He waved his hands as if whisking invisible eggs into the air. His movements mesmerized the two young women seated across the table, so the noise of Panera Cafe became soothing background static of clattered dishes and colliding conversation.
He spoke to the women in a laughing, lilting British accent with the calming rhythm of a beach ball coming down a flight of carpeted stairs. They would have fallen asleep right there on the table if he hadn’t required an occasional answer to a question.
“So what attracts you to the School of Sarsaparilla & Dream Figs?”
One woman answered, “I appreciate the greenery of your gardens.”
His eyes lit up with excitement and pride, and she knew she’d said the right thing. She was one step closer to entering the rarest academic institution in the world.
“Well done, well done,” he said. “Now, tell me, what is best to give a Wild Elm Daddy suffering from a sore tummy: caramelized onion or browned butter?”
She hesitated, finally answering, “The butter, sir.”
He lowered his eyes, “I’m sorry. Have a safe drive home.”
The other woman secretly smiled, for one less competitor meant the odds were now in her favor.
Here I sit in Detroit awaiting my plane and I cannot help but think of you. Do you remember when we were here? We sat next to the windows and watched the airport men brush snow from the wings of the planes. We were so young and foolish, thinking we might run away from the world! I cannot help but think I succeeded at that, in the end, because you were my world and I ran away from you. I am sorry, Victoria, for burning your Cosmo collection, for tossing your favorite boa into the river, for breaking your heart, for everything. I don’t know where you are today, what new flights you have caught, but I hope you happy. Now I must go. I have a bank convention in Memphis. I am not the man I used to be.
Your chubby wubby,
Hello. My name is Namski Tunod and I am a mathematician. I come to this cafe every day to do my calculations. For the past 23 years I have come. And still the answer to my great question alludes me: What is the ideal circumference of a donut? This question riddles me like no other.
My wife, she was a griper, complained my midnight mutterings absurd, called me obsessed. But I ply you, Who would not be obsessed when struck by such a marvelous universe-altering question such as mine! How many of humanity’s problems might be solved if only we knew how to perfectly shape a Chocolate Frosted? How many! So she left me. She said, sprinkles or me? And I, following my truth, chose sprinkles. But…
Sometimes these days, notably in the hours between breakfast and brunch, I think of her and wonder if my decision correct. My heart feels cream-filled and she was my jelly. But I know only one way forward. I must solve this riddle and prove my life’s purpose to her. Perhaps then she will come back to me. Perhaps then I can return to her! Ahh, I am confused and my mind is like doughy batter. Powdered heavens above, give me your grace and spare me from the deep fryers below!
My name is Nam Tunod and I am a donut mathematician.
William Cluck, once honored as the most successful Encyclopedia Britannica salesman in the Northwest Region of the U.S. from 1976-83, spoke bluntly to Professor Tadwell:
“Look, Tad, the written word is dead. It’s time you get out of that old academia head crap and into what’s new. Echoes are the next big thing. Echoes. I have obtained 1,300 miles of corrugated tubing from a secret source and, with your support, will bury these tubes 300 feet beneath the dusty sod of southern Wyoming. The people, Tad, they’ll come and shout into these Echo Tubes. In this digital age of disconnection, the sound of voice is quick to become extinct. We will let people experience the voice once again. You bitch and say, No one listens to me! But now someone will, Tad. You’ll listen to yourself.”
Professor Tadwell was sold. He loved tubing.
Her jeans are gray and carry the work of her last few days–coffee stains and cookie crumbs and milk dust.
Her jeans tell the world of her, if the world would look. They resemble the half-read newspaper at the morning table, after the kids have spilled their oatmeal and mom has spilled her coffee, the pages stained and scattered by haste and amusement but not yet ready for the bin, for the pages might still hold some powerful secret about the news of the day or, at the least, might say something of the past so tomorrow might be less surprising.
Her jeans today are like the newspaper. And her hours spent in solitude, when she rejoices in herself, or when she feels sudden loneliness and cries, are the smudges of ink that cover my fingers, which I don’t mind, because I am interested in her lines and know so well her language.