November 26, 2008

Fiction for a Wednesday
It was 1963 and I was working undercover for the London Underground. February 26th began like any normal day. The first hurdle was getting through the revolving doors.

As a subway agent I was given access to the secret tunnels but a certain percentage of colleagues would get stuck in the revolving doors because of poor card timing. I got stuck myself once. You have to swipe the card and then wait for "accepted" to appear on a small computer screen (the Underground was ahead of its time). But many would swipe their cards and then enter immediately without waiting for the verification. The doors would slam, shutting you inside the little glass cocoon, helpless as a fish in an aquarium. Ever afterward your breath would catch in suspense in those long two seconds before the door breached the other side.

Beyond that was warmth and coziness. Ten steps to your left there were banquet rooms, semi-ornate by the usual standards. They held appeal just for the fact they never seemed to be used. I'd always peer in as if in hopes of catching someone with their feet up reading a novella.

About twenty yards later there was the cafeteria that held within it donuts and coffee, or coffee and donuts as is colloquially known. Comfort food. There was a newspaper stand at the entrance with the pleasing sensation of print and I'd scan the headlines. Sometimes I'd pick one up, like the day "The Flying Scotsman" in its British Railways guise as No. 60103 made its last scheduled run before going into the hands of Sir Alan Pegler for preservation.

Once inside the cafeteria - on that Februrary 26th day - I was ineluctably drawn to a fabulous new creation, something I'd not seen in the previous ten thousand days spent working undercover at the Underground.

It was a holistic in its wholeness and its roundness, a sight for sore eyes as it sat there unassumingly on a table full of other delectables. The label read simply "Cinnamon Rolls - £2" but it looked like one continuous cinnamon roll to me, a sort of bundt cake with white icing gushing from peaks and crevices like a circular Alpine range.

An impulse purchase, it sat on my desk at the Underground for approximately 52 minutes untouched. Was the scent of vanilla in the air my imagination or did it escape the confines of the tightly sealed container? I opened it, rather noisely it seemed, annoying co-workers. The white icing was as nectar, a taste that combined the freshness of a May dew with the sweetness of those German castles along the Rhine that look almost fake...

(To be continued later, I'm too hungry...)

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