--by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming and Reid Mitchell

WOMAN1: What does the baker eat for breakfast?

WOMAN2: He doesn't eat bread himself, but some mixture of ginger and red meat.

MAN1: What does the butcher do for meat?

WOMAN2: I think she seasons the remaining meat with animals' peppered excrement every dusk.

WOMAN1: What does the lamplighter burn for light?

MAN2: Didn't you know? She lits the lamp with bowls of pumpkin juices.

MAN1: Who walks under the lamps that are so grudgingly lit?

WOMAN2: Usually the under-fed, which means most people. But the other day a philosopher was walking under the lamps and they shook. The others said he had too much brain energy that brightened the lamps.

MAN2: Then where do the streetwalkers walk, those who know they cannot look for love and rarely for shelter?

WOMAN2: Not that I care for their kind, but I heard they walk on pavement made of tiny balls of fire and men. Every step they walk they suffer from heat, humiliation and ceaseless flow of goblin body fluids.

WOMAN1: Then from what do the nurses make their salve, ointment, unguent, and balm, to comfort skin and cure flesh?

MAN1: I'm afraid there are no more 'nurses' or 'witches' or 'angels', whatever you want to call them, in this particular existence. Don't you see corpses swollen on the edge of the beaches, in the far end of the linked tree roots?

WOMAN2: What village do you come from? Can you see the fires?

MAN1: Can you see the nightbirds?

WOMAN1: I come from the same village you come from.

MAN2: Aren't we all from the same village?

MAN1: Can't you see the grave that empties itself and asks for us?

WOMAN2: Somewhere, in flood or famine, there is always a way for life to feed, even if life feeds wearing the mask of death.

WOMAN1: How can you still believe in fence lines?

("The Baker Must Always Find His Breakfast" was first published in Caffeine Destiny, Spring 2007.)