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Sad-Ass Sandwich

“A diagonal cut? What are you trying to open a five-star restaurant?"

By Stephen Kramer AvitabilePublished 2 years ago 13 min read

“Bread’s not toasted, no lettuce or greenery of any type…” Chris pauses for dramatic effect. “...that’s a sad-ass sandwich.”

Murmurs among the crowd. Chris flips to the next image on the screen. Everyone stares at the image intently.

“Not toasted, but microwaved, yes.” Chris announces with a bit of hope in his voice that reels everyone in. Then, he brings them back down to Earth. “But no condiments… and no top bread… only a bottom bread. That’s another sad-ass sandwich.”

Everyone in the classroom reacts with surprise. Chris flips to the next image on the screen. He reads the text off the image.

“Basically, you need your sandwich basics, you need both slices of bread, you need condiments, and you need a heating element of some type. Then, and only then, is it not a sad-ass sandwich. And only one sandwich that falls under the category of ‘sad-ass sandwich’ can exist on your menu.” Chris looks up at the crowd.

Roughly 50 students or so in the class. The year is 2043 and the class being taught is ‘The Bare Minimum To Opening An Eatery.’ Chris teaches this class, and this class only, at Harvard. Harvard is not the only school to have this class. It was the third school in the nation to add it to the curriculum. At least 40 schools have followed since.

“What about a diagonal cut in the sandwich?” One kid speaks up. “Does that tip the scales out of sad-ass sandwich territory?”

“Ha!” Chris is genuinely amused. “A diagonal cut? What are you trying to open a five-star restaurant? We’re talking bare minimums. You start doing diagonal cuts and you open the floodgates to high expectations. Horizontal and vertical cuts only.”

“Understood.” The kid responds solemnly. Everyone nods quietly along.

“Next class our lesson will be ‘What is soup and what is just salted water?’ and the following test will include everything you’ve learned about soups and sandwiches!” Chris announces and then dismisses everyone from his classroom.

All the students shuffle out, their brains packed with useful knowledge for the world today. Chris returns to his desk and begins to organize it. Somehow, he has to organize it every day even though he doesn’t remember ever messing it up in the first place. It seems the only times he touches his desk is when he is organizing it. He checks his phone. A text from Adam.

Meet for lunch today?

Chris thinks for a moment. He will, of course, respond with a yes. But he needs to prepare himself as the text message exchanges may be awkward, as will the conversation at lunch. Adam was fired from Harvard only three weeks ago. It’s still fresh. You don’t bounce back from something like this right away.

Adam made the mistake of using the term ‘homeless’ in class instead of the appropriate ‘residentially-deficient.’ It was immediately brought to the Dean by several students. Adam was ‘canceled’ on social media. His punishment, he had to sit in an auditorium filled with his peers, faculty, and students as negative social media posts about him were read to him… for two straight hours. All classes were canceled that day so that the important event could take place. Once it was said and done, Adam was not to talk. Rather, his facial expressions examined. Everyone made their own decisions as to whether they felt his facial expression represented sorrow and learning from his horrible mistakes. Then, they all cast their votes.


Only 43% of people in the room felt Adam expressed sorrow and regret. The other 57% felt he did not and that he should be fired. And so fired Adam was. And so fired Adam is. And so looking for an awkward lunch with Chris… Adam is.

Instead of responding right away, Chris decides to distract himself with something he knows isn’t more important… but that he told himself was. The Latest Cancel List. Maybe getting a sense of the week’s latest Cancelings would help him to deal with Adam’s Canceling.

The first one Chris sees is an awful gut punch. One of his favorite actors from all those old TV shows and movies… Jon Hamm. Oh no, what did he do?

Jon Hamm, canceled today, because he refused to change his name to Jon Soyy after calls from vegans and Earth-minded people alike. The actor refused even after evidence was presented to him that the new last name was a healthier option that was better for the planet and still provided a sufficient amount of protein and nutrients. The actor cited this was his name and he cannot be forced into changing it but his victims cited how his name was an attack on their inner truth, knowing, and feelings. He was immediately fired from the upcoming Mad Men reboot, Angry Humanoids.

Chris disappointedly scrolls through the rest of the list, hoping there isn’t anything else this bad.

A lot of local business owners canceled for not providing signage in the correct languages. One fast food restaurant owner was canceled for his continuous use of the ‘Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large’ sizing scheme which had made some weight-challenged individuals question their inner beauty. And then the usual, several comedians offending several communities.

Chris flipped back to his text from Adam. He isn’t sure why, but he feels more ready to respond to Adam. Maybe after seeing the downfall of several other people, it makes Adam’s difficult situation seem more removed. Chris poised his thumbs over the phone. He readies his mind to create a great opening statement. Suddenly, the door opens.

Chris looks up and sees the Dean entering the room. Chris quickly tucks his phone away. If he is seen communicating with a fired employee, they will paint over his parking space with a scarlet red letter ‘T’ and dock him two weeks pay. Dean Ambrosia strolls over to Chris’s desk. Chris can feel beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He fears for the worst. Do they have his phone tracked? Do they know he was in the midst of texting Adam back? Even opening the text and not immediately deleting it could see him losing one week’s pay.

Dean Ambrosia smiles. Chris notices the Dean is holding his phone out. Chris is perplexed.

“Your paper on Counter Cancel Culture.” Ambrosia says simply. “Just finished reading it last night.”

That’s right! Chris had completely forgotten he had sent that paper. It was weeks ago. Before Adam was fired… and canceled.

Oh no! Now this feels awkward. Of course, there was the opening for a new course in the Social Media grouping of classes. Of course, professors were encouraged to apply along with their ideas for what the class should be. Of course, Chris applied and wrote up a masterful paper about how cancel culture is too much and how we should combat cancel culture with counter cancel culture.

But now… with Adam having been fired and canceled… and with him being one of Chris’s friends… Chris’s former friend as far as anyone else knows… this is awkward. Is the Dean going to transform his paper into suspicion that Chris is against Adam’s canceling?

Dean Ambrosia’s smile lingers on his lips. He is one of those people who has a confusing smile. You can’t tell if it’s truly joyous, evil, sarcastic, or just a sign of acute gas in the stomach-to-bum region. Somehow, it was all things at once.

“What uh… what did you think?” Chris figures he should play it off as if everything is normal. As if the course he is suggesting is in no way related to what happened to Adam. It wasn’t when he came up with the idea… Adam was still employed by Harvard.

“You know, I was thinking long and hard about it.” Ambrosia responds, his happy-evil-sarcastic-gassy smile still lingering. “I analyzed it from every area I could. You’re really against cancel culture, aren’t you?”

“Not against.” Chris responds. “It can be a bit much at times. I think there is a time and a place for it. But I do think… there are many instances where it shouldn’t exist.”

“Yes, like the perfect scenario we have that just happened!” Dean Ambrosia’s smile is gone. Chris sniffs the air. No odor of a fart. It really must have been a true smile that dissipated. This is probably not good. Ambrosia is talking about Adam, isn’t he?

Chris opens his mouth but no sounds come out.

“You heard about the one yesterday, right?” Ambrosia continues. “You remember, a lightgone, what they used to call it?”

“Right, a blackout.” Chris blurts out.

“Well, we shouldn’t be saying it, Chris. It’s offensive, remember?”

Chris nods remorsefully.

“So, as I was saying, the lightgone used to be called… that offensive term… and they finally tracked down the man who first coined the term. They traced his lineage through his family… all the way to today… it turns out he has two living members left from his lineage. A brother and sister. Both in their 50’s. Canceled. Fired from their jobs. Now, I think to myself, maybe that is a bit much as you eloquently put it.”

“Right.” Chris is relieved that Dean Ambrosia sees it the same way as him. “It was their great great grandfather or something. They have no control over what he did. They shouldn’t be punished just for being related to someone. They should have been left alone!”

“Well, maybe not left alone.” Ambrosia says. “Canceled and fired was too much, but a four-week suspension would suffice… get the message across.”

“But for what?”

“Well, they were related to the man who coined… that term. We can’t have that, Chris. It can’t go unpunished at all. But I agree with you… the Canceling was too much.”

Chris realizes Dean Ambrosia thinks he is on Chris’s side… and in a way he is. He just isn’t all the way on Chris’s side. He has crossed the threshold… he is in Chris’s territory… but he’s still a bit too close to the border. Chris needs to be careful with what he says. Ambrosia doesn’t lean as far as he does on this topic.

“Agreed. The Canceling was too much.” Chris states simply.

“So, I like this idea.” Ambrosia wags his phone in Chris’s face. “It’s almost like… like canceling the cancelers… well, the ones who cancel too much. How did you put it again?”

“Right.” Chris tries to carefully explain. “People can still cancel, but they have a limit. An allotment of just two per month. Because I have noticed a lot of these Cancelings come from the same people over and over. These individuals are canceling eight people per month… 10 people per month. While many others only instigate one every six months, etc. So, it feels unfair that a small group of people are affecting so many people’s lives. So, the practices that people would take on social media… if you see someone has done three or more Cancelings in a month… you effectively cancel them. You freeze them out for the next two months. No liking posts, no sharing, no comments, you can’t even talk to them during the duration. And if they go five or more, you also unfollow them.”

“Right. Love it.” Ambrosia’s lips form into that faux-smile thing again. What did this guy eat for lunch today? “And the overall goal is to get this to become a movement… and then hopefully a law someday?”

“Exactly. Then, people wouldn’t just throw out Cancelings all willy-nilly. They will need to really be true… really be deserving. Otherwise, you get fined. So, if the Cancelings start costing people money, they’ll be careful to only throw them out there when they matter.”

“I love it!” Ambrosia throws his arms in the air. What a relief! “So, that’s my opinion. As for the rest of the board, Wiggins in the History department, not so big a fan.”

“Oh.” Chris’s shoulders slump.

“But that Tyler guy… the one who teaches 10-second filmmaking, he was on board. And Winona something… our little Indian friend in the Math department, she loved it.”

“Uh.” Chris is considering shoving his hand in his mouth before he sticks his foot in it, but the mouth is already talking. “She’s not Indian, she’s Native American.”

“Same thing.”

“No, Indian would suggest she’s from India. She’s never been to India. Her ancestors are from America, in fact they’ve been here much longer than our ancestors have been. So…”

“Oh, I can’t keep track of what I’m supposed to say!” Ambrosia explodes. “I have to go by her tribe? What if I don’t know what tribe she is! There’s a million. Then, what am I supposed to say?”

“Just Native American is probably fine.”

“No, see then someone says that’s wrong then you get in trouble. That’s why I just say Indian.”

“I don’t think you need to say anything at all. It’s just… Winona in the math department.”

“I’m just explaining so you know exactly who I am talking about.” Ambrosia’s voice becomes more forceful. “Anyway, our little Indian friend in the math department loved it…”

I don’t think LITTLE is necessary in the sentence at all…

“ that is good news for you! Only Wiggins needs more convincing. He has some criticisms of your paper.”

Chris readies himself to hear these criticisms as Ambrosia gets ready to list them off.

“Word limit was 7,500 words.” Ambrosia begins. “We all agreed that we loved that you took it right up to the edge with 7,320 words. Good use, lots of detail.”

Chris sighs a bit of relief.

“Now, your woke count was a point of contention for Wiggins. The woke count was 35 uses, Wiggins mentioned, and I agree, your 33 felt too low.”

“But the limit was 35.” Chris blurts out.

“Yes, it was more of a guidance. More like the speed limit… if it is 35 then you don’t go under 35. Wiggins felt there should have been 40 plus uses of the word ‘woke’ in order to give this class some legs. It is all about social media, right?”

Chris nods. Fair point.

“So, rewrite it. More woke. Oh, and then when it came to us analyzing your own social media…” Ambrosia lays out the next blow to Chris’s gut. “You didn’t really have enough hashtags the past month. We counted 278 posts in the past month, with a total of just 2,043 hashtags. Some posts… 43 to be exact, featured no hashtags. And… of your 2,043 total hashtags… 980 were repeats. That’s almost half. We need more hashtags and more original hashtags, Chris.”

Chris is shocked. He thought for sure his social media presence was going to be good enough.

“Okay.” Chris says simply. “I can work on it.”

“Yeah, just post more, hashtag more, more unique hashtags, rewrite the paper… and then I am sure if we circle back in a month, we will get you that new course here at Harvard.” Ambrosia smiles. “Are you going to have enough time for the second class?”

“Yeah, this class is only twice a week.” Chris answers. “So, I got extra time.”

“I meant… it won’t get in the way of more important stuff.” Ambrosia left this on a cliffhanger. Chris is unsure what he is talking about. He and his jaw are left dangling in the wind.

“Well, you obviously need time to be posting more, snapping more pics, exploring the country, exploring eateries and snapping shots of your meals, we want to make sure you have your priorities straight. Even after the job is yours, you need to keep the social media up.”

“Oh right, right, I can definitely do all of that.” Chris answers quickly. It feels like this is a somewhat silly request from the Dean of a University, but maybe that’s just Chris’s wacky way of thinking. Either way, he knows he can do this if need be.

Dean Ambrosia turns on his heel and begins to exit the class. Chris’s phone buzzes. Ambrosia spins around. The look in his eyes mirrors the thoughts in Chris’s mind.

Is that Adam?

If it is Adam, it is the most inopportune moment for him to be texting.

“What’s that?” Ambrosia asks. “Adam?”

Chris honestly isn’t even sure, but he fears that it is Adam. Just after this great conversation about getting a new course to teach, this would be a fist to the ribs for sure. Chris slowly pulls his phone out of his pocket and brings it up to his face.

It is not Adam. It is The Cancel List, with a new addition. Chris sighs. The look of relief on his face is honest and good enough for Dean Ambrosia.

“Not Adam.” Chris answers.

Ambrosia nods. He begins to amble out of the classroom once more. Chris’s whole body relaxes with relief. The notification hangs on his home screen. He looks at the phone again to see who got canceled. He slides the notification open. There on his phone, is a picture of Dean Ambrosia. The subject next to his photo… “He calls her the Little Indian.” Chris’s eyes pop open.

“Dean Ambrosia!” Chris calls out.

Ambrosia stops and looks at Chris.

“I’m going to start on that paper right now. And my social media. But, since you know I am going to do that, and you know I will get it to Wiggins' liking, you mind putting me down for the class right now? Just to get the ball rolling.”

“A sense of urgency.” Ambrosia responds. “I like it. Sure. I’ll go put in the paperwork right now, have you listed officially by day’s end. We’ll just send the edits to Wiggins once we get a chance.”

Ambrosia exits, unaware he is likely on his way to his last action as Dean of the school. Ironic, he will be initiating a class that would, perhaps in the future, have helped save someone like him in a similar situation. Not that he necessarily deserves to be saved in this scenario. But who knows, if his face shows enough remorse in the eyes of the public, he may get to keep his job.

If Dean Ambrosia knows what’s good for him… he’ll eat a big load of beans on the day of his trial… force a nice, big smile on that face.

Short StoryHumor

About the Creator

Stephen Kramer Avitabile

I'm a creative writer in the way that I write. I hold the pen in this unique and creative way you've never seen. The content which I write... well, it's still to be determined if that's any good.

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Comments (2)

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a year ago

    Lol, you are amazing! I laughed so much at the Jon Hamm part. Also when I learned that 'homeless' and 'blackout' shouldn't be used. And whoaaa the cancel culture, woke and hashtags, I hope the future doesn't actually end up like that. And lol, Ambrosia got cancelled in the end! I loved it! This was a very enjoyable story!

  • Liviu Romanabout a year ago

    I just wanted to express my gratitude for sharing your story with us. Your words really spoke to me, and I'm so glad to have come across your writing. I'm now a devoted fan, and can't wait to see more of your work in the future.

Stephen Kramer AvitabileWritten by Stephen Kramer Avitabile

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