Freewrite: Human Garbage Can Vs. The Cookie Fairy

Here is a prompt I found on a writing website:

One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one day a different object is left–and this time there’s a note.

So, here is my story.

They call him the human garbage can. This is not to be confused with human garbage, in fact, he considers it a compliment. His mother, for whom the noble impulse not to waste food was more of a compulsion and his father, a man famous for his iron stomach and a holder of t-shirts from close to a hundred restaurant eating challenges saw their son’s plastic bag-lined aluminum stomach as nothing short of a dream come true.

His parents never had trouble getting him to eat his vegetables. Rather, they had to make sure that one or the other of them was at the table at all times until everyone’s plates were spotless, or they would be. At three he had to be taught not to eat the bones of the chicken, even though he had already figured out how to leverage them against the sides of tables until they snapped into small enough pieces that they could be swallowed. At five years old he began to cry when burnt beans stuck to the bottom of the pan were scraped out into the garbage and won the right to have these mixed into his own supper instead. At ten he was memorizing recipes for orange peels, cherry pits, sour milk, and the grease from cooking chicken along with detailed analyses of the real expiration dates on food, which were oftentimes much further in the future than the packaging claimed. By eleven and a half, his leftover casseroles had halved the family’s food budget, although he was the only one who ate them. His doting parents no longer fed him, they simply gave him access to the kitchen after they and his older sisters had finished eating. In college, he amazed his dorm-mates with his ability to deconstruct a milk jug with a pocket knife and use a rubber spatula to scrape out an entire tablespoon of extra milk.

At 25, an office-worker at a waste-management facility, Bryan Clax seemed to have adjusted to society. He kept his true passion for making the most out of food at home. Until the cookie. The cookie, a wide, thin sugar cookie with big chocolate chunks, was perfectly edible. From childhood, Bryan had trained his nose to be acutely tuned to any signs of rot or danger, and this cookie was none of those things. But where had it come from? It was just sitting there on his desk, as if a cookie fairy had come to place it there as part of some arcane trial. He didn’t even like chocolate chip cookies.

Bryan tried to offer it to his co-workers, but they had heard about his habits and no one trusted his expert opinion that it was safe. Finally, just to be rid of it, he wolfed the pastry down and sat to work.

The next day there was another cookie. Thick, moist peanut butter. Bryan did like peanut butter cookies. He ate this one without thinking. When the following day a mint cookie with a dot of raspberry jam was there, however, he panicked. He looked at Paul working silently on his computer, his bald head and long beard bobbing to a beat on his headphones. Mary was chewing gum and paying no attention either. Or maybe it was an elaborate trick. He had already made a fool of himself demanding that someone in the office eat the cookie for him on Monday. He ate the cookie.

This continued for a month. Bryan watched his weight assiduously and was horrified to see his body’s response to daily cookies, but they were there. No one else would eat them, so it fell to him. Another month passed and Bryan could see a distinct paunch forming underneath his shirt. Still the cookies kept coming. He could not let them be wasted.

It was three months later on an chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie that Bryan snapped. He would not tell you this. He would say he casually and politely asked each person in the room by name to please stop sending him cookies. The story is different from the perspective of the people he named. No one stepped forward, and he ate the cookie.

The next day, Bryan’s desk was covered in cookies. A paper-thin wafer in a light coat of purple grape flavor powder rested precariously on his pencil holder. A still hot tray of macadamia nut cookies had left burn marks on his reports. A row of decorative cookies in shapes and colors for every conceivable holiday outlined his desk making a sugary rainbow. Oblong biscuits dipped in chocolate rested neatly on the keys of his keyboard. On his inbound papers holder sat an exquisite gingerbread house glued together with peppermint cream cheese frosting and featuring a full front yard complete with multicolored macaron stepping stones and a lady finger lamppost. A tiny gingerbread man smiled a huge frosting smile and reached an arm out in a gingerbread wave of greeting. In front of the picture of Bryan and his wife was a colossal chocolate chocolate chip cookie cake with “For Bryan” spelled out on it in white chocolate frosting. A graham cracker stand held the cookie upright so it could display its message to all.

Instead of no one looking, now everyone was. Bryan, still in his coat and carrying his laptop bag, was shaking, his mouth working in useless silence. Keeping watery eyes on his desk, he reached down to place his bag and struggle to remove his coat, which was now too tight after three months of cookies. When he was done, Bryan stepped towards the display. He reached out one tremulous hand toward the macarons and stopped. Then he took a breath, smiled at all his onlookers, and peeled off a sticky note. After writing something down and sticking the note to his desk, he picked up his coat and bag, and left.

“What does it say, Paul?” shouted Mary over her gum as Paul rushed forward to look at the note.

“All it says is ‘Free cookies.'”

In a few moments, an  email came in from Bryan to the whole staff, “I am working from home today. Someone has been very kind to leave me an elaborate cookie display, which I very much appreciate, but I have already eaten my fill of cookies. Please everyone help yourself to the cookies on my desk. Interns especially.”

Mary and Paul watched for the rest of the day as people they had never met throughout the office arrived and consumed each last bit of the cookie display until only the big cookie cake was left. Paul’s eyes stayed on that cookie for the next few hours while more people filtered in and left disappointed. The one huge cookie was not something people were ready to eat on a whim. Finally, as Paul looked on, Mary sighed and stood. “I suppose this has gone on long enough.”

She walked to the huge cookie, laid it on its side and cut it into eight pieces, spitting her gum into the garbage can and picking out the white chocolate “Brian” piece for herself. In an hour it and its graham cracker stand were gone. “I didn’t know you were a baker,” said Paul.

Mary swallowed her slice of cookie, “Who said I was?” she asked.

When Paul said nothing, Mary continued. “My friend is, though.”

When Bryan returned to the office the next day, he was overjoyed to find nothing but crumbs left on his desk. They were still perfectly good crumbs, and actually quite flavorful.

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