As he passed the cafeteria on his way to his next morning meeting, Miller caught a whiff of tomato soup and was instantly transported back to the days of his youth.
Tomato soup was at the top of the menu the day he ended up in principal Murphey’s office for the epic explosion that resulted from a single bad idea, an ill-timed execution of that idea, vast over-reactions everyone and then some and the unfortunate, and untimely demise of Mrs. Krenner’s 5th grade class mascots, the hamsters Jenny and Crouton. May they rest in peace.
He worked to block a lot of that day from his memory and after all this time some of the details were starting to get hazy, but the smell of that tomato soup brought it all crashing back.
He remembered the way he was escorted to Mrs. Murphey’s office surrounded by four of Kirkdale Elementary’s larger teachers as if he were enemy number one. He seems to recall they were all armed with yardsticks.
They had to pass the kitchen on the way, and he recalls time slowing up for a moment as they walked by the door. His brief sideways glance allowed him to catch a glimpse of the secret inner workings of the school lunchroom.
Two women were emptying large cans of tomato soup into what seemed like an enormous vat. The woman directing the activity, whom he will forever remember as Olga – even if that was not her name – stirred the cauldron with a gigantic spoon, slowly and deliberately. He remembered her catching his gaze between the orders she barked out to her minions and it was a stare he felt deep in his chest as if a cold hand was squeezing his heart.