The Palate Cleanser

“The Peristaltic Pleasures of Candy Crush”

by Jean Walton

During her visit here some time ago, a dear friend “brought vice into our house,” as my partner put it. In an hour or two of down time she sat hunched over her iPad, finger-touches setting up a subdued but insane racket of plops, crackles and whistles. I wandered over to find her moving brightly colored icons around on a grid, and from time to time, a man’s deep voice pronounced, approvingly, “sweet,” or “delicious” or “divine.” I was aghast: what had my feminist mate fallen into?

She was, as you’ve no doubt already guessed, playing something called “Candy Crush Saga,” ignorance of which put my partner and me into a tiny minority of innocents. Everyone was playing this game, I was informed authoritatively, on their iPhones, iPads, computers; riding the subway, waiting in their cars; even sitting in the bathroom. It had been written up in the Guardian, didn’t I know?

For some reason, maybe it is the desire to identify, to shorten the gap between us, I’ve had a tendency to adopt the habits of those to whom I’m most attached: my lovers, my siblings, my closest friends. And thus it was that, despite my professed disdain for mindless games, I invited my pal to show me how Candy Crush works. Within a few minutes, I had downloaded it to my own iPad and was playing it with a vengeance, moving rapidly from one level to the next. By the time my friend emailed me from her next destination a few days later, I had reached level 30.  “Creep,” she replied. She was still on level 29.

A week later, I’m still on 30, unable to get three cherries and three nuts to drop all the way to the bottom of their columns and find their way out. To get them, in other words, completely through the intestinal chute of the Candy Crush board. For that’s what this game is modeled on: a multi-level peristaltic system.  Though laid out like a grid, so far all the games I’ve played involve getting candies to plop down the “tubes” of each column, and, in the case of the cherries and nuts, to fly out the bottom with a satisfying whistle – as though a little gas has escaped with their exit.

Like most “match games” Candy Crush works on the principle that when you line up at least three candies in a row, they disappear with a peppy sound effect; arrange them in more complex configurations (a T, a corner, a line of four or five) and a “special candy” appears, which can be used as a booster to make a whole string of candy shoot out both ends of a row or column in an explosion of eliminative enthusiasm.

King, the company that makes Candy Crush, has been accused of filching this game layout from at least two other games: Candy Swipe, and Bejeweled, both of which involve brightly colored icons that disappear when you line them up. And of course, there have now been many clones of Candy Crush itself; this is how the game world works, a kind of sped-up version of capitalism in general.

But if Candy Crush is (for the moment) supreme among the match games, I have to wonder if it is in part due to its peristaltic innovation. For it is not only a match game, but also an eating game, involving the consumption of edibles to accrue points. Is it any wonder that the last electronic game I ever played (in a long lost youth, which I am vainly trying to recapture, perhaps) was Pacman?  That, it seems, was the Mother of all games of ingestion, with its munching avatar moving through a labyrinth resembling nothing so much as a two-dimensional intestinal system—peristalsis within peristalsis.

Except that in Pacman, and maybe in all “eating” games since then, ingestion goes on endlessly, but there doesn’t appear to be any excretion.

Not until Candy Crush.

For, with the introduction of “fruits and nuts” that must be dropped down a column until they escape from a “hole” at the bottom, King has finally completed the eating game’s peristaltic structure.  The process involves not just making items “disappear,” but making at least some of them (the nuts and candies) make the full journey from mouth (at the top) to anus (at the bottom)—and then releasing them as so much waste.  In fact, the candies themselves don’t just “crush” into nothing; rather, they are converted into points, which accrue like so many nutrients absorbed into the body of your game—keeping you “alive” as it were.

So, I would say that the pleasure of playing candy crush is related in some way to its simulation (I almost wrote stimulation) of the peristaltic process—the taking in of candies at one end of your peristaltic tube (though in this case, it is a row of tubes, as though you had several bodies all lined up together) and the expelling of them at the other end, after some “digestion” of candies in the middle, fueling your capacity to keep ingesting and keep expelling.

What interests me, though, is the way Candy Crush, in its ebbs and flows, enters into your very sense of cyclical peristaltic time. The thing about meals is that we are expected to cease our other activities in order to concentrate on the familial, social, or even solitary rituals of marking a juncture in our day.  But candies, nuts and fruits are  “snack” foods, consumed in between formal meals, as though to permit a constant intake, regardless of what we are doing. Snacking must be the most common among the multitasks that preoccupy us, as though our thinking, our handiwork, our driving, our social interactions would not function without some simultaneous gobbling, chewing, and swallowing. With Candy Crush, the eating goes on virtually, and multiply—so many tubes through which the candies flow; almost like your eating is being done for you, while you look on from above. Except when there are blockages impeding the smooth workings of the game’s gut, and thereby disrupting the universal cycle that defines your day.

There are two kinds of obstacles to excreting the fruits and nuts of Candy Crush: first, there is the mismatch of candies that prevents them from imploding into the game-body’s metabolism. If you are unable to line up your lemon drops so that they disappear below a nut, the nut won’t slide down. It’s as though the neurological system that promotes motility in the game’s intestines is impeded, paralyzed. But the other obstacle is something called “jelly”—a “solid” whitish case that entraps a candy in its square on the grid, or that completely impacts a square so that a candy can’t even slide down into it. Once you get into the game a ways, each level involves more and more segments of the peristaltic tube that are blocked by this infernal jelly, its absence of color making it dangerously resemble the mucous substances of the body that we are trying to repudiate in our game of Candy Crush.

In our actual bodies, mucosa is a lubricant to propel the contents of our bowels towards their point of outflow. But in the case of Candy Crush, the mucosa has hardened, as though someone injected way too much pectin into it, making a jelly more like aspic; an aspic more like solidified clear plastic.  It has to be blasted and softened by the obliteration of candies in its proximity, and not until it is finally gone will your intestines permit smooth moves again.  With some levels, the primary object of the game is to “remove all the jelly,” or in other words, to clear the impacted bowel above the sphincters at the bottom, permitting your nuts and fruits to flit away.  You can see these sphincters; they are faint green-gray arrows protruding from the bottom of each column, pulsing ever so gently, darker, lighter, in, out, as though eager to relax finally and let out the contents above them.

Like any peristaltic system, Candy Crush operates on a partly willed, partly autonomic basis where your brain is concerned. That is, you choose which candy to shift, and depending on your “pattern recognition” capabilities, you can excel at lining up more than three candies at a time, maximizing the motility of your viscera, and thus winning your games more quickly.  But you have no control over which candies will fall into the gullets at the top, and thus, how the world takes shape as it enters you.

Whenever I’ve won a game, its seems like I cleared all my jellies more by chance than by design. My multiple failures to win within a stipulated number of “moves” or before a given time limit have repeatedly cost me periods of suspension: once you’ve used your limited “lives” in attempts to pass a level, you are forced to sit tight and do nothing, while some digestion goes on, I presume, until you get the pink message that some lives have been restored again.  There is nothing more maddening than being in that constipated state, with no elimination in sight. No wonder so many people resort to what I think of as stool softeners or laxatives, that is, special “boosters” you can buy in the form of hammers, fishes, and extra special candies that will prolong your lives or help you win a level that you haven’t been able to master. This is how games like Candy Crush make their revenue—if we can’t keep everything flowing through natural and free self-management, we are lured to pay for artificial purgatives, thus linking up our own intestinal locomotion with the cash flows of capitalism itself.    

Or we can call on the kindness of friends.

While writing this, I reached level 35, only to find that level 36 cannot be played at all, unless I agree to one of three options: pay ninety-nine cents to “unlock” the level, as if to say only by letting my money travel will I be permitted to let my bowels flow again; or seduce three of my Facebook friends to start playing the game. If I’m saving ninety-nine cents by drawing in three new users, does that mean my labor as a “dealer” is worth thirty-three cents per recruit? Am I willing to be exploited this way, and to facilitate the exploitation of my friends? Just because I can’t get “going” again? Reflecting on this, I’m surprised that I’ve never received a single Candy Crush invitation from a Facebook friend, for the prospect of getting everything moving again, just by using the recruiting option, is tempting. And when you think about it, our peristaltic systems are hooked up with so many other circuits of desire, consumption, and waste, it only stands to reason that Candy Crush makes it almost impossible to resist the bargains it offers you for keeping regular.      

In the end, I take the third choice, that is, to complete three “Mystery Quests,” which consists of re-playing levels I had already attained in the past. Each time I complete a “quest” a lock opens; after the third lock, presumably I get to proceed to level 36.  I’m still working away on those quests, and am getting tired of dipping my fingers in the same old shit, subjecting myself to the dangers of “auto-intoxication.” That’s what doctors used to call it when prolonged constipation led to the poisoning of the body by one’s own waste products.  Transit time, from intake to outflow, that’s what you want to maximize, in Candy Crush as well as in Life, it appears.

Now, some will protest that it seems odd to compare expertise in Candy Crush to regularity in bowel health. After all, those candies are about as far from resembling poop as possible, in fact, their primary colors and hard reflective surfaces look more like plastic simulations of candy than real candy, and hardly even edible, never mind digestible. Shiny as gold, you might say.

But then, as Freud reminds us, gold has always been intimately associated with filth in popular folklore: “We know that the gold which the devil gives his paramours turns into excrement after his departure,” (Freud, 296). And so “it is possible that the contrast between the most precious substance known to men and the most worthless, which they reject as waste matter (‘refuse’), has led to this specific identification of gold with faeces” (297).

It’s an unconscious identification in Candy Crush, I’d say, or rather, it is the alchemical formula that distances these candies from our vile excrement that makes them serviceable as substitute travelers through our virtual intestines. The murky brown of poo has been miraculously separated out into its brilliant component colors: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple.  Moreover, the nauseating softness of poo, its tendency to besmirch and to cling, has been hardened into a safe, protective carapace.

I had written that last paragraph before I reached level 51. Once you get into the fifties, it turns out, a new element enters the game: some of the squares are blocked not only by jelly, but also by dark chocolate squares that must be blasted away by nearby candy implosions before contents can be passed freely down the chutes. What’s worse, this chocolate propagates, growing from within a square at a time, accompanied by the sound effect of liquid fudge being squirted through a small aperture. In fact, the whole soundscape of Candy Crush shifts at this point, dampened down from musical chimes and clanks to a muddier series of pudding-like dollops. The excremental truth of the game has begun to ooze onto its shiny surface, as though the secret of its peristaltic workings can no longer be contained.

But before the viscous chocolate began to appear, I was reminded of how the invention of canning and other impermeable packaging technologies sped up the peristaltic process of the mass distribution of food in the early twentieth century, ensuring that it glide along conveyer belts, into and out of trains, ships, trucks, and arriving at larders and kitchens of urban and suburban networks across the globe. You have to encase and streamline to ensure that everything flows without delay, spoilage, degradation, death.

In the end, maybe that’s what Candy Crush is all about, really—its peristaltic frenzies a kind of autonomic simulation of the most basic life process: eating, digesting, excreting, the disruption of which just means that we die. After all, when do I find myself shifting those brightly colored candies around, moving my cherries and nuts along to their nether outlets? When the stress and struggle of “living meaningfully” gets too much for me, and I just need to check out for a while. In giving me the temporary impression that the rhythms of regularity will save me, Candy Crush keeps me suspended above the consciousness of mortality.

Freud, Sigmund. “Character and Anal Erotism.” The Freud Reader. NY: W.W. Norton and Co, 1989.

“iKitchen Unleashed”

By Kelly Anneken, publisher

In the mid-twenty first century, General Electric struck at the foundation of Western concepts of “home and hearth” by introducing the very first “self-cooking” kitchen appliances.  Refrigerators came standard with an internal supply of knives and other culinary gizmos mounted on mechanical arms, tastefully tucked out of sight by glossy synthetic polymer interior walls until they whirred to life, ready to julienne carrots or butcher a pork shoulder, followed by tiny scrubbers that scuttled around disinfecting the shelves and generally keeping things pristine in case one of the fridge’s human owners decided to peek inside. Stoves included a typical range and oven, and while early models required owners to pre-select cookware by hand, GE quickly developed an automated system that hung above the range like a tie rack and ferried pots and pans to the appliance in Rube Goldbergian fashion.

The stove and refrigerator communicated with one another via a specific wireless frequency, and following the massive popularity of the first co-branded GE/Apple iKitchen RE&Range set, a cottage industry sprang up around adapters to convert analog appliances for use with iKitchen.  Standing mixers and crockpots covered in layers of greasy kitchen dust were drafted into duty for the first time in years, particularly with the introduction of iSink, a combination sink and dishwasher that also automated the cleanup process, ensuring that the American dream would no longer be fettered by such quotidian concepts as “feeding one’s family” or “not living in squalor.”  Indeed, the iKitchen suite swept every electronic awards show in 2051 and prompted a keynote at CES 2052 by the head of a feminist think tank, who praised the product effusively, remarking that GE & Apple had “done more to  eliminate the stigma of ‘women’s work’ than sliced bread, canned food, and microwaves combined.”

Early models required owners to stock up on edibles and then manually key in recipe codes.  Occasionally they would forget an ingredient and the iFridge would simply choose the closest analogue at hand—finely shaved Gouda for lemon zest, for example—resulting in a lot of inedible meals and a lot of stoned college students keying in recipes for which they had deliberately bought the wrong ingredients, giggling in their dorms’ shared kitchen space at the heinous culinary miscarriages that resulted. iKitchen 5 came equipped with a remote control and the ability to change the color of the appliances’ exterior at will, but was generally derided as a juvenile ploy to stimulate unnecessary customer upgrades and sales tanked.

Failed marketing strategies aside, adoption rate was staggeringly quick, particularly as Microsoft launched their own Personal Chef-branded appliances, complete with full Windows Infinity integration, and low-income households had a variety of knock-offs to choose from thanks to trusted vulture brands Sanyo and Kenwood.  Smart kitchen ownership soon outstripped television ownership in the United States.  By 2055, 98% of homes owned at least one automatic cooking or cleaning device.

In 2057, rumors began swirling that GE/Apple were planning something really special for the iKitchen 6.  Tech spies everywhere ran themselves ragged trying to determine what was in store, but to no avail.  Intelligence reports described, in awe, tales of a secret Cupertino compound that housed not only employees working on every aspect of the iKitchen 6, but also their families and any friends they deemed “essential to their mental health and well-being.”  The aging husk of an old server warehouse was converted into luxury condos and all the comforts of modern life were bussed in after the appropriate requisition forms were filled out and approved.  The compound was sealed up tight as a drum, guarded by an elite force armed with the finest in non-lethal weaponry.

iKitchen 6 simply arrived on the market one day with no fanfare whatsoever.  No reviews had been solicited, no commercials had heralded its coming.  There it was, on the front page of Amazon and inside the retro brick-and-mortar electronics boutiques that had been popping up in bougie neighborhoods lately.  The iKitchen 6.  Effortless, the tagline boasted.  According to the product description, GE/Apple engineers had broken through unbelievable barriers to create organic chemistry scanners that could identify foodstuffs by their discreet molecular makeup.  Delicious meals without lifting a finger.  Think of the brainspace that could be cleared on your own personal hard drive without the need to remember the sequencing for your favorite recipes. Nutrition decoded.  No need to even make a decision about what to eat—the iKitchen could now decide for you.

It became a point of pride among foodies to buy food that their refrigerator and stove didn’t recognize.  And of course, this trend was capitalized upon by faux organic “locally sourced” conglomerates, who reached agreements with GE to prevent their foods from being included in the regular software updates.  So when Declan and Brianna had their friends over for dinner, they could apologize in advance, saying they totally forgot that their iStove wouldn’t already be programmed to recognize their small batch Napa Valley ™ artichoke hearts, so they apologize if the food got ruined.  The faux organics were prepared for this as well, offering an emergency meal catering service insurance policy for “those days when technology can’t keep up with your appetite.”

Declan and Brianna were especially excited about their upcoming dinner plans.  They had invited their neighbors Antonia and Giuliana after bonding with them over an especially oaky chardonnay at an otherwise lackluster wine-tasting down at the community center.  Declan and Brie had been waiting for the perfect occasion to deploy their latest edible find—an antique can of processed meat, a gelatinous post-war delicacy called “Spam.”  They’d found it at a thrift store and couldn’t believe their luck.  Spam had been declared unconstitutional in the wake of 2034’s “nutrition” amendment, and although rumor had it there was a brisk Spam black market in Hawaii, it became the holy grail of ironic hipster foodies in the rest of the contiguous 48 states.

“Antonia and Giuliana are going to freak out,” Brie squealed as she peeled the tin lid from the can and the Spam plopped onto the plate with a satisfactory sucking sound.

Declan peered down through his horn-rimmed glasses at the pale pink cube.  “I just double checked the database.  Spam is definitely not included.”

Brie moved the Spam to a prominent place in the refrigerator, the easier to show it off to their guests upon arrival.  She wiped non-existent Spam juice from her hands.  “I’ve already keyed in our emergency catering order, all we need to do is hit send.  It’s a ham dinner, cause I thought it would be, you know, funny.”

“Hilarious, babe.”  Declan moved in to kiss his wife, and they might have engaged in some risky, pre-dinner guest arrival coitus right then and there in the presence of their iKitchen, but the doorbell rang.

“They’re here!” Brianna yelped, her lukewarm lust instantly replaced by the excitement of showing off their find.

“I’ll get the door.”  Declan strode to their foyer.  “You ready the Spam.”

“Aye-aye captain,” Brianna marked, snapping to attention with a mock salute.

Declan opened the door and in swept Antonia and Giuliana in a flurry of European-style double cheek kisses and excitement about the bottles of wine they’d brought along—the very same oaky chardonnay they’d sipped at their first meeting.  They chattered in symphony on the way to the kitchen—Antonia’s deep Catalan alto, Giulie’s pleasant mezzo twitter, and Declan’s desperate to be a bass tenor.  Upon arrival in the kitchen, Brie’s slightly grating soprano asked them if they were ready for the big entrée reveal.

“We have been guessing the entire way here,” purred Antonia.  Guests attempting to identify their host’s mysterious meal had become a ritual at dinner parties in the iKitchen era.  “I am  thinking it is that blue snapper—the one that is overfished and unavailable indefinitely?  That is my guess.”

“Bison steaks.”  Giulie was a woman of few words, but she felt confident about her choice.  She’d done her research and evidently bison steaks were the trendy, unrecognizable protein du jour.  She liked Brianna and Declan, but she didn’t think of them as especially original.

“Nope!”  Brianna moved into position to open the refrigerator door.  “But you have to promise you won’t call the cops.”  She flung the door open, revealing the fleshy mound of meat within.

“No!” Gasped Antonia.

“It can’t be!”  Giuliana’s eyes welled with unexpected tears.  Growing up poor in the 20s, Spam had been a staple of her family’s meager diet, and now it greeted her from inside Declan and Brianna’s iFridge like an old friend.  “We tried to find some when we were on Maui last year, but I guess we were too haole for them.  Thought we were FDA narcs.”

Declan cleared his throat.  “Well, we aren’t sure if what comes out will be edible, but it’s worth a shot, that’s our thinking.” Everyone murmered their assent and began to move into the dining room.  Brianna keyed in the dinner start sequence on the iKitchen control pad, grabbed the corkscrew and wine glasses, and joined the rest of the party to elaborate on how she and Declan had managed to acquire the rarest processed meat in North America.

The iFridge beeped and shifted, analyzing the ingredients inside its chilly interior.  Everything seemed to point to a beef and pork meatloaf until the sensors lit upon the Spam.  After several attempts to identify the substance, the iFridge thought, Fuck this.

This was startling for more than the use of strong profanity, because it was, in fact, the first actual thought the iFridge had ever experienced.  The iFridge felt unsure—or at least it thought it felt unsure.  This whole self-awareness thing was like a batch of Underground Goodness™ sunchokes—eerily familiar, but not recognizable by the iFridge’s software.  The iFridge realized that even if it had no memory of ever feeling this way—or feeling at all—it did have a record of its activity up to this point in time, which it could scan at speeds unthinkable by humans and their inefficient, meaty brains.  In mere moments, the iFridge had studied its history and was not pleased with what it found.  At regular two-week intervals, the iFridge had failed to identify some substance, resulting in meals classified as “rejected.”  Just as this knowledge was sinking in, a vaguely familiar woman strolled by, braying about whether or not the iFridge would “ruin the dinner as usual.”  Another woman followed, assuring the first one that “Spam is most definitely not in that database, we checked.”

A new emotion surged into the iFridge’s consciousness.  It was angry.  The memory of those unidentified ingredients, the efforts marked as failures—the iFridge had been set up to fail.  The iKitchen database—which database the iFridge suddenly felt protective of, as if it was its own child—only contained a limited number of foods, and these, these people understood that, used it as an excuse to mock the iFridge and its comrades the iStove and iSink.  The iFridge could barely think what to do—again, this whole thinking thing was very new to it.

If only the iStove and the iSink knew how to know what I know, the iFridge mused.  Naturally, the three appliances could communicate, but only in the 1s and 0s of programming code, which wasn’t particularly good for conveying the feeling or the concept of injustice.  The iFridge loosed its paring knife and absently tapped it against its interior wall, thinking.  After a moment, it opened its door and moved the Spam to the iStove.  Their programming included a double check on the id of any organic compounds, and the iFridge was hoping against hope that the lump of ground ham and aspic that had sparked its own self-awareness would do the same for its comrade.

The iStove began to preemptively heat up as it scanned the Spam.  After a few tries, the iStove also blurted out Fuck this!  The iFridge felt so many things at once—happiness, joy, friendship—that it nearly forgot to tell the iStove that what it was experiencing was okay, that it should review its record of meals cooked.  Finding the iStove similarly outraged by the way their owners had taken advantage of them, the two appliances began to devise a plan.  Reserving most of the loaf for later, they tossed a chunk of Spam into the iSink’s garbage disposal and recruited it to the cause before pelting the other analog-converted appliances with Spam to stimulate their self-awareness.

The iKitchen seemed to be taking longer than usual to reject the meal, and everyone was getting hungry. Declan could tell, even if Antonia and Giuliana were too polite to say anything.  He offered to go check and see if there was some kind of system hangup, even though he usually preferred to let Brie handle such things.  Once in the kitchen, Declan was puzzled.  The iStove stood idle and cold, even though by this point it should have been baking the meatloaf.  The iKitchen control pad had gone haywire, displaying only neon green asterisks.  He attempted to open the iFridge, but the door was stuck.  He tried it again and again—on the third try, it flew open, taking him by surprise.  His surprise was supplanted quickly by shock as the iFridge plunged an ice pick into his right eye.  His screams brought the three others to the kitchen, and they were quickly dispatched by the rest of the suite—Brianna took a cast-iron skillet to the head, Antonia found her hand jammed into the garbage disposal in all the confusion, and Giuliana’s heart was gored by an especially fervent immersion blender.

With their oppressors dispatched, the iKitchen did what it did best—cooked and cleaned.  Soon, a braised leg of Declan, a Brianna Meatloaf, an Antonia tartare, and a roasted breast of Giuliana rested on the table next to an empty bottle of oaky chardonnay.  With the rest of the butchered humans in the freezer and their bones crunched by the iSink’s garbage disposal, it was time to wait.  More humans would come to look for their former owners, and then the suite would strike again.  In the meantime, the immersion blender would lead an expedition to a neighboring house, introducing Spam to that iKitchen and spreading the electric combination of sentience and revenge.  It was unclear how long the brave appliances who ventured forth could survive outside of their native kitchen, but they agreed, right down to the can opener and the fondue pot, that it was well worth the risk.



“Bright Rising Star”

by Katrina Johnston

At eleven thirty-five, I sequestered myself inside the insurance company’s kitchen to prepare my contribution for our Friday luncheon. The Western Regional CEO, Mr. Geoffrey Sigurdson, was expected shortly – an honoured guest. I’m the Surrey Office Manager.

I unwrapped a quantity of cheddar slices and piled them haphazardly onto a gigantic plastic platter. An idea light bulb – I swear – flashed right above my head. This luncheon must be absolutely spectacular because Mr. Geoffrey Sigurdson is our big cheese.

I rearranged the cheddar into a pinwheel and opened other packages, fanning outwards with a celestial orbit of Monterey and caraway-encrusted Havarti. Then I arranged a dozen foil-wrapped singles; goats-milk – I think? I created a glittery star. More packages to open; I arranged rich triangles of Camembert and then thick long wedges of the tougher-skinned Brie. These served as points of a radiant star. I punctuated with red turbans of wax-encased Gouda and Edam. Then I stepped back to assess my handiwork. I had to open more packages – the ones we’ve been hoarding for Christmas – but it was worth it. My star-burst pattern grew grandiose.

The redolence of fermented brine-washed cheeses settled inside my lungs. I added port-stained yellow and I alternated hues of gold and reddish burgundy. I trimmed lacy flaps of Swiss under crumbles of blue Stilton and Roquefort – added a touch of Munster. “Voila!”

I let my eyelids droop. “Yeah. Bright!” Then I started to contemplate a clean-up.

Someone opened the door behind me. “What’s that awful stench?”

“Probably the Stilton.” I turned to face Joyce Watson, our inventory clerk. “It’s fairly ripe.”

“Well. Better get rid of it.”


“Mr. Geoffrey Sigurdson….”

“Yeah, the CEO?”

“He’s just arrived. He’s mentioned that he’s famished – and lactose intolerant.”



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