The Gum Thief
Finally, as much as I hate the damn thing and its endless, droning, perky lightness, I enter it.

Glove Pond: Kyle

    Kyle Falconcrest remembered his first day on the job in the office superstore, the fateful job that led to his grand insight that he should set his second novel in such a place. He was almost thirty, old enough that at night he'd begun dreaming that he'd be working a crappy day job forever. He saw no escape. Kyle had made the mistake of thinking that working in a bookstore or a place where office supplies were sold would bring him closer to the throbbing pulse of modern literature. To Kyle, literature was a place of experimentation-a laboratory, an art gallery where exciting new ideas never, ever, ever, ever stopped.
    He remembered his first day on the job, being assigned his first aisle: Tape, Fasteners, Correction Fluids, Pens, Pencils and Markers. He was told that if he did well, after a year or so he would be promoted and Aisle SA would be added to his territory: Art Supplies, Educational Supplies, Scissors and Rigid Art Boards.
    Kyle never got used to the office superstore. Although it was brightly lit and sterile, he couldn't help but look at the endless truckloads of toner cartridges and flash cards and protractors and laser printers and imagine how they would all end up either mummified inside a regional landfill, or incinerated, the ashes floating about the Van Allen radiation belt, soaking up extra heat from the sun and hastening the total meltdown of the polar ice caps. To Kyle, the office superstore was a slow-motion end of the world in progress. You had to look at the place, squint, and pretend you were watching stop-frame animation in which the camera snapped a photo only once a month. Seasons would come and go. The winters would get warmer and warmer, the ground ever more covered in soot. The number of animals and birds crossing the parking lot would dwindle. The grasses and shrubs near the entrance/exit would wither and then, after a few decades, the road headed west, away from the store, would vanish as the ocean rose. And yet people would still be buying presentation portfolio covers, extension cords, Bankers Boxes and, on impulse, gum.
    Kyle considered all of this as he stared at Steve, who was blathering on to Brittany about that quintet of doorstops he called his novels. They were neither trendy nor timeless nor contemporary nor passé. Steve's novels inhabited some parallel time stream where time didn't exist. To find one of Steve's novels in a second-hand store was to experience the same sort of lump in the chest one feels when reading in the paper about a baby being smothered by parents on crack. Poor little thing. And yet Brittany was twirling the ends of her hair like a cheerleader flirting with a jock. Kyle found it shocking that he could love someone who was a fan of Steve's novels, let alone be married to her. Liking or disliking Steve's work should be a mating pre-selection factor on par with heterosexuality and homosexuality. In this one way, Brittany truly baffled him.
    He glanced at Gloria, who was wearing the pleasant, tuned-out expression used by presidential wives during dinner speeches and idly fondling her spleen.
    "When is dinner?" he asked.

Glove Pond

    As Kyle Falconcrest asked his semi-rude question about dinner's readiness, Gloria was thinking about lipsticks.

    She was thinking about the massive industrial base that had to exist in order for her to purchase a single tube of Ruby Tuesday at the town's sole remaining non-Wal-Martized department store, a doomed and dispirited brick heap not far from her stationery dealer. Lipstick makers had to secretly kill thousands of whales without Greenpeace looking on, and then they had to flense the blubber from the carcass and stuff it into zinc canisters to ship to her favourite cosmeticians' factories. The blubber then had to be boiled into bacteria-free goo, at which point a staggering amount of pigment and stabilizers and

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