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Told Between Puffs, December 2018

In which our hero gets E. coli

Verily was eating a salad when his phone buzzed.Excited to hear back from his doctor about a particularly painful anal fissure with which he was dealing, Verily called unto his muse: “Siri, what notifications have I received?”

“Hello, Verilyhandsome. You have one new notification: from The New York Times: ‘FDA warnsAmericans to avoid romaine lettuce potentially tainted with E. coli.’”

Verily looked down at his fork, half-raised, which carried the potential disease carrier itself. Verily winced at the thought of all the romaine he had already eaten passing explosively by the aforementioned fissure. He wondered if he should contact his doctor.

Eyeing the trash can nearby, Verily grabbed a handful of the green leaves from his plate. He held them tenderly, peering close at their furling edges. He traced their veins, and felt that this was the moment that would change his life. Instead of disposing of the devil’s lettuce, Verily opened wide, stuffing the tainted fronds into his mouth.

To be clear, no masochistic impulse motivated Verily to act. Rather, it was all part of an ingenious plan: Verily needed an excuse to avoid his internship, where his cow of a boss expected genuine productivity. Because of his demands, Verily had had little time to focus on his project, the project that could change Verily’s life, granting him the renown and recognition he deserved. In a single month, Verily knew that his masterpiece would be read through out the world in 40 languages and to 50 million people.Verily couldn’t go to work today. No, today he needed to perfect Tinder.

“What shall I write today…what shall I write,“Verily purred as he stared at his bio. He pursed his lips pensively, noting the faint taste of what he assumed could only be E. coli. He read the progress he had made over the weekend:

“Non-threatening dog enthusiast. Connoisseur of fine Eurasian spices… and cute girls.

Definitely a descendent of some European royal tradition. I like taking long walks to nearby Francophone bistros and watching the sunset. Carries Swiss Army knife in pocket for emergencies.”

As he read these 40 carefully selected words, Verily groaned. Though, doubtless, each of those facts would alone impress a potential mate, their combination resulted in a product inferior to its parts.

Verily began again. Thinking first of youthful internet trends, he typed a quick, “Hello, boo thangs,” but immediately regretted it. Delete.

He pondered making an appeal as a potential father figure, typing “I love children and I like to see them happy,” before acknowledging that this statement was something of a stretch, and, more importantly, that it was probably unhealthy to fixate on children in one’s tinder bio. Delete.

Verily grew quickly frustrated. With teeth clenched and his brow deeply furrowed, he bent ever closer to the brightly lit iPhone keyboard. He typed and deleted, again and again, stirring himself into a manic fervor at his seemingly Sisyphean task.

His hand began to feel numb and sweat eeked from his pores, tracing his aristocratic bone structure as it ran down to the end of his nose. A drop fell onto the keyboard, momentarily thwarting an attempt to type out a winky face. Verily sighed in anguish and tossed the phone aside; glancing at the clock on the still-illuminated lock screen, he realized hours had passed.

In that instant, Verily became acutely aware of what his own hubris had wrought. Uncontrollable sweating? Numb hands? His frailer peers might have experienced these symptoms out of lust or love alone, but Verily knew himself better than that. No, the romaine had struck back, catching him in its diseased grasp.

Verily sprinted down the hall, leaving his unfinished profile, like the now certainly tainted salad, for later care.

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