well, so much for covering the bases...)
Him: Oh. Cattle bone.
Me: (Exasperated sound. Ah, bone meal, just like we used to put on the garden. But I never expected to eat it--I am, after all, vegetarian.) Promise me that if you ever see me about to eat bone dust or anything else from a person, you'll WARN me, okay? (Sigh.) Only you would keep bone dust in a salt shaker on the stove. What about your boyfriend?
Him: He doesn't salt things. (He turns to the various items on the shelf. The mustard jar (with salt) is next to the stove. Then there's the salt shaker (with bone dust), pepper shaker, pepper mill, nutmeg, and tea. He picks up the nutmeg jar.) This has paper clips.
Me (who was doing the dishes, lays my head down on the sink and begin to laugh mightedly): Okay. Bone dust I can handle. But the paper clips are too much. That just hurts my brain. (I didn't ask why he kept paper clips on the stove.)
Well, at least it wasn't very much bone dust...only a little came out.
Him: Yeah (he said, sadly). It clumps.

You know, sometimes, just sometimes, I think my life is normal. Then something like this happens.

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