The World's Biggest Olive
Carmen Lau

When the giant olive, a gleaming black statue so large two grown men curled into fetal positions could comfortably fit into it, vanished from the front of the Olive Tree Inn one day, some conjectured it was a prank. Others believed it was a serious theft, to which some countered: who would actually want the olive? It was a thing of half-embarrassed pride for the denizens of the town. "There's the—" chuckle "— giant olive," people would say in the way of introduction to visitors. A coal-colored ovoid, silent in the most visual sense, it divulged nothing in one's circumambulation of it.

A pitted black olive fresh from a can, so glossily tempting in its original size, becomes a creature of unyielding mystery when made large, when one is forced to note its alien dimensions, the inexplicable density of its presence.

You were not the one who took the olive, but your then-boyfriend's friend's cousin knew the guy who did. "Why did he do it?" you asked, and your boyfriend said, "To make people realize what they were taking for granted." You weren't sure if this was something the thief said, or if it was your boyfriend's interpretation. He liked to interpret things.

Over the years your boyfriend became your husband and then your ex-husband. (It was your hospital sojourn, complete with a neck brace, that finally did it.) Having moved back in with your parents, you were driving to SaveMart for groceries when you saw it: a big black olive, with all the heft and certainty of its concrete interior, hunched in front of the Olive Tree Inn.

Flushed and breathless, you told your parents about it. "It's back! After all these years it's back."

But your parents looked at you as if you were insane. "What do you mean it's back? It was never gone."

"Someone stole it," you said.

"Why would they steal it?" your father said, laughing.

"I don't know. To make people realize what they were taking for granted."

"And why would they return it?" your mother said, her eyebrows arched high.

"I guess the thief put it back after people had missed it for long enough."

But the thing was, no one had really missed it, had they? Its disappearance was an enigma, certainly, but no one had longed for the olive's return. The papers had not even deigned to headline it.

You went back to your room. Within its pale pink walls, under the sibyl-eyed gaze of Justin Timberlake, you questioned. Did any of it really happen? You had talked about it with your boyfriend, you remembered it so clearly. Your second date, him at the steering wheel, saying apropos of nothing: "I know a guy who knows the guy who stole the olive."

But maybe it was only a thing between him and you, some joke you didn't understand to be a joke and took too seriously, by mistake, to your very heart, for years and years.

         >>>NEXT STORY >>>

W i g l e a f               01-21-15                                [home]