He hung up the phone and let the disappointment settle in. The breakfast he had just finished cooking before the call was no longer appetizing. He picked up the plate of pancakes and scraped them into the garbage. He took the plate of waffles and scraped them into the garbage. Today wasn’t the day to determine whether pancakes or waffles were better than the other. The phone call had scraped that idea into the garbage. At least the garbage was having a good day.
He put on his favorite denim jacket and walked out of the house. The Kansas morning greeted him with a gust of wind that blew out his post-breakfast cigarette, as if it knew he hadn’t actually had breakfast and didn’t deserve it. Kansas made you earn your rewards, unlike the softer states, specifically Nebraska.
His wife was in the distance cleaning up the viewing area of stray brochures and candy wrappers. They had a strict “No Candy” policy, but would have to add “No Candy Wrappers” to the sign, he guessed. As he crossed the field to his wife, he was joined by Margot. The golden retriever immediately sensed that there was a problem and adjusted her mood to match her owner’s. She was a good dog. He hoped he wouldn’t have to sell her now. He had taught her too many tricks to do that.
His wife heard him approach. Turning from her work, she smiled at her husband and their dog. She didn’t notice the air of grief that surrounded the two. She wasn’t as perceptive as Margot. Or as fast. Or as good at tricks.
“So?” she asked. “Which is it? Pancakes or waffles?”
He knelt to pick up a brochure. “I didn’t get to find out,” he said. He crumpled up the brochure.
“Hey! That one looked good. We could’ve reused that.”
“No. We couldn’t have.” He wanted her to understand without explaining the phone call, but she clearly wasn’t following. The dog got it, of course.
“Grant called.” He threw the crumpled up brochure into the garbage. Everything ended up in the garbage. Even he’d eventually end up in the garbage, if his lawyer made sure his will was followed out correctly. “It’s true.”
“How can he know. He’s probably lying. He’s always lying. He said he invented the harp and I checked a book and the harp is really old so he couldn’t–”
“He’s not lying,” he interrupted. “He went and saw it with his own eyes. It’s bigger than ours. A lot bigger.”
His wife turned from him to hide the tears welling up in her eyes. However, turning only gave her a direct view of the subject at hand. She stared at what had previously been her and her husband’s pride and joy. Their greatest accomplishment and Kansas’ treasure. What they thought would be their lasting achievement on this planet and what would be talked about on every other planet that heard about it. She stared at what three minutes ago she thought was the largest ball of twine in the entire state.
“Well,” she said, fighting the tears. “We could get more twine.”
“If Grant’s right about its circumference, and he always is when it comes to circumferences, we can’t afford it. Face it, honey. We have the second largest ball of twine in Kansas. We’re ruined.”
“No we’re not! People will still come to see the second largest ball of twine in Kansas!”
“Don’t fool yourself. People don’t go to see the second best Mona Lisa in the Louvre! Why would they? It’s not as good.” He could see his words were tearing her apart. He grabbed her denim jacket and embraced her. “I’m sorry. We’ll think of something.” Suicide, probably. Or, if that didn’t work out, selling the dog. The couple and their dog trudged back to their home to see what they could now make of their lives. And to see if they could salvage any of the pancakes and waffles.
The Kansas wind blew hard against the second largest ball of twine in the state. So hard that the ball started rolling. It rolled so far it ended up in Nebraska, because Kansas didn’t want it anymore. Kansas only wanted the best and Kansas got what Kansas wanted.