Strange things were happening with my fridge. I’d stick my hand in the freezer and yelp. It was so cold, my skin stung. In the blizzard-like conditions, icicles formed and a thick layer of frost grew around the food.
Who knew what was in there? I needed an icepick to retrieve a slice of bread.
Meanwhile, the fridge itself, as if leached of its strength by the juiced-up freezer, was weak. Its complexion was jaundice and its temperature: room. Vegetables wilted after a day in the crisper, a refreshing gin and tonic tasted flat and warm, I became ill after eating meat that had been left in the fridge overnight.
Could it be that my refrigerator was broken?
I went away for three weeks and hoped that in my absence the fridge would self-correct.
When I returned it was to a weird smell, something sour and closed. There was nothing perishable in the fridge but the lack of air meant that the odour of condiments – brined olives, mustard, Vegemite – mingled unpleasantly in their warm room.
It was a sign. The fridge was still broken.
This week my friend Richard Cooke and his wife Loulou stayed and we breakfasted on warm milk and orange juice. The butter spread easily over hot crumpets.
“You need to get that fridge looked at,” said Ritchie.
Despite signs to the contrary (Ritchie is a writer and didn’t get his driver’s license until he turned 33), I was hoping he would be the person to fix it.
I got him to lift the fridge up and move it away from the wall so we could get a closer look at the back of it.
The back of the fridge yielded no answers but the floor underneath did. It was totally disgusting. An absolutely flattened yet perfectly formed mouse corpse lay on the ground. With its long tail, it looked like an upside-down question mark. Maybe the mouse chewed through some electrical part of the fridge, killing it and the fridge at the same time.
I made Ritchie remove the corpse (“I can’t … I just can’t even look”).
Ritchie’s experience with appliance repairs was relatively limited. He had watched some YouTube videos and knew sometimes a fridge was broken because of a problem with the door. (“Could it be the seal? No, it’s not the seal.”) He suggested defrosting it, watching YouTube tutorials and if that failed, hiring a repair person.
The appliance tutorials were scary. The lighting was harsh, the graphics floated across the screen in Halloween sans serif, while American-accented technicians opened up the previously sealed panels of fridges, exposing a confusion of wiring in a manner of a surgeon slicing open a chest to reveal a network of veins. They talked of replacing fan belts and motors and gaskets. They nonchalantly unscrewed ... things from other … bits of stuff.
Watching six of these videos in a row made me feel strangely ill. I knew that if I attempted to mess with the wiring in my fridge, like the mouse, I would die and my corpse would be discovered later, curled behind the fridge.
“How did she die?”
“She was electrocuted while attempting to do her own appliance repairs after watching a YouTube tutorial.”
No. That would not happen to me. THAT WOULD NOT BE MY FATE!!!
I rang several appliance repair people in my region but they either didn’t service the model or only did industrial repairs. They told me to buy a new fridge. It was depressing. Not everything should be disposable.
Meanwhile, as my freezer was defrosting, its contents sat in early stages of putrefaction on the bench (the putrefaction process delayed due to the temperature in my house hovering around the 5C mark). These would have to be my meals for the week, as I hate wasting food. But it all looked extremely unappetising – horrible even.
On the bench was a loaf of bread, eight fish fillets (six crumbed things, two bits of salmon steaks) and several batches of stewed rhubarb.
Could I stomach a bread, fish and rhubarb combination over the next week?
For breakfast I had toast and rhubarb. For lunch I had fish. For dinner I had fish and rhubarb.
Only recently I had returned from a travel story at a health retreat where they had done a saliva and urine analysis to determine what minerals and vitamins I might be deficient in. At the end of the retreat they gave me a list of foods I need to eat to be in optimum health. Fish, bread and rhubarb were not on the list.
Was it possible if I were not to die from rotting food (the house was colder than the ideal fridge temperature) and if I were not to die from electrocution, then it would be from scurvy?
• Brigid Delaney is a Guardian Australia columnist