Ill-Gotten Whole Grains

This morning, there was a small commotion at one end of the office, and someone asked for me. A man I’d seen but never talked to came around the corner, put down his briefcase and handed me a loaf of bread. He said, “My wife baked this for you, as I promised.” Suddenly I remembered what had seemed like an idle promise over an obscure work matter from a co-worker up in Newark, and this was that man. He turned on his heel and disappeared.

I almost had to lie down to laugh hard enough. This is not the first time strange gentlemen have brought me comestibles. Once, I answered the phone at a late night job with the name of the office. A boy said, “Hey!”

“Hey!” I said.

“You’re there! Are you there?”

“I’m there! Are you coming here?”

“I’m coming there! How late are you open?”

“Midnight.”

“I’ll be right over.”

“Bring pizza,” I said and hung up. A little while later, a boy came to the door and said, “Hey!”

“Hey!” I said.

“I’m here!” he said.

“You are! Did you bring pizza?”

He slapped a giant Toblerone on the counter. We ate chocolate and we talked about Marilyn Monroe for an hour. That’s it. Never saw him again.

Because I have a cold I stood in the middle of my office and shouted, “Who has clean hands and doesn’t have a cold?” One reluctant co-worker, accustomed to my antics, mumbled, “Meeee.” I made her get a bread board, cut up the bread and put out napkins. We all had pieces with butter or cream cheese. My co-workers labeled this episode “The Bribe.” And not one of them was truly surprised.

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