Johnny America


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

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