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They were upstairs, different bedroom, same scene. Only tonight he didn’t want to do anything more than go to sleep; he was good-looking-drunk and just wanted a pleasant end to a pleasant evening. Malin’s room was tight, but there was just enough space to pull out the extra mattress from under her bed. That was fine with him. He lay down and sighed a sigh of drowsy contentedness. Until he noticed Malin’s preparations for sleep.

She took off her shirt and slid the shoulder straps of her bra past her shoulders so it was almost falling down. She pulled on a t-shirt and then unhooked the bra, pulled it through a sleeve and slung it over the chair. It hung there, eight inches from his face. He bit his pillow. She slipped out of her pants, the loose, soft pants, and stood there in her panties and t-shirt for a moment, picking up her watch, moving her keys to the other side of the desk. She stretched to her tiptoes to reach something in the closet. He turned his head away. It was too painful. She turned off the light and slipped into his bed to give him a peck on the forehead.

"Goodnight, my little American."

He told her ‘goodnight’, but she probably couldn’t understand it. He was gnashing his pillow to shreds. He lay there chewing in the darkness until he couldn’t stand it anymore. The damage had been done.  He needed her.  Bad.

"Hey…you still up?"

"Mhmmmm." She was fading. He had to come up with an angle fast.  She was probably just as drunk and tired as he had been a moment ago.

"Remember yesterday when you told me that you weren’t a lollipop." He had been a little overzealous with his kisses the previous morning and she had chided him affably.

"Mmmmmm." he was pretty sure that was a ‘yes’.

"Were you ever a lollipop?"

"Hmmm?" he didn’t say anything. "What?" she asked drowsily.

"Were you ever a lollipop? In the past, I mean."

"What are you talking about?"

"It’s a simple question."

"What do you mean was I ever a lollipop? A lollipop is a lollipop."

"Well....I was a lollipop for a few months....but I didn’t like it so I quit." He was laying on his side looking in her general direction. There was the faintest hint of light from the street coming through a crack in the window shade. He saw her pick her head up and look in his direction. "These little games are always risky," he thought. "They can go in two different directions, the silly or the agitating. The very agitating." He held his breath.

"What are you talking about?" She sounded curious, not angry, and he psyched myself up for a full fledged, head-on assault.

"Yeah, two summers ago. I was looking for a job. I didn’t have anything to do and needed some money so..." He said the ‘so’ like the next step was the most obvious and natural conclusion in the world. "....I took a job as a lollipop. You know, I’m sure you have a fairly developed lollipop industry in Sweden."

"What!" She let out a laugh. "What are you, crazy?" She had rolled over to the side of her bed and was looking down at him on his lonely, spare mattress.

"What do you mean ‘crazy’?" His voice was agitated now, and a little harsher. "It’s a respectable job. I mean, it’s not the most prestigious thing in the world, but it’s not that bad. I wouldn’t do it again or anything, but just because I worked as a lollipop doesn’t mean I’m crazy."

She wasn’t totally sure what to do, but she started to half-way play along. "What do you do as a lollipop?"

"You mean the job requirements? Well, you show up every day at nine o’clock and you climb your pole. You position yourself on the little platform and you can’t move and you have to squat in a little ball. It’s really quite difficult. Much harder than you would think. You can’t move even a tiny bit, obviously." Obviously.

She was intrigued. "Why can’t you move?"

"Because then the foreman with the whip whips you." Duh.

"He whips you?!" She was laughing hysterically while he kept talking in his casual explanation tone, trying to keep a straight face.

"Of course he does. How else could he keep order? I mean, why would you sit there like an idiot, perfectly still if there wasn’t anyone with a whip watching?"

"Did he ever whip you?"

"Sure, he whipped everyone at one time or another." He was so casual. He could take his whipping like a man. "But once you get the hang of it they don’t whip you that much. The problem is that they don’t let you off the pole, even to go to the bathroom. That’s why I quit."

She was surprised. "You quit?!"

"Of course I did. Would you turn down an opportunity to work as a piece of cheese." Even he couldn’t avoid laughing at that one.

"A piece of cheese?!!!" This was getting really preposterous and she was enjoying every stupid line. He considered telling her to keep her voice down, she was surely going to wake up Johana next door. But he didn’t feel like ‘shushing’ her and interrupting the whole flow.

"Yeah, one of my brother’s friend’s father is a foreman at the factory. I got the job through him. It’s really a much better job than working as a lollipop."

"Did you have to sit on a pole all day long?"

"Did you have to sit on a pole all day long?," he scoffed. He might as well have asked her if she was a complete moron. "Of course you don’t sit on a pole if you’re a piece of cheese."

"Well...." She was waiting for an explanation.

"Well what?"

"Where do you sit?" She was happily exasperated.

"On the cracker." He was trying not to smile with all his might but they both broke down on that one. The were tears streaming down his face. "It’s really a great job. You get to lounge around all day on your own giant cracker. You can move around a bit, although its not encouraged." Every time he could choke back the laughter he would spit out another extra detail. "And if you get hungry you can eat a piece of the cracker...." he wiped his eyes and then his nose with the back of his hand. "And nobody whips you...its really quite a sought after position."

"Have you ever worked as a piece of bread?," she asked, eager to get into the game.

"A piece of bread?" he was furious. "A piece of bread! What, are you mocking my work experience? How the hell do you work as a piece of bread? What kind of nonsense is that?"

"You know, you just sit around and act like a piece of bread."

"That’s the silliest thing I ever heard."





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