Before you ask, yes — this is a terrible pun. But I refuse to apologize! This story was based around the title and it’s a (somewhat silly) exploration of feminism where everyone is a baked good. I maintain that it is still an accurate reflection of society.
I tell you, some days it ain’t easy being an almond.
This morning was no exception when I arrived at the station only to find that I’d been summoned to my boss’s office quick-smart. It seemed to me that that oily bâtard Strudelmeyer had looked just a little bit smug when he’d delivered the news, but I couldn’t risk rubbing the chief the wrong way so I pocketed my sarcastic remark for later and double-timed it to the back room. Police Chief Gluten, my boss, is a mean-looking baguette with a baked-on scowl and a jagged white scar across his cheek where he was winged by a twisted pretzel with an icing gun way back when. As I squeezed breathlessly in through the door he shot me a venomous glance before returning to what he was doing, which was shouting angrily into the nutellaphone. Forget what you hear about baguettes being softies at heart — ol’ Grinder is every crumb as mean as he looks and twice as crusty.
‘What do you mean, required? Listen, I’m in charge of this investigation, and you can take your half-baked quotas and –‘
He listened to a rather harried-sounding voice from the other end, and his mouth drew into a thin line. I hovered anxiously.
‘The commissioner said? You can’t expect me to believe –‘
The pastry at the other end garbled something I couldn’t make out but which must have been not what Gluten wanted to hear, because he ground his teeth like a virtuoso, justifying the force’s nickname for him, “Grinder”.
‘And you’re sure? What about — no, I — yes, yes, I know — but, yes, fine. Fine!’
With this he slammed down the receiver with such force that I jumped, startled. Ignoring me entirely, Gluten kneaded at his doughy forehead with the one hand while he kept the other clenched and rigid on his desk. An extremely uncomfortable couple of seconds passed where he seemed to have forgotten I was there, but just as I was contemplating waiting outside, he looked up and fixed me with a nasty stare.
I refused to be intimidated and instead replied with what I hoped was infuriating neutrality.
‘Yes, sir. Strudelmeyer said that you wanted to see me.’
‘Correct. And do you know why I wanted to see you, officer?’
Now that was a good question. As far as I was aware, Gluten couldn’t stand me and took every opportunity he could to avoid acknowledging my existence. Why he should have summoned me personally was a mystery.
‘No, sir, Strudelmeyer didn’t specify.’
‘That’s because Strudelmeyer is an idiot. You are here because I have a case for you, Nuttingham.’
‘Sir?’ My surprise was genuine — normally the chief handed the day’s menials down through a lackey, presumably because that way he wouldn’t have to look at me. To assign me a case in the crust was an unprecedented occurrence and definitely against the chief’s grain.
‘Don’t get excited, officer. You know very well my views on almonds in the police force, and those have not changed.’ He narrowed his eyes and ground his teeth at me a bit more.
‘But my hands are tied. Head office has decided that we need equal representation in high-profile investigations to improve our public image –‘ he spat it out like a curse — ‘and so you will be accompanying officer Bagelwurst on his case.’
‘Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best.’
‘I honestly couldn’t care less what you do, Nuttingham. I told HO quite clearly that nuts like you sliver under pressure, but if they insist then that’s their headache and not mine. The proof will be in the pastry. Now get out!’
I smiled thinly though shaking at his unfairness and sidled out, resisting the urge to slam the door behind me. Taking only a moment to collect myself, I strode grimly back through the office, feeling the eyes of the other police pastries upon me. Why was Gluten so set on treating me like a second-class citizen? As a respectable roasted almond, wasn’t I every bit as much a baked good as he was? I picked my way through the maze of shortbread partitions to Bagelwurst’s cubicle.
‘Yes?’ he said, raising one sesame-seed eyebrow as if to ask‘What the nut are you doing here?’ I didn’t mind too much. Bagelwurst wasn’t too bad — I mean, at the very least he was honest on account of everyone being able to see straight through him. So what if I was only here on some nutty political pretext? I couldn’t let Gluten’s attitude get to me — in all honesty, I was feeling more than a little Gluten-intolerant recently. I stared Bagelwurst down.
‘Chief sent me over. Said I was to work your case with you.’ He tried and failed to conceal his surprise. Like I said, you could see right through him.
‘You? That doesn’t sound like the chief at all.’ He smirked. ‘Unless being saddled with me is punishment for something. What’d you do, Nuttingham?’
‘Nothing. So what’s the case?’
‘No, hold on, I got one. Sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin?’ I merely glared in a way I hoped accurately conveyed how unimpressed I was. He scowled. ‘You’re no fun.’
‘The case, Bagelwurst.’
‘Oh, whatever. It’s a joke. As open-and-shut as they get. Some lightly toasted pecan goes and gets herself pasted all over the sidewalk in Court Crumpet. It’s on my desk somewhere.’ He waved airily towards the mess of papers spread haphazardly across his desk.
Image credit Mark Stivers http://www.markstivers.com