December 21, 2004

Burnt Popcorn

After long resistance, the tenzo—the monastery chef—finally agrees to let a microwave oven into his kitchen. It sits unused on a shelf for ages, until at last the tenzo sucumbs to the pleadings of the youngest monk to microwave some popcorn. Popcorn is beneath the tenzo's notice anyway, so that's all right. The tenzo, with much fussing and fiddling, places the popcorn bag in the oven, presses some buttons, and leaves to read a scripture outdoors, under the kitchen window.

After he reads a chapter or two he smells smoke coming from the kitchen window. Rushing in, he discovers that the popcorn is thoroughly burnt. He had mistakenly set the timer not for two minutes but for twenty.

At the sight of the charred kernels on the microwave wheel, the tenzo has a moment of realization, one he'd been awaiting for much longer than he'd been resisting the microwave oven.

Ever since, he microwaves popcorn for all the monks every Friday night without fail.