“How much longer are we going to do this?”
“This is important, Bob.”
“Yes, it is.”
Bob laid a penetrating look on Woodruff, who ignored him. The hum of machinery filled the massive manufacturing floor. Workers scurried about, covered head to toe in bright white jumpsuits. Woodruff pulled on a pair of latex gloves and carefully took hold of a pair of metal tongs.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Bob whined.
“Then go wait in the car,” Woodruff said, as he raised the tongs in front of him, with his eyes set on a caldron below.
“It’s cold outside,” Bob complained. “Can I run the heater?”
“No, just use the blankets in the back.”
“They smell like llama.”
“I told you not that let him sleep back there.”
“Like I’m gonna tell a llama he can’t sleep on a comfy blanket. I’m not a monster.”
“Well now you’ve got a blanket that smells like llama,” Woodruff replied, carefully studying the contents of the vat beneath him.
“Your blanket smells like llama,” Bob muttered.
“What was that?”
“That’s what I thought. Now hush,” Woodruff said. “I’m trying to concentrate.”
“Just pick one and let’s get this over with.” Bob flailed his arms wildly and flung himself to the floor with his legs crisscrossed.
“You’re getting your jumper dirty.”
“I don’t care! I hate this suit and I hate this place. It makes my head itchy.”
“That’s because you don’t have any hair.”
“How dare you! I have hair.”
“I’ll have you know this was a decision of function and fashion.”
“A decision necessitated by premature hair loss.”
“Balding by chance, shaved by choice.”
“The longer you distracted me the longer we’re going to be here.”
Bob drew his fingers across his lips in a pantomimed zipping motion. Woodruff shook his arms and rolled his shoulders back, while turning his head from side to side. He lowered the tongs and took hold of a lengthy green pickle. Brine dripped from his selection as he pulled it from the vat.
“Oh that’s a fine pickle,” Woodruff said. He gently placed the pickle in the palm of his hand with the tongs.
“Okay, you’ve got your pickle,” Bob said. “Can we go now?”
“This pickle looks good, but looks aren’t everything.”
“That’s not what my agent says.”
“And how many gigs has he booked you of late?”
“That’s not because of these beauties,” Bob held up his hands and rotated them in a showy fashion. “It’s because I have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to work with.”
“You’ve proved my point,” Woodruff replied. “Looks aren’t everything.”
“Your looks aren’t everything,” Bob muttered.
“What was that?”
“I said your looks aren’t everything.”
Woodruff rolled his eyes and Bob stuck out his tongue. Pickle juice covered Woodruff’s gloves and a drop fell to the floor. Bob eyed the droplet contemptuously as Woodruff raised the pickle to shoulder height. Like an MC completing a rap battle, he opened his fingers and let the pickle fall to the ground. On impact the pickle recoiled and jiggled in the air for a few seconds before bouncing to a rest.
“That’s the stuff!”
“What was that about?”
“If it doesn’t bounce it’s not a pickle.”
“The state of Connecticut.”
“The state of Connecticut?”
“That’s right,” Woodruff explained. “1948, the people versus pickle packers. Two men were arrested for selling pickles that were unfit for human consumption. The Connecticut Food and Drug Commissioner, was called to testify on ways to check for good pickles. He said that outside of laboratory tests you could drop it on the floor and a good pickle should bounce. The pickle peddlers merchandise did not bounce and were declared unpickle-ish.”
“That’s not a thing.”
“You’re saying that the people told a pair of pickle packers they couldn’t peddler a pack of pliant pickles ‘cause the pliant pickles wouldn’t pop?”
“This is ridiculous,” Bob said. “You’ve got your bouncy pickle. Can we go now?”
“That was just a test pickle.”
“A test pickle?”
“Yeah,” Woodruff replied. “It’s been on the floor. I’m not eating that.”
“Then what are we doing here?” Bob shouted.
“I was testing the batch. This batch is good,” Woodruff turned back to the briny caldron and studied the floaters. He dipped the tongs back into the vat and pulled out a wrinkle-laden specimen. “We have a winner.”
“Hip hip, hooray,” Bob replied, sarcastically. “Let’s go.”
“We can’t just go,” Woodruff said. “We have to pay for it.”
Woodruff placed the pickle into a plastic bag and returned the tongs to the stainless steel table next to the vat. He peeled off his white jump suit and removed his hair net and booties. Bob stood up from the ground and followed Woodruff’s lead, disposing of his suit in the nearest laundry hamper. With plastic bag in hand, Woodruff walked to the manager’s office at the far end of the manufacturing floor and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” a voice replied from the other side.
“Hello,” Woodruff greeted a squatty office manager sitting behind a large desk. The man was examining a single paper among the clutter on his desktop. At the center of the clutter was a plaque that read Clifton King.
“Yeah,” the man behind the desk grunted, without looking up.
“Um, yes, Mr. King?” Woodruff began. “I’d like to pay for my pickle.”
“What?” Mr. King replied, with a dazed look in Woodruff’s direction. Bob entered through the office door and stood behind Woodruff.
“Hey there, Mr. King, sir,” Bob said. “Uh, your majesty, uh, highness?”
“I need to purchase this pickle,” Woodruff replied.
“And one he through on the floor back there,” Bob added.
“We don’t sell pickles here,” Mr. King said. “How did you get in here anyway?”
“Through the door, obviously,” Bob replied. “You make all these pickles and they’re not for sale?”
“We sell the pickles, but you can’t buy them here,” Mr. King said, standing up and walking around his large desk.
“Oh, um, well this is the pickle I want,” Woodruff said. “Where would I buy it?”
“Don’t forget the one you threw on the floor,” Bob added.
“You have to buy it from a store,” Mr. King said. “We are the supplier. You aren’t even supposed to be back here.”
“Understood,” Woodruff said. “But since we’re already back here, what can I give you for two pickles. And whatever Horacio ate.”
“How many pickles do you eat?” Mr. King asked Bob.
“No, I’m not Horacio,” Bob chuckled. “Horacio is a llama.”
Bob pulled down on a cord, which raised the blinds to a window looking out on the manufacturing floor. A tall gray llama stood over a box of pickle jars chewing slowly and looking back at the trio inside the manager’s office. Mr. King’s face turned red.
“Get that animal out of here,” he demanded.
“Sure thing,” Woodruff said. “What do we owe you for the pickles?”
Mr. King pushed them through the threshold and slammed the door behind them. The binds came clattering down covering the window. Woodruff and Bob stared at each other with wide eyes.
“I think we’d better go,” Woodruff said.
“Come on, Horacio,” Bob called. “Apparently this organization is llama intolerant.”
“They really should put up a sign,” Woodruff replied.
“Totally,” Bob said. “You put a giant pickle over your building and people are going to stop for pickles. That’s just human nature.”
“And llama nature.”
Woodruff, Bob, and Horacio walked through the giant bay doors out into the parking lot.
“The good news is you got your perfect pickle for free,” Bob said.
“You can’t beat a pro-bono pickle,” Woodruff replied. “Isn’t that right, Horacio?”
The tall gray llama spit pickle juice on the asphalt in front of them.
“You can say that again.”