Read Part I, here. Read Part II, here.
Lacey reacted when I told her the news. Her face softened and her eyebrows lifted and she smiled and turned her head, exposing her white teeth and her white neck. She kissed me.
I took the job. Two weeks later I moved into a cubicle. I began re-writing the new employee handbook, which they hadn’t updated in a decade. The waste basket under my desk took a scented liner and nauseated me all day long. Modern offices don’t use chalk.
On one of my first days in the office the day care in the building asked around to see if any background checked government employees could fill in for an hour or two due to some picnic-related injuries someone had suffered. I volunteered, and I admit I was thinking they might have chalk.
I watched six kids, ranging from an Iraqi girl who could recite most of “Who’s on First?” to a remarkable fat boy who fell during a game of tag and actually bounced. I kept one eye on the children and one eye on the supplies closet. At the first opportunity, under the pretense of finding a pink colored pencil for the Persian Vaudeville aficionado, I found the only chalk in the building: sidewalk chalk. I gestured toward my face with a blue piece and took a bite, back to the room. It tasted awful. This wasn’t chalk. Nothing pure and nothing clean about this substance. My heart grieved.
I eventually lifted my eyes to the fat boy. He glanced side to side with furtive eyes and slid something into his mouth. I hunched over towards him and peered. He had a chunk of play-dough in his hand and made good headway on it. I walked to him and he straightened up and swallowed. I took the playdough from him with a disapproving look. As I walked away, I fingered a bit of the stuff into a ball. I ate a small bite as I looked out the window at the cars in the parking lot. So much salt. A salt overload. I took another bite. But still a simple taste. Very direct.
I looked down as a new meter maid moved from car to car, chalking tires. I recalled the white weight of an unspoiled cylinder in memory. I felt the dense squish of the dough in my hand. It seemed like a good time for something new.