Today, he refused to eat an ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich. His sandwich would express attitude. It would be special. He aimed to make it wonderful.
John Harvey Kellogg, the guy who invented corn flakes, figured out how to make peanut butter from raw peanuts. The guy who often gets the credit, George Washington Carver, had nothing to do with it. Richard Allen Hofacker knew all about the main use for peanut butter; a protein substitute. He also knew why doctors use it to detect Alzheimer’s; it tests a person’s sense of smell. A day without peanut butter was a waste.
The time making his peanut butter sandwich took too long. Hofacker figured it would take as long as the three-minute video. It took longer. Hofacker fired up the waffle iron. It took five minutes to get hot. He reached into the wrapping covering the bread, with organic blue cornmeal, and he pulled out two slices. The iron was hot and he dropped both slices in, moving them around to cover all the holes, and pressed down. The video explained it was best to flatten the bread first. That seemed like it would take longer, but Hofacker hadn’t tried the recipe before.
An edge of the bread turned black and Hofacker pulled it out. The hot crust burned his fingers. The toast looked like a running shoe had stamped down on it. He pushed the spoon down into the crunchy peanut butter jar and pulled out an ample blob of butter and then used it to mash the peanuts further into the bread. Black char broke off the bread and dropped to the counter. The spoon stuck on the ridges and the butter filled up the waffle holes.
The video then directed him to sprinkle the peanut butter with cinnamon powder, which he did. It then instructed him to place a half apple in a round pattern on the butter mixture.
He didn’t have an apple.
He spiraled out slices of banana instead.
“Thank ya, very much,” he drawled.
Now for the jelly; a glob of strawberry on the top of the bananas. He spread the jelly around and slapped on the waffle top. The jam dripped down to the peanut butter. He pressed down on the bread and smashed the entire mess together.
There; that ought to be something special for lunch.
He thought about the brown bag full with the sandwich, a ripe peach, a bag full of carrots and raisins, and a generic orange drink near his computer screen. His neighbor over the wall could smell the strawberry.
“That sure smells good” and “Boy, I bet you can’t wait for lunch.” were some of the phrases she repeated over and over again.
Hofacker ignored her and drew closer to the spreadsheet. The numbers blurred together punctuated by formulas for sums and percentages.
The strawberry did smell good. He smiled to himself thinking about lunch. He turned to the the clock. It showed two hours to go.
He stared at the numbers on the screen until they started to merge. A blurred set of lines looking more like the tail feathers of a golden greater bird-of-paradise. The feathers spread out and took flight. He watched the bird lift off his screen and fly over the wall of his cubicle. He stood up and the bird flew over the entire office. It dropped down and flew off to the lower floor. He watched it swoop and land on the bottom of the stairs. It bounced around and stood on the first step.
It turned its mouth and pulled one golden feather from is tail, which it dropped on the step. The bird then flew away.
He pondered why the bird would yank a feather from its tail. A gift, perhaps?
A hand reach from behind and tapped him on the shoulder.
Hofacker let go of his daze on the computer screen and spun around in his chair.
“It looked real,” Hofacker said. His eyes were far-off and he hadn’t quite lost the vision of the bird.
“You planning to eat that?” she asked.
His neighbor Ruby came into focus. He came to and nodded his head.
“Yep. Something special today.”
“I couldn’t help but notice,” she murred, “it sure does smell good.”
He pretend to ignore her and turned back to the screen. He went about fiddling with the spreadsheet.
“Working on the Anderson account?”
She leaned over his head into the screen.
Hofacker keyed in another number as she reached for the paper bag. He pushed her hand away and pretended to only notice the screen.
“Took me twenty minutes,” he said, as he rolled up the top of the bag tighter. He savored the process and floated back to the kitchen.
“The bread stamped like a waffle. Each hole holding the ground peanuts. I then topped the butter with the strawberry jam,” he remembered. He paused to think about the taste and his tongue rolled over the top lip.
“It sounds lovely,” and she again reached for the bag.
Hofacker swatted away her hand and slid some papers over his lunch. He smiled.
In her cubicle the phone rang. She leaned over his desk and looked at the display. Her back arched up pulling up her blouse at the waist. He caught a glance at her bare back. His face turned red and he looked back at the spreadsheet. He hadn’t noticed Ruby’s solid softness before.
“Darn,” she signed. “It’s important.”
Ruby twisted out of his cubicle and on the other side she answered the phone.
He pushed the papers higher further hiding the bag.
“All hands on deck Hofacker,” Libby, his boss, said with croaky voice. He tensed up.
“I need the Anderson spreadsheet yesterday,” she said.
Hofacker clicked on cell and changed a number. He then dropped down to print and clicked on the link.
“Just the spreadsheet or the file?” he asked.
“Does it really matter,” she growled.
The printer spit out nine pages. Hofacker grabbed them, slapped on a paper clip, and reached inside his desk for a paper file folder marked “Anderson”. He pulled it out, slipped the spreadsheet inside, closed the file and handed it to the small woman behind him.
“I could go over it,” he said.
“No need. You’re coming with me,” she said.
She spun inside the entrance of the cubicle and his eyes followed her out. She took off and then stopped.
“Come on Hofacker. We’re on borrowed time.” She gestured for him to follow.
He looked at the stack of papers covering his lunch and pushed them hiding the paper bag even more. The small woman now tapped her feet.
“Let’s go,” she said.
Seated around a large conference table, a big man stared at his hands, a woman played with her nails, a small man tapped the glass top, and a guy in a suit rocked back in his seat. And that was just the left side.
On the right side, a wispy-haired accountant from two floors up sat next to a stack of file folders. Next to him a woman dabbed a cloth up and down on her nose.
A depressed person would feel at home.
“Finally. A reconciliation of the Anderson file.” the boss said. She took the seat nearest the guy in the suit. Hofacker stood at the back of the room.
“Sit,” she said.
He moved over to the right side and picked a seat two away from the accountant and the woman. He dropped into the seat. It was too close. He stood and pushed the chair back.
The whole room watched him. The woman with the nose rag stopped in mid-dab to follow him as fell back into the seat.
He nodded at the small man and shifted to the front of the room. The boss looked displeased. Her eyes bore into him. After a long pause she raised her eyebrows and sighed.
Hofacker missed the point. What could he say? Nothing to add. The file showed where the money went.
The boss rattled on about fiduciary duties and other points. Her voice growled about this and that and he tried to follow along. None of it mattered to Hofacker because it had nothing to do with the spreadsheet.
He looked over at the woman with the nails. She chewed them.
The woman with the dripping nose reached over for a new tissue.
Hofacker daydreamed about the peanut butter and strawberry sandwich waiting for him.
He pulled off the top slice. The jam filled the crevices made by the waffle iron and dripped down onto the layers of banana and peanut butter. It smelled roasted and sweet. He let the warm smell hover around him.
He caught himself choking on a half breath. The room became silent.
“You okay down there?” the boss asked.
Hofacker nodded yes.
“Well, I think we taken up enough of your time,” the boss said as she stood up.
She took the hand of the guy in the suit and shook it. The accountant stood and gathered up his folders. Wadded tissues piled up in front of the nose woman. She grabbed them up into a tight ball.
The boss marched out of the conference room and Hofacker followed.
“Thanks for your help, Hofacker,” she said.
Hofacker flopped down into his seat and looked at the clock. Two hours after lunch. He reached for the paper bag and drew it closer to him. He reached for his scissors and cut open the bag.
Out fell the peach, the plastic bag with carrots and raisins, the foil bag with the orange punch, and a gift card with a note wrapped around it. The peanut butter, strawberry, and banana sandwich was gone.
He jumped up-and looked over the cubicle wall. On the other side, the boss laughed and patted Ruby on the shoulder. She looked up at Hofacker, flicked out her tongue, and licked from the corner of her mouth. It looked like a speck of peanut butter.
She smiled at Hofacker, patted Ruby on the back, turned and left. Ruby smiled up at him and winked.
He slid back down into his seat and pulled loose the note.
“I’m more of a smooth peanut butter kinda girl. Thanks.”
He picked up the gift card good for $20 at the sandwich shop in the lobby.
“Get a replacement sandwich.”
© 2016, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.
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