Cake Show
Shane Jones

My record for not talking is four days straight, broken by Sheila's birthday party. Here's what happened: I was sitting in my cubicle with my head on my desk, not sleeping, not doing anything really, feeling manic and good at my silence, when an email burped on my computer. Subject: CAKE IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM. Body of email: We are having cake in the conference room.

I stared at the email. I thought maybe I could get out of it because they didn't know I was there but after the room cleared my boss popped his head in and said Vincent, come on, cake time. I had to open my mouth. I checked the clock and knew I had set my record, but I went a little farther. I walked out of my square and smiled at my boss and he said Good and walked to the conference room. 

But I went into the bathroom first. On my entire office floor it's only me and my boss, the only men. There's seventeen women and two toilets and they are constantly being cleaned. What I did is stand in the bathroom because I knew I had a few minutes before walking into the conference room and seeing all their faces and being forced to be a person who talked in an office setting. All bathrooms in public buildings are the same, a kind of white hole of light and tile. I stood at the mirror and started opening and closing my mouth until a sound like AHHHHHHHUMMMMM came out. AHHHHHHHUMMMM I went until I said to myself Hey, cake. Then: This looks fresh baked, not what I would expect from a grocery store. This cake is so good I can't stop eating. Happy 29th birthday Sheila.

I walked into the room and wished Sheila happy birthday and she nodded with cake in her mouth. It was an ice cream cake eaten by adults. I took a small red paper plate with a melting white square, cookie crumbles visible, and turquoise blue L on top. Thank you, I said. I quickly understood everyone was talking about food, so talking didn't seem so hard. Liz, a receptionist for my boss, announced to no one in particular that last night she cooked in the Thai style and everyone went Wow, that sounds delicious. I told a brief story about cooking veggie stir-fry with sesame seeds, honey, and soy sauce. Everyone seemed really impressed by the honey. I tossed my finished plate in the garbage and left the conference room.

Very soon, under any lights, I will try not speaking for a week.

Shane Jones is the author of Light Boxes (Penguin 2010) and Daniel Fights A Hurricane (Penguin 2012). He lives in Albany New York. His newest novel, Crystal Eaters, will be published this summer by Two Dollar Radio.

Read more of his work in the archive.

Detail of 35mm frame from PLAYTIME, a film by Jacques Tati (1967).

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