Dr. Rondine came out of his office as I was arriving at the lab. He had a look of odd triumph on his face. He held out his hand. It was full of M&Ms. “Good morning,” he said. “Didn’t I effing tell you?” He held up a newspaper—a real newspaper, I mean, not one of the ones he liked to print in his basement. The headline said “Blue M&Ms Mend Spinal Injuries.” The story said “Scientists have confirmed that the compound Brilliant Blue G, which is commonly used in food dyes that appear in such products as blue M&Ms and blue Gatorade, blocks a chemical that kills healthy spinal cord cells around the damaged area.” He put the newspaper down and held it up again. “Confirmed,” he said. For years, Dr. Rondine had been insisting that M&Ms were not just candy but medicine, and that each color had a particular therapeutic property. He thought that red enhanced memory, that green assisted in regular digestion, and that yellow was a phosphodiesterase inhibitor. He got himself a reputation, and not a good one, which is why he was only allowed to work Mondays, and only half-days at that.
“This is effing sweet revenge,” he said. “Sweet—get it?” He popped a yellow M&M in his mouth and moved off down the hall to tell the secretaries.
I got to the office early and found Dr. Rondine sitting at his desk with a bag of Doritos open in front of him. “Good morning,” he said.
“You know how I’m a little hard of hearing?” I knew.
We called him “Dr. What-Did-You-Say” behind his back. “I mean, it’s not hard for me, but some of you seem to mind.” He pointed to the bag. “I need you to help me do a test.” He put a pair of headphones over my ears. “I’m going to make a soft beeping noise, too soft to hear. You didn’t hear it, right?” I shook my head. “Okay,” he said. “Now eat a Dorito and we’ll try again.” I ate one and he fiddled with the control panel. I still didn’t hear a noise. “Eat another,” he said. We went on like that for more than half an hour, and by the time the rest of the researchers started to file in, I was very thirsty.
I left work at ten, went home, got into bed. At midnight the phone rang. It was Dr. Rondine. “Good evening,” he said. “Come meet me in the lab. I need you to effing hurry.” I pulled on my clothes and headed back into work. Rondine was out in the reception area with his niece, who had been blind since birth. She is twelve now, a lovely girl. He instructed her to take a bite of a Snickers bar. Then he held up three fingers. “How many?” he said.
“How many what?” she said.
Dr. Rondine didn’t come in today. One of the secretaries said that he had called in to say good morning and that he had an “effing terrible cold” he was trying to cure with Twizzlers.
Dr. Rondine missed his second week in a row. But this time, there was something strange about his absence. His desk looked as though it hadn’t been touched, but the vending machine in the hall right next to it was completely empty.
The postcards started to come in. The fronts had normal pictures of beaches, mountains, and tourist attractions, but on the back there were messages scribbled in Dr. Rondine’s distinctive handwriting. “Pepsi,” said the first one, “can reverse dementia.” The next day, I got two more, and then four more the day after that. Pop Tarts “clears up eczema.” RedHots “restore amputated digits.” Raisinets “separate conjoined twins.” Funions “grant man the power of flight.” The postcards were simple, declarative, relentless: no jokes, no pleasantries, no effing.
More postcards. Everlasting gobstoppers “eliminate arthritis.” Munchos “regrow hair.” Hostess cupcakes “improve all manners of colitis.” I also got a phone call from Dr. Rondine that I couldn’t understand; something about LifeSavers and “truth in advertising.” He sounded manic, at least. The call came from his home phone, and it concerned me enough that I suggested that the company send someone over to check on him.
I went with the security team; we found Dr. Rondine surrounded by a mountain of food. His mouth was ringed by everything. As they dragged him off, he was saying something about Goobers. I stopped them so I could hear him. “What is it?” I said.
“They are effing delicious,” he said.
Earlier this week, the company released its new baldness drug, Munchodyl. I wanted them to send Dr. Rondine a sample, but rules at his hospital prevent it. Instead, I thought of him during the toast celebrating the discovery. I didn’t want him to be forgotten, and though there were bowls of M&Ms laid out as snacks, someone had plucked out all the red ones.