Thursday, April 26, 2012

Edward and I wandered the Green Festival in utter bliss. Everywhere we turned there was another manufacturer offering another free sample. Nutty granola studded with tiny kisses of fair-trade chocolate. Crunchy snack bars loaded with chunks of free-range chocolate. Earth-friendly chocolate bars full of organic chocolate cream.

We jumped at the free offers, nearly skipping up and down the aisles, and though the entire reason for this festival was to return to a natural world, within three minutes of entry we were buzzed out of our brains from all the sugar and caffeine.

Still, we weren't total leeches. When samples proved irresistable we'd pull out cash, and pretty soon our free tote bags were full. We'd started out with $80 between us, and by the time we hit the last aisle we were down to absolute zero.

And that's when I saw the lunch box.

It was amazing. It was triangular, with just a top and a bottom, and barely big enough to hold a small, triangular sandwich, but it snapped together like environmentally-friendly Tupperware and it came in retro Fiesta Ware colors. It was smart and spunky and I loved it. I wanted it. And when I saw the colorful, stubby utensil it came with -- a fork on one end, a spoon on the other -- I had to have it. "How much is this?" I asked.

"Two dollars," came the reply.

It's like all of time stood still. My chocolate-caffeine haze immediately dissipated, and all my desires in the universe coagulated down to just this one: I HAD TO HAVE THIS LUNCH BOX.

I plunged my hand into my pocket, but I already knew. I didn't have one penny. I turned to Edward and he shrugged. It was an indisputable fact: I HAD TO HAVE THIS LUNCH BOX. It would have been an Unspeakable Joke of Fate if I'd found such a fantastic product but because I didn't have two dollars -- two. measly. dollars. -- I'd have to walk away.

I stepped back from the booth with desperation clanging in my head. Where could I get two dollars? My sad glance shifted to the booth next door, and a giant banner there held words that seemed like a message straight from God:

"WE'LL PAY YOU A DOLLAR TO WATCH THIS FOUR-MINUTE VIDEO."

I blinked, certain it had to be a mirage. It was far too good to be true. I looked at the volunteer manning the booth, though, holding a stack of brochures with a single crisp bill inserted into each, and I realized it was true. My heart skipped a beat: I'd watch the video, Edward would watch the video, and I'd go home with a lime-green lunch box with a tangerine lid.

I scurried over to the video stand, and the woman helped me put on the headphones. When Edward turned to look for me, I waved him over. "This sounds interesting," I said. "It's a great cause, and we really need to support these people." He nodded and put on a pair of headphones, and the volunteer turned the video on.

I probably should have asked beforehand, but I just assumed four minutes of anything wouldn't be too bad. Unfortunately, it was. The booth was run by a group called Mercy for Animals, who tried to convert people to vegetarianism. Toward that end, the film showed innocent bystanders four minutes of animals being slaughtered. It started with chubby, friendly pigs and worked through chickens, cows, sheep, and goats. It was like Jack the Ripper attacking a petting zoo. Chickens were strung up on a line and their necks passed over knives; baby pigs were slammed against the ground; and a giant meat grinder disposed of useless, unwanted, LIVING male chicks.

The seconds ticked by. Surely this was the shocking prelude, I hoped. Surely they'd switch to a blood-free lecture. No, it was a non-stop gore fest. I glanced over at Edward, who had turned white. "I know it's tough," I whispered, "but we really should support these people."

I was utterly shell-shocked when the video finally ended. Blood-drenched chickens orbited my head. Instead of happy festivalgoers, I heard the squeals of terrified pigs. Edward stared straight ahead, with the same unspeakable horror we'd seen in the animals' eyes.

On the bright side, though, I was getting a lunch box!

The volunteer gave me my dollar, and I said thanks. She handed Edward his dollar, but he broke away before I could grab it. "You're right," he said, "we should support these people," and he stuffed it in their donation box.

1 comment:

Yet Another Steve said...

Eat yer heart out, O. Henry!

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