The Arachibutyrophobiac Engineer
By Audrey W.
The men of A-shift at Station 51 gathered around the table in the dayroom as they waited for Johnny to present a special lunch he’d prepared. The paramedic was secretive all morning about what he would be making, so the crew had no idea what they were in for.
“Smells like peanuts to me,” Chet said as he took a seat.
“It sure does,” Marco agreed.
Johnny turned from the counter to face the others. “It’s not peanuts, you guys,” he said, an annoyed expression on his face. “There’s more to it than that.”
“I said it smells like peanuts,” Chet reminded.
When everyone was seated, Johnny carried a platter of the special entrée’ to the table and set it in the center. A smug grin on his face, he pulled out a chair and sat down.
Roy reached out and picked up one of the items. After examining it, he looked at his partner. “This is peanut butter and jelly. With the crusts cut off the bread.”
“Gage, you mean we waited all this time just to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”
“Chet, if I’d have told you earlier that’s what we were having, what would you have done?”
Kelly gave it a minute’s thought. “Harassed you all morning, hoping you’d change your mind.”
“Right. This way, I got a peaceful morning and you still get PBJ sandwiches.”
Mike pushed his chair back and started to get up from the table.
“Where’re you going?” Chet asked.
“Uh. . .I’m. . .I’m not hungry.”
Marco shook his head. “Oh no. If we have to eat this stuff, so do you.”
Mike stood partially up out of his seat. He glanced at the others around the table, then to the platter of sandwiches. The engineer swallowed hard and shook his head. “No thanks.”
Captain Stanley noticed Stoker had grown pale. “You okay, pal?”
Mike wasn’t sure how much he wanted to say in front of the others. Feeling awkward at being the sudden center of attention in the silence, the engineer cracked an uneasy smile.
“I can’t eat peanut butter,” he explained shrugging.
“You allergic to it?” Roy wondered.
“No, I. . .” Stoker searched fast for another explanation, but only one came to mind. “I don’t like the way it sticks to the roof of my mouth.”
Johnny shrugged. “That’s what milk is for. To wash it down so it doesn’t stick.”
Mike eyed the glass of milk in front of his plate. “That’s not enough. I had a bad experience as a kid and I haven’t been able to eat the stuff since.”
“Like what?” Chet asked.
“First grade. . .I was in school in the cafeteria and my mom had put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my lunch. I took a bite and started to chew it, when all the peanut butter got stuck to the roof of my mouth.”
“Yeah?” Johnny looked at the others. “Well, didn’t you have a little carton of milk to wash it down?”
Mike nodded. “But it didn’t help. The peanut butter stuck like glue.”
“Man, that was some strong stuff,” Gage commented.
“The thing is, I couldn’t even say anything to let anyone know I was in distress. It took a long time to get it off to where I could even speak. So ever since then I’ve been afraid of it happening again, and me not being able to say a word to anyone.”
“But you hardly say anything now,” Chet said.
“He’s right, Mike,” Johnny added. “We probably wouldn’t even notice. Don’t ya see the irony here?”
Stoker had to snicker. Gage was right. A quiet guy being afraid of his mouth getting stuck with peanut butter so he couldn’t talk was kind of ironic. “I guess you could say I have a fear of peanut butter.”
“Is there a name for that?” Hank wondered.
“Yeah, baloney,” Chet said wryly, sensing Mike was going to get out of eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He wasn’t sure whether to believe the engineer or not.
“Which is exactly what I’m gonna have for lunch,” Mike answered, heading for the refrigerator. “A bologna sandwich.”
Everyone kept quiet and went about eating their sandwiches. No one was sure if they should rib Mike on his fear in case he was being serious. At the same time, they all wondered if the quiet one had just pulled one over on them. But with their mouths full of peanut butter, jelly and bread, there wasn’t much they could say.
Arachibutyrophobiac: the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
Thanks to Jill H. and Kenda for the beta reads. :o)
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