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It just so happens that at a recent potluck dinner, standing first in line at the table, I was destined to make the initial cut in the lasagna. After checking the balance of the spatula and the keenness of its edge, I paused to admire the artistic surface of the casserole, the tomato flecks and basil bits decorating melted mozzarella and Parmesan—so Italian you could cry. Only good could come of this dish.

I heard waiting diners shuffling behind me, so into the casserole I plunged my sharp-edged tool, only to have it bounce back, leaving not even the trace of a dent in the mozzarella surface. Twice more I tried, twice more rejected, the spatula handle now slipping in my sweaty grip. I could feel my cheeks warm from my duel with the lasagna.

After viewing the pan from all sides, I tried sneaking the blade down inside along the short end, but no luck. My audience leaned forward, silent, expectant. How I wished they’d head for the ratatouille at the end of the table and leave me to face what had become a major life assignment. And then I spotted a point of vulnerability at the very edge of the rubberized mozzarella hugging the pan—a small nick.

Maneuvering the tip of the spatula, I worked the metal blade into the nick, then through the layers until I hit bottom, guiding the tool up and down and around and finely carving out a right angle that became a square. I had to remind myself this was lasagna, not geometry or world peace.

With the spatula, I lifted out the layered square of flat noodles, smelled the rising, enticing odor, saw the oozing meat, soft cheese and tomato-mushroom sauce. Perhaps this lasagna would redeem itself after all.

But the struggle was not over. Stretching down from the sides of the square into the casserole, streamers of mozzarella cheese clung like umbilical cords to Mother Lasagna, and clearly, she was not about to yield up one of her own.

Aware of the impatience of those in line, I could think of no graceful gesture to liberate my captive slice. The challenge allowed no turning back, no second thoughts, nothing less than derring-do. Purposeful and accurate as a surgeon, I nipped off the hangers-on with my bare fingers, flouting decorum and disregarding the gasp of disapproval that came from behind me. I deposited the hard-won booty on my plate, my victory over lasagna complete, and made my triumphal march to a chair.

— Anne Fox

Anne Fox copyedits Write Angles, newsletter of the California Writers Club, Berkeley Branch. She co-copyedited the CWC Write On! story contest chapbook and copyedits for fiction and nonfiction writers. She’s been published in Able Muse; Tiny Lights; The Sun; West Winds Centennial anthology of the CWC; Hippocampus Magazine (December 2012); the anthology, BacopaA Literary Review, 2013; Flash in the Attic: 33 Very Short Stories; and You, Me, & a Bit of We.

Reflections of Erma