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CompanyDonut

August

Monday morning and there’s one donut less than there should be.

Keen observers note the reduced mass straight away but stay silent, because saying, “Hey, is that only seven donuts?” would betray their donut experience. It’s not great for your career to be known as the person who can spot the difference between seven and eight donuts at a glance. Everyone studiously avoids mentioning the missing donut until Roger turns up and sees the empty plate.

Roger says, “Where’s my donut?”

Elizabeth dabs at her mouth with a piece of paper towel. “I only took one.” Roger looks at her. “What?”

“That’s a defensive response. I asked where my donut was. You tell me how many you took. What does that say?”

“It says I took one donut,” Elizabeth says, rattled.

“But I didn’t ask how many donuts you took. Naturally I would assume you took one. But by taking the trouble to articulate that assumption, you imply, deliberately or otherwise, that it’s debatable.”

Elizabeth puts her hands on her hips. Elizabeth has shoulder-length brown hair that looks as if it has been cut with a straight razor and a mouth that could have done the cutting. Elizabeth is smart, ruthless, and emotionally damaged; that is, she is a sales representative. If Elizabeth’s brain was a person, it would have scars, tattoos, and be missing one eye. If you saw it coming, you would cross the street. “Do you want to ask me a question, Roger? Do you want to ask if I took your donut?”

Roger shrugs and begins filling his coffee cup. “I don’t care about a missing donut. I just wonder why someone felt the need to take two.”

“I don’t think anyone took two. Holly and I were here first. Catering must have shorted us.”

“That’s right,” Holly says.

Roger looks at her. Holly is a sales assistant, so has no right to speak up at this point. Freddy, also a sales assistant, is wisely keeping his mouth shut. But then, Freddy is halfway through his own donut and has a mouthful. He is postponing swallowing because he’s afraid he’ll make an embarrassing gulping noise.

Holly wilts under Roger’s stare. Elizabeth says, “Roger, we saw Catering put them out. We were standing right here.”

“Oh,” Roger says. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were staking out the donuts.”

“We weren’t staking them out. We just happened to be here.”

“Look, it doesn’t bother me one way or the other.” Roger picks up a sachet of sugar and shakes it as if it’s in need of discipline: wap-wap-wap-wap. “I just find it interesting that donuts are so important to some people that they stand around waiting for them. I didn’t know donuts were the reason we show up here every day. I’m sorry, I thought the idea was to improve shareholder value.”

Elizabeth says, “Roger, how about you talk to Catering before you start making accusations. All right?” She walks off. Holly trails her like a remora.

Roger watches her go, amused. “Trust Elizabeth to get upset over a donut.”

Freddy swallows. “Yeah,” he says.

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