Kate Visits the Lab

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Everybody has arrived and gotten pretty well settled into their various projects, with the possible exception of Brian who seems to be splitting is time between working and surreptitiously surfing, when a soft little knock comes at the door jamb.

Ulrich, who has been muttering to himself over the latest intransigence of his chip inspection project, spins around in his chair with a snarl, intending to say something along the lines of fuck off, and continuing his spin until his back is to the door again. It is a maneuver he has practiced many times, and it is the reason the other veterans in the lab do not even respond to the knock. The spin-fuck-off maneuver is shocking to its victims because of the disparity between Ulrich’s size and that of the chair. It looks like he should topple over every time, but the move is always accomplished with all the ease and grace to be expected of any typical six-and-a-half foot Teutonic warrior-ballerina.

This time, however, he plants his legs to instantly stop the maneuver in mid-spin, and his snarl turns to a smile. “Hi, Kate!” he announces, with the subtlety of a truck horn, then sees what she is carrying and adds “Oh my god.”

“Donuts, gentlemen!” Kate announces as everyone else turns toward her. Everyone else except Chris. She carries the white cardboard box to the unused-except-for-junk table in the room’s near corner and opens it to display one dozen chocolate-frosted donuts.”And I believe,” she says, smiling “you already know where the coffee is.”

“Oh, Katie,” Jon says. “Marry me!”

“Don’t listen to him, Kate,” Brian says calmly. “He’s already married.”

“Kind of,” Ulrich laughs.

“And one wife is all he gets,” Saed adds. “I think he drinks too much to be a Muslim.”

“Keep talking, girls,” Jon says. He stood up the moment Kate opened the box and is now leaning over it, having already carefully selected two of the apparently identical donuts. “I’m getting the good ones.”

“Mr Dunham,” Kate enunciates the words like a first grade teacher cautioning an unruly six-year-old, “share with your friends.”

“Yeah, some friends,” Jon mutters.

“Are those from Meijer’s?” Neal asks, looking wistfully at the donuts. Now everybody is standing up to get in on the action.

Everyone except Chris.

Neal, producing a white plastic knife from his desk, leans down to carefully cut a donut in half, while Brian and Ulrich both take whole ones.

“You know,” Brian says, “it’s the same number of calories if you eat half now and half later.”

Rescuing one donut at great personal risk, Kate takes it to Chris and sets it down on his desk on a napkin.

“Hi, Chris,” she says.

At first it appears as though Chris hasn’t heard her, but after a moment he looks up and focuses on her with his clear blue eyes. At that moment, however, a soft chime sounds from his screen, and he turns back toward it without having said a word. He doesn’t so much as glance at the donut.

Neal raises an eyebrow as Kate turns away, but she just smiles and shrugs.

“And with that, gentlemen, I bid you adieu.”

“That’s it?” Jon asks after her. “No hidden agenda?”

Walking toward the hallway Kate replies over her shoulder, “Donuts now, timesheets this afternoon. I’m softening you up!”

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