“Yellow. It was yellow.”
The man sat down in a dejected, broken hump, the pieces of his body leaden lumps hastily patched together. Any small shift in balance might send him toppling over. Looking at him like that made the woman behind the counter feel somehow heavier herself.
“Can you tell me where you may have lost it, Henry?” the woman asked, trying to offer up a small bit of encouragement. But really she was just trying to keep herself from drowning in the enormous weight of the moment. It was a secretly selfish motivation, brought on by endless days of burdensome encounters just like this one.
“No, I…,” the man squished up his face, trying to squeeze the memory out of his brain, “I don’t know where it could have gone.” He let out a huge sigh that smelled of sulfur and practically colored the surrounding air an unappetizing green.
The woman winced. I don’t remember the cafeteria serving eggs for breakfast, she thought to herself.
“Well, Henry, perhaps you should go back to your project.” The woman pointed to a table off to the left. A half-finished puzzle lay on top, the pieces taking shape into an idyllic, if worn, winter landscape. She wished she could will herself to that place.
The man shifted, looking quizzically to his left, as if having forgotten all about the project. A tiny squeak emanated from his bottom.
The woman held her breath, waiting for another malodorous attack, but it didn’t come. She sighed with relief. “I’m sure it will show up somewhere.”
The man hefted his gelatinous shape up off the bench and over towards the table. Each step brought forth a tiny cheep or squeal.
“Uh, Henry,” the woman called out to him as he reached the half-completed distraction. As he turned to look back at her, she held out a finger while the other hand covered the smile spreading on her lips. “Look,” she said, pointing towards him and choking back a laugh.
The man turned this way and that, but could not find the source of her sudden amusement.
“Behind you,” she clarified.
The man swung around, clawing at his flimsy gown with his great meaty arms. His torso chased his backside until he stood with his back towards the woman. There, stuffed into the crack of his bulging buttocks, was the bottom of a plastic duck, the head presumably wedged into his great crevasse.
“There it is!” cried the man as he unceremoniously plucked the ducky from his fleshy folds with a pop. “Thank you, nurse!”
“No problem, Henry,” the woman replied as she rolled her eyes and resumed counting tiny pills into small paper cups.