A Canadian Standoff
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rating: +20+x

The time was exactly 11:11 AM. The place, dead center and laser-precise in the middle of a Site-43 Habitation and Sustenance breakroom. The people? Doctor Matthieu Montesquieu, a paper restoration expert, Junior Researcher Victor Vaquero, an intern specializing in low-cost containment engineering, and Senior Researcher Pique Choler.

Senior Researcher Pique Choler needs no introduction, but receives one here because he threatened to pour glitter in my opened bag if I didn’t write something flattering. Choler was a proud American, a self-advertised advocate for traditional values, and an active pillar in his community, bringing a warm light to everyone around him.

Choler was also the human personification of wrath and pride, an evangelical juggernaut of American cuisine, a cornerstone in the foundations of Pandæmonium, and a man who brought all the warm light of a nuclear disaster to anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in his presence. Choler was also temporarily stationed at Site-43, and while most of us innocents were initially unaware of his existence, that blissful naivety was scoured away in a matter of hours by the first of the many culinary inquisitions and raids that left us half-starved.

It had begun only a week ago now, when poor Doctor Chen Nue sought their lunch after a particularly and notably stressful seminar, only to find the lovingly-packed and home-made meal they were expecting absent. The only remnants of the devastation were a few small crumbs of quiche and a slightly-crumpled note that told of a baked kindness that would never come. They were inconsolable.

The reign of terror dredged on for six more endless days saturated with unbridled suspicion and abject terror. Any innocent soul who dared to pack delicacies from home was at risk, as the monster responsible for the pillaging would even strike several times per day, motivated to eat multiple people’s packed meals by their cruelty and senseless desire to feed off of our hopes and dreams. Every day someone would unleash a torrent of far-fetched speculation that made even the most reserved listeners froth at the mouth with hunger and righteous rage; before being returned to their senses by the almost-tangible and equally extreme punishments that would eventually befall the lunch-stealing culprit.

We could, and would have sacrificed an innocent man to appease whatever higher being that cursed us, and we would be willing to do so again if the long days of culinary chaos didn’t end.

However, the monstrosity turned himself in of his own accord, as his audacity and sheer boldness knew no bounds. Victor, mere minutes ago, had opened the breakroom fridge with a wail. The usual condolences from broken souls circled around the room; Victor began to beg for spare nutrition bars, when Choler piped up from the corner of the room.

“Who the fuck bags milk?”

The question was innocent enough at first, most of us chuckled because we knew America sold milk in cartons, and Choler was clearly experiencing culture shock.

“And why would you ever eat ketchup-flavored chips?”

Victor went pale as the milk Choler was attempting to drink.

“Hey, Pique?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re not eating my lunch, are you? Those are the same things I packed.”

Choler laughed the sinister belly laugh of a true villain. The room, enveloped in electric tension, may have been quiet; but the sudden, forceful pulsing of our angry hearts filled the sensory void.

“Well, when you put food in the community fridge, you can’t get mad when someone takes food out.”

Doctor Montesquieu saw his opportunity to guide the room away from imminent mob justice, and tried to politely explain something to Researcher Choler.

“Pique, I know America might have shared fridges for workplaces, but we don’t do that here. If you’re taking people’s lunches out to eat, it’s without their permission. I don’t blame you, you didn’t know-”

Victor saw his own opportunity to bring the room back to imminent mob justice, and interrupted Montesquieu.

“There’s absolutely no way he didn’t know, Matthieu. Someone had packed Chen a note addressed to them personally, and his lunch still got snatched.”

“Hey, hey. I can’t read things close to my face without glasses. I thought it was just a napkin when I opened the bag.”

Victor finished his devastating one-two punch.

“You just admitted it! You took the food we brought for ourselves, and you don’t even wear glasses!”

Choler’s next gambit, one with limited potential to resolve the situation, was pleading insanity.

“Well yes, that’s my point. I can’t read things close to my face without glasses, and I don’t wear glasses. Ergo, there was no way I could have known that those lunches were not intended for me.”

“Victor, try and take a few steps back. Pique’s from the U.S, he might not have the health insurance to afford the glasses he needs.”

“Matthieu, I saw Choler park a sports car this morning! He’s a self-absorbed asshat with more than enough money to afford fucking glasses!”

At this point, Victor was visibly shaking. He hadn’t eaten since early last night, and it was now 11:07. If it was 11:09, or maybe even 11:08 when he had caught Choler, all semblance of self-restraint would have been thrown out the window along with Choler and some nearby furniture. However, it was still 11:07, and instead Victor stood up and walked over to the lunch thief, his entire body and mind permeated by barely-contained fury.

Doctor Montesquieu stepped between them.

“Please, Victor, don’t do this. You’ve only been here a few months, and you’re an excellent candidate for a new hire around here. Don’t let this man, no matter how much he may be annoying you, get in your way.”

Choler stood up now, stepped away from his table, and made the third point in the triangle of disagreement. Now the scene was set, the audience’s attention was undivided, and the show began.

“So what if I ate your food? I did it by accident, I have proof that I did it by accident, and I can make sure that you have an ‘accident’.”

Choler’s use of finger quotes while he spoke with unfiltered smugness and the telltale signs of an upcoming egotistical monologue made even the peace-loving Montesquieu begin to slip into irritability.

“Hensely, don’t listen to him. I don’t know how the hell the American Sites work, but we don’t do that kind of thing around here. He’s just bullshitting.”

“Bullshitting, am I? I can make all of your packed lunches disappear with an email!”

Montesquieu had seen the early warning signs, and didn’t act on them fast enough. Victor was too busy plotting how best to knock out Choler’s teeth to notice either, and at this point, the American had already jumped into the full supervillain monologue.

He gestured wildly towards the room, as his spectacular and equally unforgivable plans were unveiled to us threatened bystanders.

“It all began with the missing food! Did you think I was taking multiple packed lunches a day for shits and giggles? I knew some of you would have sent complaints to Human Resources, striking the department with the special fear of a somewhat-possible legal conflict they’d have to deal with.”

“The ancient saying about Human Resources is that they protect the company, and not the worker, and this saying is even more than true now. They’ll be itching to propose and implement a radical solution to this problem that eliminates any possibility of this problem ever arising again.”

Victor, Montesquieu, and everyone else in the breakroom stood and sat completely dumbfounded. A Senior Researcher who was nearing 20 years of employment with the Foundation was ranting like the main antagonist in a spy movie, except the target of his dastardly plan was packed meals instead of a major continent or landmark.

“My cousin, who says he’s friends with a Site Director in Canada, can easily get the word to them that something around here needs to change, and I can ban packed lunches entirely from these premises.”

Montesquieu managed to escape from the haze of confusion that had settled throughout the room, and interrupted Choler midway through the spectacular rant.

“But why? What did our lunches do to you?”

“I had the unbelievable misfortune of tasting your food! Bagged milk? Fucking ketchup chips? The ketchup chips were actually sort of alright, but bagged milk took it too far! And the worst of the worst, poutine! I hate that stuff! Who the hell puts gravy on fries? Disgusting.”

“My point is that I’m going to make it so the only food you will be able to eat in the new cafeteria is American. Good, old-fashioned, and delicious food from the land of freedom!”

It was now 11:11, the wishmaking time. Victor, who had focused on their anger so intensely as to wrap back again to a zen-like calmness, made a wish and threw a punch.

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