Bentlyville (AP)- Who says Bentleyville isn't a tourist destination? The population of the small town has swelled dramatically since news of a local barkeep's bizarre discovery swept through the sleepy community, and far beyond. "I was just staring at the Nativity scene in front of the Rufus County court house," said Herb Rosenhauer, "when I noticed something unusual. If I stood at a certain angle and in a certain light and looked at the Virgin Mary blow mold, I could distinctly see a slice of toast appear on her robes. I think its Pumpernickel."
Herb is the longtime owner of The Jolly Miser tavern, a favorite haunt of local boozehounds and dead beats. He's seen some wild things between happy hour and last call, but nothing quite like this. "Our kitchen is open until 11pm daily, and we serve grain in many forms: sandwiches, bread bowls…ah…double decker sandwiches. Even though I handle bread daily, this has shaken me to the core. Maybe it foretells something big…like, triple decker sandwich big"
What exactly that is remains to be seen. However, Herb isn't the only one who regards the phenomena as something more significant than a garden variety optical illusion obviously caused by the street light directly about the illegally placed Nativity scene. When Herb blabbed his discovery at the Basketful Bakery nearby, news quickly wafted downwind to the editor of the Bentleyville Bi-Weekly. The front page story was delivered to doorsteps the next morning, and word spread globally very slowly via Myspace posts and AOL chatrooms. Two weeks later, bread lovers, wheat aficionados, and desperate patients with incurable grain deficiencies have flocked to Bentleyville by the loaf-ful.
A tent shantytown has sprung up about Nativity scene. Those who stand on the exact spot where Herb discovered the mysterious image-again, only when the street light is on-also claim to see the slice of toast. However, disagreement abounds over what the slice signifies. Some think it spells doom, exemplified by makeshift signs; one reads "The Yeast Shall Rise Again" while another proclaims "Repent. The Second Crumbing Is Nigh." Oh, and "Schwebel 3:16." Others who have traveled are stricken with gluten allergies and believe that touching the blow mold on Virgin Mary's plastic bosom-where the image appears-will help their bowels simmer down. Still, other visitors just plain-old love toast. "I fucking love toast," says Tabitha Whitman, a claims adjuster from Paducah, TN, who loves toast.
Businesses in the area also welcome the population surge. "I don't know how long this thing will last, but I've never made so much money from so many disillusioned scatterbrains in my life," said a local petty thief who simply steals wallets from the back pockets of those who stand in muted admiration of the easily explainable spectacle.
Despite the surge of attention that has befallen Herb Rosenhauer since the fateful day his eyes "accidentlly happened upon" on Mother Mary's chest, he strives to remain grounded. "I don't know what this whole toast thing means. But I do know that the Jets should be favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2016."
Update: Proof of a higher flour? Since publication of this piece, a report from Alabama tells of an English muffin spotted in a bust of Elvis, and another from Brazil claims a Toaster Strudel suddenly appeared in a framed velvet Jesus.