I'm back home in Asheville, once again under the roof of my parents. It's like high school all over again, except this time its extremely different. My old room, which used to the quiet place where I'd faithfully do my homework and read my Bible, is now rearranged and redecorated. What used to be the sanctuary of a kind and thoughtful young Caleb Pressley is now occupied by my savage 17-year old brother and his lawless group of high school friends. Somehow, in a stroke of sheer genius, he was able to convince my parents to let him have friends over for this quarantine. Usually I would classify his antics as just "stroke," but this time I must admit he added "sheer genius." For all the social distancing police out there, these guys have been at our house since quarantine started like four weeks ago. I know, it's crazy. He has a whole cast of characters over. They're 17-year old guys so you can imagine how truly traumatized they are by everything that is happening in the world right now. I'm just kidding, they don't care. The only thing they do is play video games. My little brother stayed up until 6am last night. I asked him what he was doing and he said, "I was watching some movies on Netflix." Some movies. What a guy. Keep in mind, this is the same little brother who revealed this philosophy just five years ago
The truth is that they're supposed to still be in school "online." Guess if they are taking that seriously or not? Lol. And to top that off, somehow they are on "Spring Break" this week, meaning they didn't have to go in to school… which they already weren't doing. This is how you know the system is broken. Anyway, the moral of the story here is my house is chalked full of testosterone right now. Last night I went to get a drink around 1am and I heard them wrestling upstairs. My poor mom.
On top of feeding our normal family, she has taken on the responsibility of feeding all of these guys—who each eat for two. I know she's super stressed, so I do my best to keep my requests to a minimum. I'm not a picky eater so its easy for me to be openminded. However, obviously I do have a favorite. There is one of her dishes that I like the best. And when she told me earlier this week that I got to pick that night's menu, she already knew my answer. Jambalaya.
Chicken, shrimp, sausage… rice. I love them all. I'd eat them by themselves. But together? As a group? That's a party. Jambalaya is the original burrito bowl. If there was a casual make-your-own jambalaya place it would be be bigger than Chipotle and Subway combined.
So the other night my mom kindly heeds my request, and makes a huge bucket of jambalaya. Gallons and gallons. Imagine the most jambalaya you've ever seen, and then imagine some more. She said when she got all the ingredients in the grocery store people were giving her the stink eye because they thought she was hoarding. Little did they know she was just buying one meal. Dozens of sausages. Enough shrimp to make Bubba Gump jump. Countless chickens lost their lives in order to bless my family with this meal.
The big serving wasn't because we were hungrier than usual that night. No, there was more at play. You should know that my mom is a cunning woman. I get half of my smarts from her. I get the other half from my dad. You'd think at least. Anyway, this is the same woman who, when I was just a newborn, made the call to remove my foreskin—knowing that I would not want it. That's what I call foresight. No my friends, the big serving of jambalaya wasn't just for that night…
You see, this quarantine has brought my family closer together. At least for dinner. Every night we've shared a nice meal together around seven o' clock. Everyone comes together—me, my mom, my dad, and my grandma. My little brother and his gang of affiliates stay upstairs because they're bad at conversation. Our dinner table discussion is a sophisticated array of opinions about the world around us. After taking in the news of the day, everyone pitches their proposed solution to the global pandemic. Every night, everyone has the same opinion as the night before. No matter what the news, each of us shapes it to support the views we already held. Its a beautiful dance.
So dinner is taken care of every night. However, the rest of the day I am forced to fend for myself. I don't mind that. If you give me sticks, I'll make a fire. I'd prefer to have a lighter as well, but if I just have to rub the sticks together really fast, then that's what I'll do. As long as there is food in the house, I'm okay. If there are sandwich meats then I'll have a sandwich. One day there was nothing, so I ate an apple and chugged a bunch of milk. It's not always pretty, but I get the job done. However, there is one option that is always better than the rest, and that's leftovers. So you can only IMAGINE how I was feeling when I found out that my mom was not only making enough jambalaya for dinner, but also enough that I could have it for lunch for THE REST OF THE WEEK. Just a big bucket of Caleb's favorite creole food—only one microwave session away from returning to life.
Our jambalaya night was Tuesday, and it went as well as expected. The vibes were good, and the conversation was flowing. Turns out my parents felt the same way about coronavirus as they did the night before. I did as well. We had a long discussion about it.
Then Wednesday (yesterday) things started getting really good. Around 1pm I opened the fridge to make lunch, and there she was. Just as expected. All for me. A big ol' tupperware that used to house a supplemental food like whip cream, but now was stocked full of a feature dish. I heated the jambalaya up, and I ate it. It made me feel good inside.
Fast forward 24 hours.
I go to the fridge.
I call my mom.
Mom, where is the jambalaya? I cant find it.
Did your brother eat it?
What do you mean did my brother eat it?
Ask your brother.
This is where the story gets crazy.
My little brother… The child that I practically raised myself (I left for college in 2011 but he's pretty much the same now as he was then, reconfirming the fact that my contributions to his life were the important ones)… The kid who owes me, if not his life, then at least everything that he has… And his friends… his bandit friends. They probably think I'm just the fact guy from Barstool Snapchat. I don't think they read so they don't realize I'm multifaceted. In fact, I know they don't read so hey Andrew's friends I hate you for eating my jambalaya. I buried my own lead there, but yes, it turns out this pubescent pack of misfits were the ones who stabbed me in my metaphorical back. They came in, probably sometime in the middle of the night between "some Netflix movies," and took every last piece of sausage, every last grain of rice, every last bite of chicken, and they ate it all themselves.
At first, I wanted to fight them. However, only one of them is 18, and he's the biggest one. I really just wanted to fight the other ones.
And now I don't know what to do. They are awake when I'm asleep, so I'm vulnerable. They obviously have no regard for what is right or wrong, so their retaliation for my retribution could end up being the worst thing yet. My brother is a well-known evil mastermind. When he was 11 he was the Clash of Clans world champion because he made $5,000 of unauthorized in-app purchases. To the chagrin of my unknowing parents, he had all the gems you could ever imagine. This is not someone I mess with lightly.
I wish I could tell you how this story ends, but right now we are in its midst. I have to go to drawing board, calculate, and find a solution. I let this man have my old clothes. I let him take my old room. However, I will not allow him to take my jambalaya.
Not without consequence.