Note on Two Napkins
R. Gatwood

(1/2) Dear Hamburger Owner,

For the past minute and a half I have been watching a large fly land on various parts of your hamburger, take off, circle briefly in the air, and alight once more. I debated whether to tell you this. Some people, and I have no way of knowing whether you are one of them, prefer to live in ignorance of the unpleasant things that happen to their food, their sleeping bodies, and their children. If you are one of those dear, blessed innocents, I am sincerely sorry you have to learn about the recent circumstances of your hamburger. But it occurred to me—I have never had the gift for ignoring unpleasantness—that not thirty feet away, there is a lidless trash can barely containing a mass of food garbage and less savory refuse, and that this fly—which superficially appears glossy black and clean, with a touch of rainbow in its cellophane wings—could be carrying on its legs and mouth the bacterial flora (cont'd on next napkin —>) (2/2) of infant or canine bowels, spoiled seafood, or worse.

I urge you to do what you will with this information. Not everyone's life can be governed by prudence and order. Not everyone can turn down a (no doubt) still-warm hamburger with onions and a thick layer of pickle slices, even under threat of premature death. Perhaps you can find some way of shaving off the outer portion. I don't know. Perhaps you are not even coming back. A minute and a half (or rather, almost four minutes now) is a relatively long time to leave a hamburger unattended, even a very hot one that needs time to cool. Perhaps you were never going to return. Perhaps you lost your appetite at the sight of that overburdened trash can. Whoever you are, wherever you may be, I can only wish you, as one food-eater and germ-carrier to another, good health and happiness. With this note I have discharged my duty to you and I will go.

A Citizen

R. Gatwood has stories in Monkeybicycle, Nanoism, Per Contra and others.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Thiago Fonseca.

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