Carlton walked into the third-floor break room of the Atlanta offices of Bickering Plummet and approached the snack machine in the far corner. It was six-thirty in the afternoon and Carlton had been at his desk since seven-ten that morning, with no signs of his day ending anytime soon. Fortunately, for Carlton, the machine contained his favorite snack, the Cinnamon Crumbcake, which only made an appearance once or twice a year, so Carlton drew some consolation from that. The Crumbcakes had actually been in the machine for several days, but they had been trapped behind a gooey looking honey bun that seemed well past its expiration date, and Carlton had not wanted to purchase such a disgusting looking item just to free them. At last, a secretary from the fifth floor, who was trying to purchase potato chips, accidentally keyed in the wrong number and liberated the Crumbcakes, so Carlton had been enjoying them ever since. Carlton was certain he was the only one in the office who ate them, and his suspicions were borne out by the fact that every day the number had not decreased from the last time Carlton purchased one.
At the machine, Carlton was happy to see there were still four of the Crumbcakes left, so he removed a dollar from his wallet and put it in the slot. The machine whirred and dropped his selection but then, rather than giving Carlton his change, the machine spit out the dollar he’d put in. Carlton was taken aback by what had just happened and contemplated his next move very carefully. Assured in the reality of what he had just experienced, he put the dollar back into the machine and requested another Crumbcake. Once again, the machine made its whirring noise as it dispensed his selection and once again, it spit out the dollar, rather than giving him change.
Overcome with awe, he immediately stepped away from the machine and removed his shoes, because he realized that the ground upon which he was standing was holy. Carlton had never been a religious man, but he was convinced that he was now in the presence of the lord. He performed the miracle twice more, securing the remaining Crumbcakes, then gathered his manna from heaven and took them to his desk.
After safely storing the goods in one of his drawers, he casually strolled over to the cubicle of his coworker Bart and leaned in.
“What’s up?” Bart said, without looking at Carlton, obviously feeling the effects of a long stressful day in front of his computer terminal.
“Go into the break room, put a dollar in the snack machine, and make a selection,” Carlton said.
“Why?” Bart said, in a voice that suggested he was in no mood for foolishness.
“Just do it. You’ll figure it out.”
Carlton returned to his desk as Bart rose and headed toward the break room. Several minutes elapsed, before Bart appeared at Carlton’s cube, wearing a wide grin, and holding several packages of chips and crackers.
“Man, that’s cool!”
“I knew you’d think so,” Carlton said.
“What do you think’s causing it?”
Carlton pondered the question a moment, then shook his head. “It’s probably just out of change, but I choose to see it as a miracle from the lord.”
“Are you serious?”
“No, but to think otherwise means we’d have to report it,” Carlton replied.
“Good point,” Bart said before returning to his desk. Holding his hands aloft, he proclaimed, “Praise be to the lord!”
For the next several days, Carlton and Bart dwelt in the land of plenty, and whenever someone would approach either of them for change to use in the machine, they gladly complied, not wanting to give away the sacred knowledge to which they’d been entrusted.
Finally, one afternoon, as they were in the break room contemplating what they wanted from the machine, Rose, the facilities manager came in to purchase something.
“You guys actually going to get something or are you just window shopping?” she said as she stepped past them.
“Need some change?” Bart spoke up quickly, as Rose took a dollar from her pocket.
“Why? I’ll just use a dollar.”
Before either man could intervene, Rose had deposited her dollar and selected the numbers corresponding to the Sour Apple Twizzlers. Just as always, after dispensing the item, the machine returned the dollar to her.
“Did you see that?” she said, holding the dollar up.
“See what?” Carlton said, looking away from her.
“I put in a dollar and the machine spit it back out,” Rose responded.
“I didn’t see anything,” Bart said.
Carlton shrugged. “Me neither.”
“That’s a load of crap,” Rose replied. “You were both standing right here.”
Carlton stepped forward and confronted her. “We choose to see this as a miracle from the lord — the miracle of the magic dollar. You don’t question miracles; you just rejoice in them, as I’m sure it says, somewhere in the bible.”
Rose put her hands on her hips, and tilted her head.
“This isn’t a miracle,” Rose said, “the machine’s malfunctioning.”
“The effect is miraculous regardless of the cause,” Carlton said. “I refuse to question the vessel through which the lord makes his presence known.”
“How long has it been doing this?” she asked Bart.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied.
“Guys, this should have been reported,” Rose told them. “This is someone’s livelihood, you know.”
Bart leaned toward Rose and spoke in a confidential tone. “Look, I understand that when stuff like this happens, the snack guy gets ripped off, but seriously, eighty cents for Cheezits? Even in the wide world of overpriced vending food, that’s excessive.”
Rose considered this. “Yeah, you’ve got a point. I mean, I can get these Twizzlers at Costco for about twenty cents a pack. There’s the distribution angle and all, but still that’s a pretty hefty markup.”
“Besides, this machine has ripped me off plenty of times, and I rarely complain about it,” Carlton said. “The way I see it, this just evens it all out.”
Rose shook her head. “I’ll give you until the end of the week, but if no one else calls this in, I’ll have to. It’s my job, you know?”
“Bless you, sister,” Bart said, making the sign of the cross in front of her.
“Cut it out,” Rose said and walked away from them. “Close of business Friday, got it?”
The following Monday, the vending guy returned and fixed whatever it was that had been causing the machine to dispense the dollars. Carlton watched in silent resignation as the vendor restocked the shelves.
“Hey, buddy,” the vendor said in a cheery tone. “Got any requests?”
“What about the Cinnamon Crumbcakes?” Carlton asked.
The vendor shook his head. “Sorry guy, they’ve been discontinued. They weren’t very popular, from what I hear. Strange, because they always sell out at this location.”
Carlton nodded and headed over to Bart’s cubicle.
“Is it done?” Bart asked, to which Carlton nodded.
“Let us not lament that which is past,” Carlton replied in the cadence of a preacher. “Rather let us take solace in knowing that for a brief moment, we were in the presence of something greater than ourselves. That’s something we can tell our kids one day.”
Bart thought about it, then said, “I don’t have any kids.”
“You know what I mean,” Carlton replied.