By Olivia Crandall
At this very moment, you can go to EdibleArrangements.com and instantly receive a coupon for 20% off any festive autumnal fruit gift basket. But should you? You may think an Edible Arrangement is the perfect fruit-and-chocolate-filled answer to the classic “coworker/mother-in-law/client/sister’s birthday is in three days” conundrum. Alas, you would be woefully mistaken.
An Edible Arrangement may seem, at first glance, like a fun, kitschy, catch-all gift. In truth, it is merely a one-way ticket to the devil’s bedroom. Specifically, behind the seasonally-decorated cellophane wrapper is an experience that precisely mirrors the Nine Circles of Hell as intricately chronicled in Dante’s Inferno. And unfortunately, no one is calling Virgil to provide guidance. Harm will indeed befall all who dabble in the devil’s delivery.
Or as Dante put it, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
Your journey begins on a chilly afternoon. It’s 4:32 PM, and the sun is already set, leaving the office in a seemingly hopeless darkness. You have 712 unread emails and 46 slack notifications. Suddenly, your desk phone rings, shaking you out of despondence — you had no clue it was even connected. It’s the admin with news: There’s a package for you at the front desk.
Is it already the fleece-lined sweatpants you scooped up during the Uniqlo sale yesterday? Could it be the gummy vitamins you ordered a few hours ago? Probably not. Gripped by suspense, you suddenly remember your tweet from last week: “just when i think i’m worthy of love, i remember no one has ever sent me an edible arrangement,” with a photo of that cat with the giant, wet eyes. But there’s no way. It only got one like, and you’re pretty sure that was from a bot account. Unless…
At the front desk, the monster intern is lurking, curling her hair around her fingers rapidly as people pass. The admin is relieved to see you as he reaches from below the desk and hands you a cellophane-wrapped basket. It’s an Edible Arrangement. You’re skeptical for a second — the timing seems fishy, and the entire thing feels too good to be true. But breakfast was coffee, and lunch was questionably-fit-for-human-consumption Jimmy Johns leftovers from a mandatory meeting you did not attend. The pineapple rounds carefully shaped into flowers are glistening, you spot chocolate buried beyond, and with a stomach grumble, you decide to lustfully answer the sweet siren’s call.
You snap out of it, as Francesca from marketing grabs your elbow. You assume she wants some of your fruit-filled bounty, but instead, she furiously starts telling you about how she “accidentally” made out with her boyfriend’s brother, Paolo, last night because they “totally look, like, kind of the same, and it was really dark?” You nod sympathetically — we’ve all been there — and hurry back to your desk.
Using a ballpoint pen, you claw open the plastic and begin ravenously inhaling kiwi and grapes. The pineapple tastes a bit plastic-y, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a strawberry chaser. And luckily, there are strawberry chasers aplenty, both naked and enrobed in chocolate. You realize you left your space-heater on full blast and rush to turn it off, but it’s too little too late. Everything is starting to get sticky, and you notice a thick chocolate smear on your light wash denim. It doesn’t not look like excrement.
A few of your desk-mates have heard the commotion and pop their heads over their monitors. You have mere seconds before they stalk over to investigate, so you scurry to hoard your precious strawberries, tucking them deep inside of the base of the arrangement. Your neighbors rush forward, both all at once and, somehow, in slow motion. They are racing to get to your desk, colliding like giant boulders, desire flashing in all of their eyes. You panic, look down, speak to no one with the hopes that they may be distracted by that box of abandoned half-donuts a few desks down. Phew. They descend hungrily, sprinkles flying. Your treasure is safe for now.
While trying to avoid eye contact, you spot a note on the package that directs you to “Enjoy your Edible Arrangement right away. If that’s not possible, remove the fruit from the skewers, store it in an airtight container, and refrigerate immediately.” You accept that you’ve enjoyed all you can for now, and your focus shifts to safe storage as you head to the office kitchen with what remains of your prize.
Opening the fridge, you’re greeted with a fetid cesspool, the river Styx of rotting salads and Tupperware containers filled with swampy mysteries. You see that a six pack marked “PROPERTY OF PHILLIP. DO NOT TAKE” is missing a bottle, and delight that karma was finally served from that one time he finished off your oat milk.
But that satisfaction ends abruptly as you hear excited giggling behind you. While your head was buried in the fridge, a pack of ruthless interns swept in. The vultures took half of the pineapple and at least a third of the chocolate-covered banana coins. A fury grows in the pit of your stomach as you catch yourself plotting revenge, wondering if you hold the metal chair to absolutely KO their futures. You shake yourself out of it; post-collegiate life will punish them enough, so it’s back to the task at hand.
As you begin to deconstruct the gift, you notice something missed in your previous carnal enjoyment. The people at Edible Arrangement have completely rejected all social norms surrounding the proper use of melon, having sneakily filled the bouquet with no less than 70 percent cantaloupe and even worse, honeydew. All along, hiding behind the chocolate-covered strawberries and pineapple was nothing but chemical-tasting garbage fruit. You make a mental note to later write a strongly-worded email chastising them for their brazen heresy. They deserve to spend eternity in flaming tombs, or maybe face a lifetime completely devoid of texture, subsisting entirely on unripened honeydew. You realize the flaming tombs sound far more appropriate and start to wonder what this entire journey is doing to your sense of reality.
Questionable bounty aside, your hunt for empty Tupperware begins. You open the cabinet and an explosion bounds forward. It is a stream of plastic, a marinara-stained jumble, a river of boiling blood — or at least, that’s how it feels after the trials and tribulations you’ve endured over the past 37 minutes. You find a large metal bowl and an equally large pink plastic lid. There’s no way they should fit together, but they somehow do, a storage centaur to save the day. If someone was planning on making a vat of potato salad later, they’re screwed.
There appears to be something stuck to your shoe. Reaching down, you discover it’s the Edible Arrangements card, lost in the swirl of excitement. There is no message besides “ — BANKSY.” This is the name of both a mysterious street artist and the cat you adopted at 22 when you still liked mysterious street artists. Neither of these individuals has a Twitter account, and both lay somewhere between oblivious of and enraged by your presence. You wonder who the falsifier was, and say a secret prayer that they catch some kind of plague and fall into a pit of vipers, or at least get a really bad paper cut, the kind between the thumb and forefinger that keeps opening back up. Something like that. Nothing crazy, ya know?
In finishing up with the task at hand, you notice the metal bowl was unnecessarily large. A sandwich-sized Ziploc baggie would have done just fine. You have been betrayed by your benefactors, for an Edible Arrangement is not fully edible. It is crafted of a thick core of wooden skewers. You pick through the soggy bits of what remains. Everything is wooden and strewn with wilted greens.
You head to the sink to try and clean up, but you forgot this morning’s all-office email announcing that maintenance would be turning off the hot water from 3–6 PM to repair some kind of valve. An icy lake of pain cuts through your fingers, a demonic battle unfolds as you try to free yourself from the sticky juice coating your cuticles, the chocolate now hardened on your wrist.
CENTER OF HELL
You have truly entered the Devil’s house. In the remnants of the arrangement, you see a three-headed beast chewing history’s greatest sinners in each of its jaws. There is Judas, Cassius, and Brutus. Is that Hitler? Or maybe it’s just that one guy who never takes his backpack off on the crowded train? Alas, you also discover a thick carpeting of kale (Swiss chard? Cabbage? You’ve never been able to tell ornamental lettuces apart). Your stomach churns and despair sinks in, as you rue the day you sent the universe a plea for this specific brand of torture.
Having looked into the face of true evil and survived, you will emerge forever changed from this journey. Or, so you think. As you’re drying your hands, a river of forgetfulness rushes over you. Your mood rises as you begin mentally drafting a tweet about the lost art of the iTunes gift card, workshopping it as you pack up and head home beneath a canopy of city light pollution.