So, I think I played this story up a little too much in my initial postings. I am not sure how mysterious or hilarious it actually will seem to many of you, but the details of this story have, to this day, left me perplexed.
Our story, that is, my story-I have always been compelled to include others in my recitations and it is a habit that has often caused me angst-begins, quite simply, with a desire to expand my grain-based diet. I have never been that impressed with sorghum or millet as I never acquired the kind of indifference to flavor and texture that must be required of goats or low born Scots, wheat has always been a bit of a bourgeois staple and my complexion is far more that of the son of a humble, northern hog farmer than of the haughty scion of the southern, cotton oligarchies, and rye, the sweet, rich grain, has the unfortunate potential to lace one's daily bread with heady liquor of lycanthropic hallucination; no thank you. Given these givens, and perhaps a few more, my gaze turned eastward and, not unlike the intrepid spirit of the ancient mariner, my appetite sought satiation on the shores of a distant and unknown land. Rice, the culinary foundation of ancient and revered civilizations, was my choice and I committed myself wholly to eating just a shit load of the stuff. Now, fret not gentle Iowans, no mere aquatic grass could rival the sun-kissed, adventitious majesty our own, dear maize; the Swedish and Danish blood that marauds through my veins would not allow me to turn my back on the craft of my forebearers, the sweetness of my native land, the great, enduring substance of that ephemeral central sea.
So, my palate was keen for rice, but my hand was unpracticed and my execution poor. The first attempts at preparation were botched and the product nearly inedible, nearly. I soon resolved to remedy my cause and began the search for some mechanical aid that might rescue this quest for massive and, predictably unsustainable, rice consumption. I had vague recollections of a Japanese student who dormed down the hall from me in my early days at Beloit. He supped almost exclusively on rice balls that he prepared in his room; they were delicious. His rice maker, a contraption I had not until then known existed, provided him with excellent, low cost meals and I, as an older, paunchier man, knew that my answer lay, as many do, in the sweet whisper of my former life. I would buy a rice maker, but which one? I knew nothing of rice makers or their respective qualities. I searched the usual suspects: Walmart, Target, Bed, Bath, and Boredom, but to no avail. The obvious answer lay in the magical realm of the internet. My search term "Best Fucking Rice Maker Ever" yielded some excellent candidates, but alas, I did not have the $400-500 necessary to make one of these appliances my own. I set my sight a bit lower and opted for a $100 model, a very good price, of the Zojirushi brand. In just days, the great market of Amazon would deliver me a whole new world of starchy goodness.
I anticipated the arrival of my rice maker like few things in my life. I would say that the wait for my full set of Titus Livius may rival the rice maker, but then, what knowledge of Roman Republic do we not crave. Did I know that something was amiss at this stage, perhaps, but I paid little heed. These things often took a few more days than initially predicted. It was not until I received an email from Amazon that I began to worry in earnest. The missive clearly stated that Amazon had received no confirmation from the seller that the product had been sent. I was, at this moment, only mildly concerned and I requested direct contact with the seller. The merchant answered back quickly with an apology and a promise to send me my rice maker by the next day. I was satisfied with this response and went about busying myself with the trivialities of my day-to-day existence. It was a few days later when I realized that I had still received no shipping confirmation and the date of arrival was fast approaching. I began to see my dreams of steaming plates, heaped high with fresh drifts of white and wild rice, evaporate before my eyes. In my deepest despair only the day before I was supposed to receive my rice maker, I was again assuaged by a hastily written email, this time informing me that the rice maker had just been sent from Oregon in overnight mail. Ahh, soon the rice would be all mine, I naively thought.
Like many things in my life, the concept is far more intriguing than the reality. When the rice maker finally arrived I was ecstatic. I admired its smooth, silver exterior and clean, sloping lines. I felt that I beheld an agent of a better tomorrow, the redeemer of my own sad existence, an inanimate and amoral savior to light the dark recesses of my unhappy soul. I was embroiled in a waking dream from which I could not escape nor would I want to, even if the vanguard of some great, tuberiforous host were to suddenly appear on the horizon. And then…and then I did wake and took up my rice maker and placed it lovingly on my counter top where it sat, unused, for four days, like a fittingly modest monument to my own confused and impotent desires.
Four days passed without incident; four days of innocence that can never be reclaimed. Then it happened. I was working quietly at my desk in the afternoon when I received a call. I did not recognize the voice or the number.
"Hello" The man said. "Is this Lycurgus?"
"Yes it is. Can I help you?"
"Well, I am so-and-so and I am from Houston. You see, my wife has recently discovered that her credit card information was stolen. A number of anomalous charges appeared on her account, including one item that was shipped to your address. I saw that you work at Texas Tech and so I knew that you were not involved in the theft, but I wanted to let you know that we have talked to the police and an officer might be contacting you." Described the man.
"Yes, that is strange. I have recently received an item purchased off of the internet."
"Was it by chance a Zojirushi rice maker?"
"Yes, yes it was."
"Very strange. At first I thought someone near you may have had the item shipped to your address with the intention of claiming it before you knew it had been delivered."
"Yes, that would seem more plausible than the situation in which we currently find ourselves. Well, thank you. I hope we get this figured out."
As I hung up the phone a curious feeling took hold of me. I went to my computer and looked at my credit card statement. Yes, I had in fact been charged for the very same rice maker that I had received and that the man on the phone had described to me. I quickly called my credit card company and had them cancel my card, then I called the Lubbock police. The detective seemed less idiotic than I had at first feared. He listened to my strange story and decided to call the man from the phone himself. A few minutes later I received a call from the detective telling me that some sort of investigation was proceeding and that I should place the rice maker in a box and just forget about it until a law enforcement official contacted me. I followed this advice for about five days and then threw caution to the wind and started using the rice maker. I have never heard from the police or the man on the phone again.
The rice maker makes good damn rice, though.