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Two halves of a bagel

Misaligned on July 31, 2022.

In all of the decades I’ve been on this planet, one thing I never learned—until this very Tuesday—was how badly a misaligned bagel can screw up an entire week. It all started that morning, at precisely 7:17 a.m., when my sesame seed bagel cheerfully popped from the mouth of the toaster, crisp and warm, expectantly waiting for me to cream cheese it up and slap its two halves back together. I meeped softly as I went to work.

Cream cheese was slathered on, instructions were painstakingly followed this time, and the remainder was gently placed back into the fridge. I picked up both halves of the bagel and paused, frowning slightly. The meeping stopped.

As is widely known, I am not widely known for my mental acuity nor my fingeral dexterity. And now, as I peered beadily at my bagel, I was presented with a challenge: This bagel was terrifyingly asymmetrical. One hemi-toroid was much, much fatter along its vertical axis than the other. A bagular misalignment would result in one side of the bagel so thin that it may as well be two slices of flatbread, and the other side so thick it would dislocate my jaw on my first attempt to nosh upon the sesame-seedy thing.

Attempting to precisely align these two halves at 7:17 a.m. in the morning, before I had guzzled my morning coffee and then slapped myself repeatedly, would prove to be a more challenging IQ test than I could hope to pass at 7:17 a.m. in the morning. Perhaps at 7:17 a.m. in the afternoon I could complete the task—but pre-coffee? The outlook was grim. Not only would my failure be my undoing but—things being the way they always are in my life, instead of some other way—it would probably lead to a cascade of calamities and catastrophes not seen since the ones I caused last week (or the week before [or the week before (or even the week before that)]).

So, I did the most intelligent thing I could do right then: I gingerly placed the bagel on the floor, covered it with a dish towel (a paisley-patterned one!), and attempted to stomp the bagel’s fat half flat with my absurdly clown-like feet. The first stomp landed true and encouraged me to give the glutinous toroid a second, firmer stomp. This stomp also hit its mark, so I did what I always do: I blithely assumed that since a thing worked twice with no subsequent explosions, detonations, or deflagrations, success would continue unabated.

In this case, it did not.

The laws of physics had not fallen into desuetude this week. My repetitive and juvenile stomp-stomp-stomping upon this poor sesame seed bagel had caused all of the cream cheese to ooze out and onto the surrounding floor. The towel, now revealed to be in cahoots with the devilish gnomes and my perfidious oatmeal cookies, both of whom never cease their efforts to ruin me, was now conspiring with the bagel to conceal this ticking, cheesy time bomb. And so, on my tenth stomp—which consisted of yours truly leaping off the floor and landing with both feet, not unlike an enraged Yosemite Sam stomping his cartoonishly large cowboy hat—those ironclad laws of physics reasserted themselves. The bagel shot out from under the towel at great speed and I went tits-up, ass-down on the floor. Memories of “static” and “dynamic” coefficients of friction, my old nemeses from high school physics, poured into my mind as my skull cracked and my mind poured out.

A bevy of Bavarian White-Tailed Gnomes quickly emerged from behind the wainscoting, whirring and meeping, and slurped up all my leaking brain matter. As luck would have it, these particular gnomes did double-duty as a crack team of gnomish EMTs; they then went about stitching my skull up, stapling my scalp shut, soldering my loose hairs back in place, and finally sewing my whole caprine form back into the skin-bag in which it belongs.

I rose to my feet, wobbly but (being a Weeble and all) did not fall down. The white-tailed EMTs scurried off as if they’d never been there. I shook my head. My bagel had been launched right through the window; it was gone. A sad, bagel-shaped smear of cream cheese remained on the linoleum. The towel was crumpled in the corner, lifeless. It got what it deserved for conspiring with my oatmeal cookies to attempt my murder once again. And I was bereft of breakfast. A single gnome peeped back out from a crack in the wall, made a rude noise at me, and darted back to safety before I got to hurlin’ anything gnomeward. The whole incident wasn’t as risible as the title of Hal Higdon’s 1992 article “Fartlek: A Time-Tested Treasure,” but it came close.

Then it got worse. My brain cranched as I remembered today was that dreaded fifth Sunday of the month. I hid under my kitchen table in despair. First my bagel escaped, now this. It was almost too much.

Palms sweatier than a pair of pigs in heat, I cracked open my refrigerator and went searching for more food. Then I saw it: Another bagel sitting calmly in its bag! I looked down at the cream cheese extruded 6′ along the linoleum and fetched a paint scraper from my garage.

Back in my days as a Mjölnir Mark IV cyborg, I could have solved Thursday’s predicament by just hurling bouncing grenades at it. Or burning it to a crisp with my built-in flamethrower. But much like my experiment with being a detritivore about a year ago, I knew that would not have turned out well. (I also knew that whereas my transformation into a featureless white worm had been lots of fun, subsisting on a diet of soil, plastic nurdles, and dust bunnies wore quite thin after a few meals.)

My appeal to the planning & zoning board to build a palatial chicken coop in my back yard (to complement my palatial abode) had been denied. Now I was unsure where I would house my house-sized chickens. So I dumped sixteen tons of chicken shit on the steps of City Hall, and what did I get? Another day older but not deeper in bird poop.

The week was winding down, yet still nothing exciting had happened. I had destroyed a bagel, destroyed a window, eaten cream cheese right off the floor (technically not detritus, since it was freshly applied to the floor moments before!), and then mucked out my aviary in a hilariously spiteful way. But, as I came to think of it, I knew that would come back to haunt me. Our bumbling dunderpate of a mayor would demand answers—any answers, even to totally unrelated questions—every bird in town would be rounded up for questioning, and eventually one would sing. The flock of stool pigeons on Ornithopter Street would surely rat me out. And then the chickens would come home to roost, as they say. I’d be doing community service washing the City Hall steps for weeks.

On a related note, a man riding a motorcycle is pretty funny-looking if you remove the motorcycle out from underneath him. But one thing was for sure: My days as a Mjölnir Mark IV cyborg were over. And if I got nabbed for my bird-brained stunt on the steps of City Hall, my days as a house-sized chicken farmer would be over, too.

So many days were now over—billions of them. I spent the rest of Thursday reminiscing about my old Usenet group, alt.stupidity.pnarp.pnarp.pnarp.

The Keystone XL pipeline project was canceled and nothing would change that. My own recommendation that the pipeline, at least what had been built of it, be used to transport light sweet maple syrup from Canada, or failing that, be turned into a giant enclosed water slide, was met with silence from my congressman. I then learned about China refusing to buy any more of our recycled plastics and other garbage. So I wrote another letter to my congressman suggesting another potential use for the pipeline.

Monday may have been the ancient Roman festival of Furrinalia, but since my days as a furry were long over, it mattered little to me. It may have played a part in how I confused my abattoir last week with my boudoir, but the jury was still out on that one. The goat however was not. It was still in my bedroom closet, eating all of my clothes. At least I would get some good goat cheese out of this escapade.

Or would I?

I tried to order a new set of Laineyballs from Amazon on Wednesday, but they were out of stock. There was a Laineyball shortage, apparently. Perhaps there was not enough recycled plastic (and other garbage) from which to manufacture them. But I knew where an inexhaustible supply of such materials could be found! I started composing another letter to my congressman.