A Watched Pot

My Grandma used to say a watched pot never boils. I’m beginning to believe she was right.

She first said this to me when I was nine. As tradition was in my family, every Wednesday evening we would all go over to Grandma’s house to have a large family dinner. Why Wednesday, I’m not sure, but I always enjoyed going over and helping her cook. Strange, I know, that a boy would enjoy cooking, but I do, and she’s the reason I’m a chef today.

The smell of pasta sauce hung heavy in the air, and I sat at the kitchen table, both the table and I covered in flour, kneading the bread dough and telling her about my day at school.

Once I was finished with the kneading, she asked if I could put a pot of water on the stove.

“Sure.” I retrieved a pot from the lower cabinet, and filled it with water. After putting it on the stove and turning on the burner, I pulled myself up and sat on the counter next to the stove and began to watch the water.


I looked up, thinking she might scold me for sitting on the counter like my mother always did.

She smiled at me instead and said, “A watched pot never boils.”

I smiled back. Everyone knows water boils when it reaches the right temperature, no matter what. So, I looked back to the pot and began to watch for the slightest signs of boiling.

“You’re wrong!” I yelled when I saw the first small bubbles form. “The pot boiled. A watched pot does boil.”

She looked at me, chuckled a little, and said, “You looked away.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. When I told you, a watched pot never boils. You looked at me, and not the pot.”

She was right. I had looked away, hadn’t I?

Upset, but not discouraged, I spent the next several days trying to prove my Grandma wrong. The attention span of a nine-year-old boy, however, proved to be a handicap, and I soon lost interest in the task.

The years went by, Grandma passed away, and on occasion, I would remember her words. But, every time I tried to prove the adage wrong, something came up to pull my stare away from the pot.

I suppose I could have ignored all of the distractions, but I looked away out of habit. Last time, I got so thirsty I had to get a glass of water. I thought I’d kept an eye on the pot as I filled the glass, but I must have looked away. The pot began to boil soon after I returned.

This time however, will be different. I have the day off of work, there’s a glass of water close at hand, the phone’s unplugged, and I’ve hung a NO SOLICITING sign on the front door.

Oh yes, this time will be different.

I hope the water boils soon. It’s been eight hours now, and I really need to use the bathroom.


A. W. Gifford  A. W. Gifford's website For A. W. writing is a calling. Usually drawn to the darker side of literature, his work spans several genres from horror and science fiction to mysteries and thrillers. He is the 2009 President of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and lives in a state of delirium (a.k.a. Georgia) with his wife Jennifer, two dogs Merlin and Simon, and a menagerie of cats.

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