HIBBING, July 9, 2004 - Early this morning, patrons at the local Cinnabon were startled by a loud shriek from
the corner of the restaurant. Faramir, second son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, had just appeared in Phoebe Hofnacker's
"It certainly is a startling likeness," said Bob Schnupp, franchise manager. "Even down to the arrows sticking
up over the shoulder."
Schnupp was at a loss to explain the apparition. All of Cinnabon's pastries are machine-made to exact specifications,
with very little variance in the product. He estimated the odds of a Cinnabon spontaneously resolving into
a silhouette of one of J.R.R. Tolkien's characters at "diddly-squat to nothing".
A custody battle appears to be shaping up over ownership of the Steward Bun. Hofnacker, who purchased the minibon,
claims full proprietary rights. Schnupp, who owns the equipment in which the bun was rolled
and baked, has offered her a full refund and 5% of the marketing profits. Already, a thriving industry has sprung
up around the apparition. A T-shirt concession stand has appeared outside the restaurant, along with a burrito
truck and a popcorn machine. Groups of pastry worshippers and Middle Earth re-enactors are making
pilgrimages to the restaurant in order to view the bun, which is currently on display inside a locked glass case. Outside,
in the street, chanting believers hold aloft signs reading "REPENT! THE BLACK BREATH IS NIGH" and "TOLKIEN 3:16".
"It's a zoo," said Schnupp. "Why couldn't it have been Shelob, or some other lesser known character?"
This is not the first Faramir apparition to have materialized in recent weeks. Last month, a Texas woman discovered
Faramir's silhouette in an oil stain on her driveway. On Tuesday, two rock climbers at Franconia Notch in New
Hampshire noticed that the former site of "The Old Man Of The Mountain" resolves into the noble profile of Faramir when
viewed from a certain angle at sunrise, with one eye closed and an outstretched thumb blocking the bottom two-thirds
of the rock face. Faramir has also appeared on a taquito in Puebla, Mexico; a moldy thing of chicken salad in Corvallis,
Oregon; and a masonry crack in Bradenton, Florida.
The Rev. Garrett Nussbrick, pastor of St. Martin-In-The-Minefields, explains the rash of sightings as caused by "hysteria"
and "fatigue". "Everything's a Rorschach inkblot, if you stare at it long enough," he says, indicating his bowl
of Cream of Wheat, "For example, this lump here looks like an army of brainsucking space aliens descending
to Earth to steal our copper, but you don't see me panicking in the streets. My advice is to partake of the cinnamon
bun, and give thanks to the Lord."
Claudia Knox, local hairdresser and owner of "The Whooping Coiff", disagrees. "It's a sign," she says, shaking
her head in disbelief. "They'd better be ready, that's all I can say." Knox has stockpiled barrels of salt pork
and wine in a nearby waterfall cave, and has laid in a supply of fever reducers and starry-mantled bathrobes.
Since viewing the Cinnabon, she claims her broken arm has mysteriously healed and she no longer desires to ride to battle.
"They'll be laughing out the other side of their mouths when it happens," Knox states firmly. "You can't say we
haven't been warned."
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