Soy Peanuts and Tim’s Stomach Ache


At 5:06 on Friday afternoon I read about McSweeney’s call for stories written in exactly 20 minutes. The submission deadline was six minutes past, and I had to write a story still so I knew I was screwed, but I liked the idea behind the contest and wrote a story anyway…

“You can eat those, you know”

“What, printer cartridges?,” quizzed Bernard who looked up from the shipping carton in his lap.

“Those packing peanuts,” said Ed, picking one of the foam nuggets from the top and popping it into his mouth.

“You really going to eat that–that’s gotta taste like ass,” said Ed as he sealed the corrugated box with a tape roller.

“Kinda, it’s not so bad if you’re only eating one.”

Bernard started, “How are they…”

“Brother-in-law’s a food scientist from Kansas State or maybe Iowa. Says they’re doing lots with soy and corn these days that you wouldn’t even think. They’ve got those DVDs that eat themselves now, and foam peanuts you can snack on. Biodegradable.”

Tim walked into Ed and Bernard’s shared cubicle and started ratcheting the Rubik’s cube sitting on Ed’s desk, glanced at the tape gun, then gave a knowing snort.

“You guys are data analysts. You make 60 K a year and drive Audis. Why the hell do you guys to this. You’re not interns anymore.”

Ed wheeled over to Bernard and copied a shipping address from a laser print to the freshly-sealed container with a fat Sharpie marker.

“We’re sending cookies to my brother-in-law,” said Bernard feigning an honest look.

“What’s it today? XP disks again, the secretaries RAM?”

“Printer cartridges,” said Ed, “HP printer cartridges. Four color wells. Two boxes. Forty dollars on eBay, new in box.”

“Forty bucks, really?” Tim raised his eyebrow and rubbed his thumb across his fingers, making the ‘money’ motion.

Ed gave a stare and said “No way. We had to sneak the key from Marilyn’s office while she was at lunch break. We had to get the tape gun from Fred. No way we’re cutting you in.”

“I’ll mail it for you.”

Ed and Bernard looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Okay. Deal,” said Ed. He lifted the box and handed it to Tim. “Gotta get a tracking number.”

“Hold on,” chimed Bernard, who leaned in to confer with his conspirator.

“Change of terms.” Tim sighed then Bernard continued, “You’re only in if you eat ten of these peanuts here.”

“But they’re…”

“They’re biodegradable. You can eat them.”

Ed picked up a plastic sack from the floor and counted out ten peanuts. Tim picked on up, placed it on his tongue and said an almost-recognizable, “It’s dissolving.”

“Nine more,” smiled Ed.

An hour later, the stomach cramps kicked in as Tim filled out the Ship-To address. The wave of nausea subsided as he thought of his increased reputation at work.

Filed under Fiction on December 22nd, 2003