by Andy Rausch
The day had been a piss-poor one so far, but at long last lunch break had come to the rescue, offering Donny Mead a brief reprieve from his monotonous factory work. The breaks were staggered so only a handful of workers would be away from their positions at any given moment. Because of this, the bright white, overly-sterile break room only contained a couple of occupants at present. Donny approached the old fridge, surveying it to ascertain whether or not the Break Room Bandit had left any messages posted there. Unfortunately, he had not.
The much-ballyhooed Break Room Bandit was some heretofore unknown employee who had repeatedly eaten another worker’s bologna sandwiches. This caused the rightful owner of the sandwiches to become angry and post an ignorant, misspelling-laden threat that he (you just know it was “he”) would beat the shit out of whomever was eating said sandwiches. This, in turn, caused the perpetrator to go right on eating them, leaving mocking missives on the refrigerator door. One such message read: “It’s me, the Break Room Bandit, and I have once again eaten your sandwich. But the thing is, I really, really hate bologna. So, with this in mind, could you please bring either ham-and-cheese loaf or pickle-loaf next time? (I’m really fond of the various loaves.) If you could do that, I would be forever in your debt. Thanks! Yours truly, the Break Room Bandit.”
Being mocked infuriated the other guy (Donny still didn’t know who the identities of either party), prompting him to write the ever-so-eloquent pronouncement “THIS MY SANDWICH BITCH” on the top of his wrapped sandwich each day. One might think the questionably-literate person scrawling these oh-so-clever declarations might get lucky one day and actually write something semi-intelligent. But no, this did not occur. Each and every day, without fail, the message was the same: “THIS MY SANDWICH BITCH.”
As Donny reached into the fridge, stretching his hand beyond the freshly-labeled sandwich, to retrieve his blueberry yogurt, it occurred to him that the person bringing the sandwiches should simply poison them. Of course. It was so simple. Why didn’t he just do that? Donny could produce no adequate answer for this question. It would, he believed, be the perfect crime. If the illiterate sandwich scrawler used the right poison, the Break Room Bandit would eat it and then scurry back to his home, dying there as poisoned cockroaches do. This was perfect. How could anyone possibly know the sandwich had originated at the factory? There was no way. Making this scenario even better, if the victim lived with another person, that person would be a suspect long before any coworkers. Since the killer and the victim probably didn’t know one another, no one could connect them. Maybe this wasn’t quite as clever as stabbing someone with an icicle, which was said to be the end-all be-all perfect murder, but it was still pretty damned good. In fact, this plan was so good that it bothered Donny to think of it going to waste.
Donny sat down with his plastic spoon, digging into the yogurt container, considering possible outcomes of such a poisoning. Then it occurred to him to poison the sandwich himself. He had no way of knowing who might eat it and die. It could really go either way—either the sandwich’s owner or this Break Room Bandit fella. Donny found he didn’t really care which of them died. This, he thought, would be a grand experiment. He’d always been intrigued by the idea of murdering someone. Here, with the person being completely random and unknown to him, it seemed perfect. Tomorrow, he thought. Tomorrow I will poison someone and see what happens.
That night when he finally got home, Donny couldn’t get to the Internet fast enough. His plan was to investigate different types of poisons and find something suitable for the task. He went to a search engine, stopping. He considered for a moment, trying to decide what he should type. Finally he submitted the words “types of ingested poison lethal.” The search produced a variety of websites, and he scanned them carefully. When he came to a listing of the top ten most lethal poisons, he knew he’d struck paydirt. Reading through the list, he passed on a couple of substances, either due to their killing someone too rapidly (when they would still be at work) or their being too difficult to obtain. Then he came to a listing for Strychnine. Donny didn’t know much about poisons, but he’d heard of Strychnine. Here he learned it was easy to obtain and that it was a common pesticide that could be purchased anywhere. The thought of the particularly gruesome death it brought about—every muscle in the victim’s body simultaneously spasming violently until they died of exhaustion—appealed to him greatly.
After completing his research, Donny scarfed down a bowl of beef-flavored ramen. Then, after he finished, he drove out to Walmart, where he purchased some generic blue after shave, a Star Wars t-shirt, a bag of Lemonheads candies, and a $12 bottle of Martin’s Gopher Bait, comprised almost entirely of Strychnine. This could work, he thought gleefully as he scanned the items through the self-check reader. He paid for the stuff, grabbed the bags, and made his way back out to his Honda Accord, wondering if the taste of Strychnine would be obvious when his mark bit into it.
The next day at work was hell, Donny waiting anxiously for lunch break. He was ready to do this. So when lunch time finally arrived, he made a beeline to the break room. He was the first one in, and he glanced around furtively. There was no sandwich-related correspondence posted on the fridge today. He pulled the door open, looked behind him one last time, and reached in and grabbed the sandwich. He took it to the closest table, holding it close to his body, then lying it down with its proclamation/threat facing down. A couple of gargantuan women meandered into the room, heading directly to a table in the corner. Donny could hear them gossiping about someone being a “dumb sonofabitch.” This was good. They were paying him no mind. Donny went to work opening the wrapped sandwich. Once the plastic was peeled back, exposing the food, Donny popped the lid off the yellow mug he’d been carrying. He tilted it over the sandwich, pouring the tiniest bit of gopher bait onto it. The substance puddled up there, resting atop the deli mustard. After looking around to make sure no one would see, he re-wrapped it.
Donny stood up and returned the sandwich, sitting it where he’d found it, its moronic “SANDWICH BITCH” warning on full display. He then reached back further and seized his yogurt. Strawberry today. He returned to his table, listening to the heavyset women carry on about various dumb sonsofbitches, as visions of dead coworkers danced in his head.
The wait for the following day felt like an eternity. When it finally came, all of Donny’s coworkers were talking about a dead coworker named Susan. Donny didn’t know any Susans, so it didn’t seem like any deal to him. No one possessed any details regarding the circumstances of her demise, so he had no way of knowing if she had died by bologna-and-Strychnine sandwich. He figured this was mere coincidence considering the unlikelihood that either party had been female. (Their posted correspondence displayed a type of macho one-upsmanship that was uniquely male.) At lunch, Donny was startled to see a freshly-wrapped and labeled sandwich in the fridge. Now certain that Susan’s death was unrelated to the Gopher Bait, Donny went about his workday just as he had a thousand times before.
It wasn’t until the following day he heard someone saying the police believed Susan might have been murdered. Poison, they said. But there was nothing beyond that, no details to speak of. Had Donny killed her? There was no way to be certain, but he now found it probable. After all, someone had eaten the sandwich. Who was to say it hadn’t been given to Susan, or even stolen by her?
At the end of his shift, Donny saw a flyer taped to the wall. It had a photograph of Susan, announcing her death. Looking at this, Donny recognized Susan as a curvy young woman of about twenty or so that he’d frequently gawked at from afar. She looked a lot like Taylor Swift, at least to him, only a dirtier, meth-using, trailer trash, tattooed version. Because of this, Donny had always thought of her affectionately as “White Trash Taylor Swift.” But now she was dead. Donny wondered what name might be appropriate for her now; “Deader-Than-Hell Taylor Swift”? “Worm Food Taylor Swift”? These thoughts made him smile, and then her proper nickname came to him: “Sandwich Bitch.” This seemed fitting given the circumstances. While she had (apparently) been neither the person who’d made the offending sandwich, nor the Lunch Room Bandit, their actions, inexplicably, had led to her demise. In considering this, Donny found that he didn’t feel one way or another about any of it, but thought he might miss staring at her passably-attractive features.
Several days passed before the local newspaper ran a front-page story explaining that police had concluded Susan had in fact been poisoned. The article made a vague reference to leads the cops were pursuing. Reading this, Donny grinned, feeling proud of what he’d done. This, he congratulated himself, was a perfect murder.
One day in the break room, Donny, eating his yogurt, overheard the two old cows from before, discussing their co-worker’s death. “They’re pretty sure it was her boyfriend,” said Cow Number One. “They got him in custody.”
Cow Number Two nodded, mulling it over. “They lived together?”
“Yeah, but they wasn’t married. That was part of it, the reason why Jesus saw fit to take her so young…because of the sin of her living with a man.”
“Maybe they weren’t having sex.”
“No,” said Cow Number Two. “They was.”
“How do you know?”
“Did you ever look at Susan? She looked…dirty, like the kind of girl that would have sex before marriage. Probably even butt sex.”
Listening to this, Donny nodded his head to the melody and cadence of their words. It was literally music to his ears. Not only had he gotten away with murder, but someone else was getting the blame.
Donny found a a level of enjoyment in having killed Sandwich Bitch that was unlike anything he’d experienced previously. This led to the inevitable question: should he do it again? He thought about this long and hard, giving it due consideration, but ultimately decided against it. While it was true that the two idiots trading barbs over the sandwiches were still engaging in this childish behavior, making it possible for him to repeat the act, it was dangerous. It was also selfish, the type of blood-drunken mistake killers made that led to their being captured.
Six weeks passed and Donny’s life had gotten back to normal. So much so that he no longer gave any thought to his having poisoned the girl. On this day, however, he was reminded of his actions by the most insignificant of things—a pack of Twinkies.
It was a Saturday afternoon and Donny was visiting the sky-rise where his Grammy June was spending her final days. Donny visited her every few weeks, but he hated going to the apartment building, overflowing with the elderly and disabled, seemingly passing time until their death. On first glance, it looked like any other apartment building. But this one was different. The first indication this was a death house was the shuffle board just inside the entrance, a sure sign of old people, which, in Donny’s hundred or so visits, he’d never seen a single person playing. Then there was the television area in the lobby, with a TV that seemed to air unlimited episodes of Judge Judy and Oprah. There was occasionally one or two residents situated there, watching Sean Hannity or the like, but sometimes there would be a single lonely old man sitting there, raptly watching the television, which no one had thought to switch on.
There was an elevator there, with a table beside it. There were religious tracts and stacks of coupons for a nearby pizza delivery joint sitting on it, and occasionally there would be one or two items of food. These random foodstuffs, which ranged from a can of green beans to a box of corn bread mix, were left by residents who had decided they didn’t want them. They were up for grabs, free to anyone. Maybe the person who inherited the green beans left behind a food item in its place. Donny wasn’t sure how it worked.
But today there was a pack of Twinkies. Donny made a mental note of them, not sure why they were important but nonetheless aware they were. He went up to the third floor and spent time with Grammy June, watching The People’s Court and discussing life events. (He did not share his murdering Sandwich Bitch with her, which, when left out of conversation, made his life seem awfully dull.) When their visit was over, he left, getting on the elevator once more. When he came to the bottom floor and stepped out, he saw that the Twinkies were gone. He still wasn’t sure why he was interested, but found himself thinking about them on his drive home.
Thinking of the Twinkies sitting there, waiting for some stranger to pick them up and carry them back to their apartment, made him reflect on Sandwich Bitch once more. This scenario, he saw, would provide him the opportunity to do it all over again, still going unnoticed. He smiled, feeling proud of himself for being smart enough to recognize this opportunity. Still driving, he saw a Mini-Mart on his right. He flipped on his turn signal, preparing to make a quick stop to buy Twinkies.