A MAN, HIS WIFE, A FOX, A FLY
A man was in a lot of pain.
“Maybe it’s all in your head,” said his wife.
Which was true, inasmuch as the specific source of his pain was a headache.
Therein was about to end a short and simple story, but just before it could a fox, wandering past the window above the author’s desk, wandered into it and bit the poor man right in the scrotum. And why did the fox bite that poor man in the scrotum? Because that poor man’s scrotum happened to resemble a fuzzy little mouse, and everyone knows foxes love to prey upon fuzzy little mice.
“Ow!” shouted the man, by the way. “My scrotum!”
The good news, on the other hand, was that getting bit in the scrotum by a fox had caused him to completely forget about his headache as a result of something called task-related analgesia, although technically speaking, getting bit in the scrotum by a fox probably doesn’t qualify as “a task.”
Well, it was at this juncture that the author, thinking he could do no worse, decided to stop writing for the day and head for – it really doesn’t matter where, actually, but suffice it to say it was most definitely not, yet again, the local antique store – and en route it occurred to him that the fly that had been buzzing around the inside of his car for the past three days was probably wondering what it had done to deserve all this applause.
Clap, clap, clap, went the author, which required him to remove both hands from the steering wheel, as a result of which the car, left to its own devices and following the tilt of the terrain, veered into the path of an oncoming truck, and in such a manner this story – but not the fly – finally did meet its end.
TOO MUCH CHEESE
Somehow, I ended up with a tremendous quantity of cubed cheese.
I say somehow, but I know how – I just don’t really want to get into it. In any event, now the question was how to get rid of it.
I started with my friend who is known above all for his love of cheese and willingness to consume it in great quantities.
“No can do,” he said. “Cholesterol.”
I could hardly believe it – he was thin, an avid racquetball player, and ate fish at least once a week, but never more than twice.
“I think it must have been all that cheese,” he explained. “Either that or bad genes. But of the two, there’s only one I can do anything about, and that’s the cheese. You know that the majority of fatal heart attacks aren’t the result of arterial blockage, right? Eighty percent of the time, what happens is that an unstable plaque in one of the arteries bursts, and then a clot forms around it, and from there – goodnight, Irene.”
“You think you’ve got problems,” I said. “What the hell am I supposed to do with all this cubed cheese?”
“You’re a very creative person,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
So I left it on a folding card table near the first-floor elevator but none of the other tenants were interested, evidently due to hygiene concerns.
With that in mind, I bought a box of cocktail toothpicks with the little plastic frill on one end and left the toothpicks, along with a small bin for disposing of them, on the table beside the cheese. But a terrible heatwave was ongoing and everyone was sweating from every part of their body, including the wrists. Long story short, they were convinced that spearing the cheese with a toothpick instead of grabbing it with your bare hand wouldn’t keep the sweat from dribbling off your sweaty wrist into the remaining cheese such that any piece of cheese one speared was likely to have been contaminated already with someone else’s wrist sweat.
They had a point, I had to admit; but in the meantime, the cheese was starting to mold. That’s when I realized there was nothing for me to do but eat it myself, all of it, and moreover as quickly as I could.
“Watch out,” my friends warned me. “You do something like that, you’re going to end up turning into a big piece of cheese yourself.”
I thought they were wrong, but they were actually right! And what do you do once you’ve turned into a big piece of cheese? The best you can, of course. In my case, that means offering my services as an edible cheese sculpture at fancy parties. I attend these parties, keeping very still and enjoying the ambience. Mostly, I am ignored, but from time to time someone hacks off a small piece of me and eats it with, for example, a seeded cracker.
In this way, I am slowly disappearing.
“You’ve always been a good-for-nothing, and this proves it,” his wife, who was endlessly berating him, berated him when he announced that, having had just about enough of it all and then some, he’d be becoming a bum and moving into a leaky old tent down by the river.
Disinclined to give her the satisfaction of being right yet again, he formulated a plan: instead of just becoming any old bum, he’d become the best bum. Or, in any event, a very excellent bum. A good enough bum, anyhow, that it would no longer be possible for her to say that he wasn’t good at anything, because he’d have clearly demonstrated that he was good at being a bum, his having become which would therefore turn out in the long run to have disproven the very thing she was so certain it had proven.
Of course, since no matter how you cut it, being a bum is a form of being bad at things—at life, generally speaking, and then also at more specific things, like earning money or securing a place of residence—it was also the case that one could only be good at being a bum by being bad at being a bum; and since “good” and “bad” are relative terms, insofar as, for example, a very good youth baseball player would probably be a very bad professional baseball player and so forth, if he was going to be good at being a bum, i.e. bad at being a bum, he was in fact going to have figure out how to be even worse at being a bum than the majority of the other bums.
Luckily, it wasn’t difficult for him to find a solution, which was that at dinnertime, when the other bums would open their cans of beans with rusty old can openers or edgeless pocketknives, he would just beat his against a rock until it split and then scoop the contents directly into his mouth using his bare hands.
“I’m impressed,” conceded his wife, who had come down to the river to berate him for old time’s sake. “You really are bad at this.”
“I’ve got some bad news,” a man said to another man. “Very bad.”
“How bad can it be?” scoffed the second man. “After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
“Well, actually,” the first man said, “in this case it’s going to kill you. What I mean is, you’re dying.”
“Hold it right there,” said the second man. “Who the hell are you to just waltz on in here and tell me I’m dying?”
“Your doctor,” replied the first. “And in here is my examination room, where you were waiting for me to come back and tell you about your test results, as you may recall.”
“Fine,” said the second man. “But be that as it may, in the end it’s still up to God to decide whether or not I live and die.”
“I never said it wasn’t,” replied the doctor. “All I’m doing is informing you of his decision.”
“Hmm,” said the second man. “I’m going to have to think that one over for a minute.”
For a long time, he was very quiet.
Eventually, the doctor looked at his watch and realized he was about to be late for his next appointment. “Hey,” he said to the man who was dying. “Hey, are you done thinking, because I’ve got a full schedule today and if I get behind now it’s just going to snowball on me. Hey! Hello!”
But the man did not answer him, because it so happens he had died.
“Well, that certainly escalated quickly,” the doctor said. Then he thought that before leaving the room to call the undertakers, he should place a coin in the dead man’s mouth in the tradition of Charon’s obol, which is to say, as a bribe to ensure his safe passage across the River Styx into the kingdom of the dead or, conversely, in order to prevent his soul from escaping his dead body and spending the rest of all eternity making floorboards creak and small objects fall off of shelves in the middle of the night.
But the only coin the doctor had on hand was a chocolate one, wrapped in gold foil embossed with the image of a menorah, which he must have shoved into his pocket and subsequently forgotten about during a recent Hanukkah celebration with his damned in-laws, who to make matters worse weren’t even Jewish.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” he shrugged, without specifying who, in this context, he was considering to be the beggar. Then he gave the dead man a little shove so that he fell backwards onto the examining table and carefully slid the disc of chocolate, now liberated from its foil shackles, between his lips.
For a moment, it sat there balancing; a moment later, the dead man extended his tongue, took it the rest of the way into his maw, and began to chew.
“Help!” cried the doctor. “He’s alive!”
“Of course I am,” said his patient, sitting up wearing a satisfied grin. “What’s more, those test results you looked at were counterfeit. Yes, all of this was just an elaborate scheme I cooked up for the purpose of getting a free snack.”
“Ah,” replied the doctor. “But suspecting as much, I quickly laced that chocolate coin with poison before feeding it to you.”
“Ah,” said the patient. “But anticipating just such an eventuality, I made certain to take the antidote prior putting my plan into action.” “I see,” said the doctor. “Yet, if you think you’ve successfully thwarted me, you may be surprised to know that I brought with me to the office today my best nunchaku, with which I will now proceed to beat you to a pulp.”
“Not only am I not surprised,” said the patient, “but anticipating this eventuality no less than the previous, I brought with me, and have in my pockets at this very moment, several Chinese throwing stars with which I intend to defend myself vigorously.”
“Fascinating,” said the doctor, “and yet, foreseeing your foresight, and similarly well-aware of your predilection for Chinese throwing stars, I have spent the last several months training with Pedro Martínez-Fraga, head of legal affairs for the World Nunchaku Association, in the proper utilization of nunchaku to deliver a terrible beating to an enemy armed with Chinese throwing stars.”
“Indeed,” said the patient, “I anticipated such a level of preparation on your part, and in view of it made sure to coat the razor-sharp tips of my Chinese throwing stars with human feces such that if, in the midst of this terrible beating, I manage to inflict upon you even a single wound, severe infection requiring amputation of the affected limb or worse will soon develop at the site of it.”
“Ingenious,” acknowledged the doctor. “And yet, if you think you will therefore escape this examination room unscathed, you’ve got another thing coming, for it just so happens that as a back-up plan, I hired a very large meteorite to slam into the earth, putting an instantaneous end to all human existence, in five, four, three, two – ”
Eli S. Evans has published work in countless literary journals, reputable and otherwise. A small book of small stories, Obscure & Irregular, can be purchased via Moon Rabbit Books & Ephemera or via the usual online retail and distribution behemoths. A larger book of smaller stories is forthcoming just in time for the holidays, though no one can say for sure which holidays.