These are old occupations. In Vatican City there is no
internet, not until after they've sent their white smoke
rising. Black smoke means they're still at it. Here
it would mean the bagel's burning. There's no white kind.
They used to carry them around on sticks, which is why
the hole in the middle, and we keep it even though
sometimes the butter ends up pooling right in the middle
of the plate. We keep things the way they are.
The Cardinals—do they sit around a table, a dark table
older than America? They may have bagels of their own,
though it's hard to imagine them licking cream cheese
off their thumbs. But things do change. They used to
lock the bishops in the chapel until they got it done, and now
there are hotels and buses. They wake up to a coffee maker,
maybe a continental breakfast. And I've got a toaster,
and a food processor to make the hummus, everything
I need. There may be windows high up in the wall,
shuttered. Nobody's allowed to see things in process.
The Cardinals crowd around, one of them almost a Pope. Me,
I'm already eating the bagel.
"While They Choose a New Pope I Eat a Bagel" is reprinted from
Some Unimaginable Animal, copyright © 2019 by David Ebenbach,
by permission of Orison Books, Inc. All rights reserved. www.orisonbooks.com