>San Francisco, 1983: April R. was a pretty girl with red hair and pale skin. She and Madonna M. started work at Network Answering Service at the same time. Madonna was a beautiful black woman, and the two of them were physical opposites in every way. April was thin, quick, shrill. Madonna was voluptuous, languid, calm. They went through training together and became best of friends.At Network, operators worked in pairs, according to an eccentric scheme I’d developed with Bob back when we were the only two operators. With your team partner you develop a coordination, passing calls back and forth. The training was extensive, including training in how to communicate effectively with another human, as well as how to operate the telephone machinery. April and Madonna worked together with style, wit, and humor.But today April was in the kitchen, very unhappy. She was hungry, and somebody had stolen her avocado.
The system in the kitchen was that people didn’t need to label their food. Although you might not know who owned something, you knew darn well that it wasn’t yours, so you weren’t to eat another’s food. This generally worked.
In this case, April had brought her lunch, an avocado, in a small paper bag, and put it on the cabinet shelf. There were about eight paper bags there. I asked the obvious.
“Did you look in all the bags?”
Miserably, she said she’d checked them all, twice, thinking that surely it was there. But it wasn’t.
I told her that the best possible solution was that it was just there in one of these bags, because if it could magically disappear, then it could magically reappear. It’s as if magic doesn’t like to disturb the physical universe. Big puff of smoke and a flash? Not the way magic likes to manifest. It likes to perform its miracles unseen, unexplainable.
Sour at my chatter, she went through the bags again, bitter because she was hungry and had no more money for food today. She asked me what I was talking about.
I told her about a small miracle I’d seen, and how it felt so natural, so unforced. “For example,” I said, “with no sense of effort at all, you’d just pick up a sack …” I crossed to the cabinet and picked up a sack. I handed it to her. “You’d just say ‘There is your avocado,’ and it would be there.”
April peeked down into the sack she was holding. She looked up at me, looking much like a siamese cat.
“How did you do that?” she said.
Was it the avocado? It was.
How was it done? I don’t know. Bishop Nippo Syaku used to ask, “Where do we go when we die? Nobody knows that.”
But of course, the avocado was there all the time, and she had just been unable to find it, while searching the eight bags carefully three times.
Sure it was.