She left for a job in Yellowknife, from where she called me occasionally, and her reports of the extreme cold and months of total darkness gave me a new appreciation for Blandsville.
Without Jo, my first move was to visit my former student, Carl Brown, at the Town Hall. He had involved me in one of my first cases, during which he had met the young woman who is now his wife.
“Fine. We’re expecting the patter of little feet soon.”
“Congratulations, Carl. Is it a boy or a girl and what will you name it?”
“He’s a male and we’ll call him Hamlet. Sally wanted a corgi, I wanted a beagle, so we compromised: we’re getting a Great Dane.” I thought of the food bills and shuddered, but knowing Carl and his eccentricities, I would not have been surprised if they had bought a Percheron or an elephant.
“Is this a social call?”
“No, although it’s always good to see you. I need a copy of the council’s new bylaw about posting nutritional contents on food packages.”
“Coming right up, Mr. Tuff,” and he left, returning moments later with a photocopy of the bylaw.
“Thanks. And give Hamlet a big hug for me.” Was it possible to give a Great Dane a small hug?
At home I read the bylaw carefully. Were people really vitally interested in the chemical contents of the foods they eat? Then I thought I had found a loophole, the biblical eye of a needle, it’s true, but maybe a loophole.
I drove to the Bakers’ house and told them what I wanted them to do: we would each visit Blandsville’s biggest supermarket and a few corner stores, acting like comparative shoppers, and collect lists of the number of calories and the grams of carbohydrates, sodium, protein, fat, and cholesterol in bread, cereal, sliced meats, and cans of soup.
Three hours later, we reassembled at the Bakers’ home where I did some elementary school arithmetic, averaging the grams and percentages of the various components of the foods.
“There,” I said, “now you have the list for your sandwich wrappers.”
“But they’re not accurate,” said Mr. Baker.
“They’re close enough to be believable,” I assured him. “Besides, the bylaw doesn’t say they have to be correct.”
“Maybe we should reduce the number of calories and the numbers for salt and fat,” suggested Mr. Baker.
“But darling,” said his wife, “that would be dishonest.”
“By the way, do you make your labels by hand?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Well, it might be worth the cost of having them printed. That way they would look more legitimate.”
A few days later, the Bakers returned to my office. “How’s business?”
“Better than ever,” smiled Mrs. Baker. “Those two detectives came back to check and they were satisfied.”
“They loved the sandwiches, even though we charged them.”
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Baker, and presented me with two sandwiches.
With great willpower, I put them aside to share with Hank. I was sure he would like them.
I suspect that Hamlet would like them too.