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The Essay
Show #134
A Loaf of Halva
David Gunn
It was 5:30 on a Friday afternoon when the phone rang. It was August and so humid that the ballpoint I was using to autograph last month's rent check stuck to my hand like a magnetic tattoo on a four-day old herring. Outside, the sun sat relentlessly hot and heavy in the sky, beating down with enough intensity to fry the puddles of weasel spit that had collected in pockets of the South Florida macadam. Agnes was still seated at the switchboard attempting to retrieve voice mail. She had been at it for seven hours and was convinced that the cybermailbox could only be accessed from a parallel universe that was rich in hyperspace whimsy. On the tenth ring she finally answered but, practicing the art of conceptual redundancy, she didn't actually say anything until she'd thought about it for a minute. "Beadle and Tatum, private investigators," she intoned, her voice edgy but businesslike, if you call pouring sulfuric acid over a side order of pasta salad businesslike.

"Hello, dear, it's Sister Florenta again. Is Mr. Beadle in?"

Agnes was many things -- a geometric anomaly, a panda in pajamas, a distortion in the gravity chain, a registered charlatan, Antioch's gift horse -- but she was not dear in any sense of the word to me or to any other sentient creature in this hemisphere. Although the office was officially closed for the day and I was supposedly unavaiable, she hot-wired my speaker phone and transferred the call.

"Hello, Bailey, it's ..." She needn't have said any more. Instantly I recognized the dank contralto of Sister Florenta of the Church of the Divine Approximation, an order of retro-Trappist lady monks whose grasp on reality mystified even the most devout postulants. The hearing receptors of my brain dove for cover, but it was too late. The clergywoman had already begun to describe her church's new position on the Law of Inexact Phonetic Displacement, followed by some gibberish about the Appleby Layer's effect on collection plate dust bunnies. Much as I wanted to hang up, I couldn't. The church was one of our last paying clients; I had to be at least outwardly attentive. While Sister Florenta spoke of aqualung-toting smugglers who'd purloined 100,000 earthworms from an exhibit at the New Bodleian Library down in Key West, I sat fidgeting with my tie, fashioning several unusual knots: the Pirate Jenny, the mottled three-banger, the Flemish fisherman's bend, the flambeau oriange, the transverse crushed sesame. When I tied that last hitch, a light bulb clicked on in the refrigerator section of my mind, and I suddenly remembered a tasty confection Id stashed in the bottom drawer of my desk. Rummaging through stacks of long forgotten bills, I triumphantly pulled out a loaf of halva, hard as a brick after untold weeks in unhermetically sealed hiding. Stale, but still delicious, and as I broke off and chewed on a chunk, I reflected that, no matter their devout intent and fine black and white duds, a halva loaf is better than nuns.

The premises of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar are as usual bereft of halva or any other snack, however the show in general and this 134th episode in particular does have plenty of other succulent harmonic morsels to curb the musical appetite of even the most discriminating listener, including but not limited to, for example, Kalvos.