The World's Biggest Olive
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
"And why would they return it?" your mother said, her eyebrows arched
"I guess the thief put it back after people had missed it for long
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
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.
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