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Stealing the Crème Brûlee:
A Test in Seven Parts


Vol. XXVI, no. 2

David Yost

Making copious yet appropriate use of course materials, respond to each of the following scenarios in an essay no longer than one (1) Blue Book side.

 

1. You are a low-income ($18,000-23,000/yr) data clerk at a company specializing in logistics software, on your third date with an attractive co-worker. You take her to an up-scale French restaurant that you cannot quite afford because you believe that you are falling in love. She loves dogs, salsa dancing, David Lynch films, and strip poker; her hair smells of coconut.

Walking hand-in-hand from the parking lot, you pass a gaunt man slumped at the base of a fire hydrant, muttering inaudibly and hugging a potted aloe plant. Your date squeezes your hand as you enter the restaurant, but says nothing. You order the Carre d'Agneau Printanière Duxelle de Champignons, she the Risotto Végétarien á la Façon du Chef; they are superb. After the entrées, she stares at the dessert cart parked within easy reach of your table. It's a sad world, she says before you can signal the waiter, when we pay twenty dollars for a chocolate torte with a man starving a block away. As you grope for a response, a wine glass falls from a nearby table and breaks, demanding the immediate attention of the waitstaff. She looks again at the dessert cart and her eyes gleam. Fill your pockets, she whispers. Is it ethical to steal crème brulée to feed a possibly starving man? Assume that you are carrying no cash, and have no knowledge of local poverty-relief organizations. Bearing in mind the differing examples of Immanuel Kant, Andrew Carnegie, and Jean Valjean, what do you intend to tell her?

 

2. You receive an unexpectedly large refund on your income tax, leaving you with forty dollars beyond your immediate expenses. Your coconut-scented girlfriend is raising money to aid a friend working in Zambia, and you decide to donate the money as a surprise. Before you see her, however, a good friend calls to borrow fifty dollars for a tuition fee. Assume that this friend has lent you money in the past, and can be trusted to eventually repay you. Assume also that donating the money would allow the aid worker to purchase five rabbits, adding to the breeding population of her project and creating a renewable protein source for hungry children whose language you do not speak and who you will never meet. Further assume that donating the money would result in your girlfriend performing vigorous oral sex on you wearing only lipstick and high heels. What is the most ethical way to proceed?

 

3. You and your lover are walking in the park under a fat and vibrant moon. You stop to kiss her at the edge of a pond and she whispers in your ear that you make her happier than anyone she's ever known. She's changed shampoos, and her hair smells of mangos. Suddenly you hear shouting from across the pond, and turn to see several teenagers shoving a middle-aged man. The man tries to back away, stumbles, and lands hard in the gravel. His attackers circle him, yelling anti-gay epithets and kicking at his legs, ribs, and head. They are conspicuously unarmed.

Though you have a red belt in tae kwon do, you're several years out of practice and it's unlikely that you could physically best all three attackers. The nearest pay phone is several minutes away and your cell phone at home. Bear in mind that if you fight and lose, your actions could also endanger your girlfriend, but if you fight and win, she will pamper you as a hero for months to come. What do you do? What does the author of this question want you to do? What would, variously, Zeno of Citium, W.D. Ross, Jesus of Nazareth, Jacques Derrida, and Ayn Rand want you to do?

 

4. Election Day is here! As you and your lover intend to vote for opposite political parties, thus canceling out each other's votes, you both agree that instead of voting, you will go straight home after work to cook cheese enchiladas with mushroom sauce. As the day progresses, however, you begin to suspect that her actual intention was to vote for Ralph Nader, thus throwing her vote away and not canceling yours. You further suspect that on her way to work, she voted anyway. Ethically speaking, what is the best way to proceed? Assume that you can vote on your way to rent DVDs without being detected. Further assume that you would love to wipe that smirk off her face.

 

5. On a Friday afternoon in your town, a Sikh truck driver on methamphetamines is detained at a gas station by three sheriff's deputies. He resists arrest and arrives at the county jail with a broken arm and a ruptured spleen barely detected in time to save his life. Your fiancée asks you to accompany her to a march on City Hall in protest the following morning. However, you have pre-existing plans to spend the morning fly-fishing with your older brothers. Bearing in mind that your family plans are of two months standing, and also bearing in mind that this protest is pointless hippie bullshit, what is the most ethical solution?

 

6. If you had the chance to kill Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist when he was just a boy, would you? What if you had to use a crossbow? A glaive-guisarme? What if agreeing to do so would make her get back in the car?

 

7. You find a Dixie Chicks CD in your stereo and you leave it first by the door, then in the trash. You pour out half-used conditioners, shampoos, and hair sprays and for days your bathtub smells of guavas, oranges, and kiwis. You vacuum, dust, and scrub, but you still find long, brown hair in the cracks of your kitchen counter and woven into the seats of your car.

Assume that you don't know what went wrong. Assume that you miss her more than anything else in your life. Assume also that you hate her more than anything else in your life. Further assume that you have no idea what to say to make things right.

Will she call?

Will you?