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Tell Me a Tale

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Ron was man of principle: he liked grease. He liked grease whether he could put it. Falling into his mouth, sliding around in his tummy, dripping down his hands, and in his most private moments, hanging onto him behind the ears.

Every night he would enter his lab and create the unstoppable grease ball: A homemade Naco.

Beans and beef and cheese crammed into a fried tortilla. But let’s not forget the piece de resistance, a handful of nachos jammed into the taco, rupturing the tortilla.

The Naco.

Ron would always laugh as he created this divine dish. Laughed at the Gods as he crafted his masterpiece every evening. Like Hephaestus when he comes in from work and is like, “I’m gonna make some hammers for some God fellas but I ain’t telling no one about ‘em. Haha.”

He clenched the taco like he would a stress ball, the lovely oils glistening as they were squeezed from the concoction, dripping down Ron’s arm. Rufus always helped with the cleanup job, licking all of the astray juices off his skin.

Night after week, week after week, Ron would defy nature and create his naco and would share it among those worthy, such as Kim Possible, his best friend.

But alas, this ritual could only go on for so long before doubt was cast.

“I gotta be straight with you, Ron,” Kim said, cleaning the grease off of Ron’s frying pan.

Was this it? Was this the moment that Kim would confess her feelings for him? The chemistry between them that year of school had been electric. They had been through so much together and now finally, well, something was going on in between them.

Prom was coming up soon and maybe, possibly, they could, oh, I dunno, go as each other’s dates.

But oh ho, dear reader…this was most definitely not that day.

Ron sat up in his chair, straightening his shoulders and tried to remain calm. Smooth even. He was the bon-diggiest guy on campus after all.

“What’s the haps, KP?” Ron smiled, already sweating. That wasn’t cool at all!

Fortunately, Kim’s eyes had stayed glue to the brown grease dripping from the pan. Soap suds built up around her hands as she pounded the sponge against the iron.

“You’re a really good cook, Ron,” Kim smiled. “But you can make so much more than Nacos.”

“What’s wrong with Nacos?” Ron asked, as he held out his hand for Rufus to lick clean.

“Nothing!” Kim said delicately. Was she worried about upsetting him? That was new. “Just—hm, I don’t know, Ron. You can make Nacos every night if you want, but—think of all the places we’ve been to. There’s so much to this world.”

Ron thought about it. He knew he hated meat cakes, a staple of Norwegian cuisine. But it was true, there was so much out there and even if he didn’t want it…

Kim did.

Thus he stood in the kitchen, staring at an empty pot. The clock read 2:54pm. When he had entered the room, it had read 2:02pm. His father had strolled past him several times, saying things such as “Hey Ron!” “Hey Ron, don’t stare in the abyss for too long. You might blink!” “Hey Ron! That’ll be $4.98!”

When Ron heard that, his neck snapped to the right, snakelike in his precision. Ned stood before him, holding up the infamous Naco Night Special. somehow coming to a merciful fee of $4.98.

Ron licked his lips and reached out for his Naco Night—but alas! It was a trick of the eye, an illusion, phantom come to torment him. His personal siren — a vision of Ned, the number one guy at his local Bueno Nacho.

How could he have been fooled so easily? Ned would never leave the safe confines of the fast food chains that put the deadly sin of gluttony on a silver platter and sold it for chump change!

“Uh, Ron, you okay?” Ron’s father asked through tented fingers. “I just asked you if—“

“No, Dad!” Ron screamed. “We can’t risk another phantom!”

Ron’s father blinked and while he was not attuned to the lore of phantoms, he trusted his son and knew this was serious. Throwing a pasta strainer on top of his head, he fled the room.

Ron let out a deep breath that nearly ruptured him, and then looked at his hands.

In one hand: a tomato. Oh what good was this? It was meant to be cast at the fool!

In the other hand: several cloves of garlic. And this, ugh, despicable! Intended for the elimination of blood thirsty beasties who threatened our very way of life.

Yet there Ron stood, apron tied tightly around his waist. He was going to make tomato sauce if it killed him. Kim could walk in on his dead body for all he cared; her eulogy would be elegant and he would be remembered.

As long as she could taste his sweet tomato sauce, as long as she knew that he was just as cultured as the best of them.

For he was Ron Stoppable: Man of All Seasons!

So this little adventure began as most adventures often do: with a can opener and a 28oz. can of crushed tomatoes.

Had he not purchased the can for two dollars at the store, he would had to purchase at least twenty tomatoes.

And what would happen if Ron bought more tomatoes than necessary? Why the remainder would be hurled at him at the dinner table! They would all realize he was the fool!

Ron watched the crushed tomatoes slide into the pot. They seemed like a preliminary version of the tomato sauce: a little redder and less thick. He scratched his chin. Curiouser and curiouser.

Next was the tomato paste. It was difficult to tug from the can. But alas for the paste, it scorned him, it stood in the way between him and Kim, so he pulled it with all his might and out came the thick tomato paste. The way it ploomped! into the crushed tomatoes reminded him of the ever unwavering cranberry sauce.

Curiouserer and curiouserer.

Next was the water. Water? What? How could this be? How could this be so simple!? What a lark! Ron dumped two cups of water into the sauce and then began to mix it. Could it really be this simple?

Was cooking…easy and straightforward? Was there really a beauty to its simplicity, its chemistry, that surpassed that of even some beef and cheesy-o-weesy.

A lonely can of beans wept for Ron in the dark corner of the shelf. It wasn’t until five hours later that a tortilla flopped up to it and wrapped its tortilla-y self around the can. “There there,” it said in a sultry voice. “Perhaps tomorrow our boy will come home.”

The beans were soothed and forgave Ron for his quest to find love. He sought comfort that the beans could not give him.

Sautéed onions and bits of garlic and leaves of basil and diced tomatoes found their way into the sauce. Ron had to swat Rufus away many a time. The rich smell of the tomatoes was overpowering. As he chopped away at vegetables to throw into the sauce, he could feel the rough hands of Italian grandmothers all over the world.

He felt their love, their devotion, in his hands. They were the ones to guide him along, they were the ones to sing them their songs.

Ron twirled around, tossing ingredient after ingredient into the sauce, a man possessed.

And as the final diced tomato dropped into the sauce, Ron turned the heat down to a simmer. All that was left was waiting the two hours for the sauce to weave him her tale: the bubbly caterpillar that blossomed into a beautiful butterfly.

The spaghetti and meatballs would come soon; they did not need to be made right away and at the moment, all that mattered to Ron was the sauce.

Oh mighty majestic sauce, tell me your secrets. I shan’t impart any of it on another soul. Tell me please.

I need you.

=

Kim was surprised to say the very least when she found the corpse of Ron Stoppable lying in the kitchen, a knife in his hand, an expression of shock eternally frozen on his face.

“Ron…” she gasped, staving off the inevitable despair and ducked for cover behind a counter and turning to his body. Who could have done such a terrible thing to such a beautiful man?

Red. He was covered in red from head to toe. Oh the agony, she couldn’t stand it!

She had seen the atrocities of megalomaniacal psychopaths across the globe but this…this was too much. He was actually dead.

Shoving her face against her arm, nose sinking into the flesh, tears sprang loose but as fast as they came, her feet came out from under her, sliding across the floor and tumbling into Ron.

Kim looked up from Ron’s chest and across the floor. Streaks of red on the linoleum…she must have slipped on it. She looked down at Ron’s face to see his eyes flicker open.

“What?!” the two of them cried simultaneously.

“Jinx!” Ron laughed, “You owe me a—“

“Not now.”

“Okay.”

A quiet moment between them. Five seconds ago he was a dead man and now she was lying on top of his body, a Doubting Thomas and her Jesus. Two meatballs in a plate of spaghetti.

“Ron, what’s going on?” Kim asked, her voice shaking.

“Oh—uh—I was—“ Ron paused, trying to collect his thoughts. He needed a cover story now more than ever. He needed time to think, but he couldn’t keep his eyes off of Kim. He needed to tell her now for he did not want his greatest friend to suffer any longer

“I was listening to the tale of my tomato sauce,” Ron admitted dramatically.

Kim raised an eyebrow, smooshing the red underneath her hand and sure enough, she felt tomatoes popping under her fingers, their skins clinging to her.

“Why?” Kim asked.

“I had to, Kim,” Ron threw his head against the floor. “But I failed her.”

“Who?”

“Mama Mia,” Ron said with the utmost sense of importance. Kim tried not to laugh at this out of respect. “I dipped my hands into the sauce to hear her better and then—well—yeah.”

Kim nodded slowly, looking around the trashed kitchen. “Are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m fine, I’m just—“ Ron frowned. “I didn’t even get to the spaghetti and meatballs! And now the sauce is gone. Sorry, KP, I thought I could pull it together just this one time and I failed.”

“I don’t think you failed at all,” Kim smiled. “Look!”

Kim grabbed onto Ron’s limp hand, guiding it into the air. She jabbed one of his fingers into her mouth, causing his eyes to nearly rocket out of his cranium, and nibbled on his finger as she slurped up the sauce coating it.

Wiping her mouth afterwards, Kim patted Ron on the cheek. “How about you tell me what we need to make the sauce and I’ll run to Smarty Mart while you take a nice long shower?”

Ron blinked. He could feel her teeth marks digging into his finger, a slight pinch of a wedding band. Marry me, he wanted to say. But no, this wasn’t the time. If he were to kiss Kim now, all he would taste is tomato sauce and that’s not what he wanted to taste tonight.

“Okay,” Ron said with his best poker face. “That sounds bon-diggity!”

A few minutes later, Ron tossed his clothes off and wrapped a towel around his body. A cold chill smacked his bare flesh as he did so.

This was not the tired and anxious flesh that cried out for a cleansing. This was the clumsy and lonely flesh that needed to forget the pain.

But that was not even close to the worst of it: Mama Mia never got to blossom into her destiny.

Then a knock upon his door. Still choked up, Ron looked over his shoulder, “Yes?”

“Can I come in?” Kim asked.

Ron had heard her ask him this many times before in similar situations, but she had always jabbed at him like a pushy mother. In this moment, she was more like the nervous friend, afraid to have hurt the other.

“Uhh….” Ron looked down at his half naked body. If only he had tomato sauce to smack on his face to conceal the blush. But Mama Mia had been mopped away and destroyed. “Y-y-yeah, s-sure.”

Kim cracked open the door, blushing as she saw Ron standing there, one of his hands looking like a talon the way it wrinkled his towel. They both exchanged the smiles of friends who hadn’t seen each other in years.

“I’m really proud of the way you tried something new today,” Kim said, leaning against the door frame.

“R-really?” Ron asked, voice cracking. His body felt so cold underneath the towel. As the coarse cloth rubbed against his flesh, he felt aware of his mortality, his humiliation somehow made more tangible by the simple brush against mere fabric.

“Yeah!” Kim said softly. “And I just wanted to say—because, ya know—we don’t—ah, say this enough, but…” She cringed. Something was going on, but he didn’t want to point it out and make it more awkweird.

“I love you,” Kim said with as much finality as she could muster.

“I love you too, KP,” Ron smiled.

And then Kim left to pick up more ingredients for the tomato sauce.

But this time, Mama Mimi would get to tell her tale to Ron and Kim. Together.