Hundreds and thousands

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

They are half an hour into the meeting when he reaches for a cupcake from the platter in the middle of the table. All faces are turned to the front of the room, where the presenter punctuates every statement with a fresh Powerpoint slide – bold images, designed to inspire. Nobody is looking his way.

He knows as he picks it up that this bun could be the undoing of him – barely enough cake to support the mountain of icing, glistening lasciviously, and hundreds and thousands sprinkled in such a way that the minute he takes a bite, they will scatter everywhere, crunching underfoot every time he adjusts his chair.

It is not a cake, it is a distraction, but he has committed now, and to push it aside after one bite, or, worse, to leave it untouched in front of him, would send out messages to the others gathered round the table. The message would make inferences about his bravery, his ambition, his leadership.

He is cornered.

Hoping that the presentation isn’t about to end, and that he isn’t obliged to speak imminently, he raises the cake to his mouth. He thinks he’ll just take a small bite.

The bun smothers him in an overbearing embrace, so that what was intended as a chaste peck becomes the epicurean equivalent of that girl in the fourth year at school who’d do anything for a packet of rolos – all tongue, all sticky hands, and you wouldn’t want your mates to know, no matter what you’d got up to. This is that awkward fumble, played out in public as everyone else stares more fixedly at the screen and at the woman who is busy telling them about inward investment opportunities.

‘Inward investment’, he thinks to himself as the sugary tingle of the icing seeks out every dental failure in his mouth. He finds himself making a mental note to find the source of these cakes and strike them from the Preferred Supplier list. Never again.

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