The kettle's uncontrollable rage
The kettle's uncontrollable rage
by Romy Wenzel
She’d been red and black as long as she could remember, but lately, she’d lost her sheen. Things change as you get older, she told herself. That’s how it is. Nevertheless, it was unsettling to lose her facade. When she got emotional, she flushed all the colors of the rainbow.
Her voice had always been lower than other kettles. But as she grew older, it reached a higher pitch than she could control. Fuck you, she screamed at her highest key. Fuck you, and you, and you.
Despite her uncontrollable rage, the kettle always boiled water at the perfect temperature. If anything, the rage helped bring her to temperature faster. Sometimes she boiled an egg or two, and in spring the children used eggs wrapped in onion skins and lowered the flame under her backside. She loved the challenge of dancing the eggs without breaking the shells, and her rage vanished in the dance. Her cheeks blushed emerald and sapphire, hearing the squeals of the children as they unbundled the parcels to see the patterns and colors beneath. Oh, she had no ears, the kettle, but only humans need ears to hear; the rest of the world has a different way of listening.
The family matriarch received the kettle as a wedding present a hundred years ago. The kettle was loyal to all three generations, but she missed the dead lady. That lady kept her clean inside and outside, on her own shelf by the hearth. She rubbed the kettle’s shoulders when they were dull, used a soft brush of twigs and besom to scrub her. The kettle felt good all over when she did that.
Now the family let the grime gather in her mouth and under her foot. They never scrubbed out her spout and only cleaned her belly when the scale was so thick the kettle could barely taste the water they filled her with and scrubbed her with rough wire brushes that scoured her insides and left long scratches on her skin. They kept her in a dark cupboard when she wasn’t on the hob. The kettle did not like it. The old lady would not approve, she thought fiercely, the rage gathering in her belly. The old lady would be angry, too.
After she’d been poured out and left on the hob to cool, the family would gather round to tell stories of the forest outside. In the heart of the heart of the forest, there is a cave, the uncle began. His voice was as scratchy as the wire brush, but it did not anger the kettle. Instead, she fell in with the story, forgot her scratches. In the cave, there lives a Beast. Some say she was a woman once, a woman who chose the forest over the village. Whatever she was once, she is a beast now, a spined, hairy thing, huge and monstrous. She has teeth long as your faces and tears the soft parts from men to eat them.
The kettle shivered in pleasure, and the children squealed and pinched each other. The kettle felt cozy and as if she belonged—like she was part of the family. But then they would put the children to bed, and put the kettle in the dark cupboard, and the feelings would stir again, resentful and brooding. An acid blue-green patina crept over her belly each night like a bad dream.
“Time for a new kettle,” said the woman one day. “Granny’s one is falling to pieces.”
They left the kettle in the blues and the greens of the forest, deep in bracken and pine.
At first, she was angrier than ever. The rage glowed her red-hot as she simmered on the soil. But she had no water to boil, and soon her body creaked like her copper heart was breaking. It is over, she thought. I am turning to soil.
At night, there were noises. Dark rumbling growls and twig cracklings like something large was moving nearby. The Beast picked her up with long, thin fingers, turned her in the dappled moonlight from the canopy. The Beast hooked the kettle onto a belt on her hip and ran to her cave in the forest heart.
The Beast left her in the cave and went outside. No doubt to hunt, the kettle thought. It was dark in the cave, dark as the night cupboard. Oh well, the kettle consoled herself. Wasn’t I destined for soil, anyway? But at least out in the forest there had been light and life. In here she would bear witness to horrors she could not fathom yet. Who knew what the Beast would do? Would she come back to devour dead men? Or worse, living ones? Would the kettle have to listen to their screams? Was that to be her new life?
The kettle heard the Beast long before she returned. The forest responded as she approached, the ground rumbled, the trees shook. But there was no crunching of bones, only of roots and leaves. Once the Beast had finished her dinner she tended the fire and little flames leaped up and made shadows dance on the walls.
Fire woke up old memories in the kettle—memories of the little woman who had cared for her, memories of being useful and loved. When the Beast filled her with a trickling stream outside and hooked her over the fire, it reminded the kettle of the old ways and old times. After the Beast had boiled and poured her tea of weeds and flowers, she scrubbed the kettle all over with a soft brush of twigs and besom. The kettle felt good all over. If the kettle had possessed a mouth, she would have smiled.
Featured in our November 2021 issue, "Community"