Marc Lowe
They Call Me Bob


         I don't know how it happened exactly. I just put the thing in my mouth, closed my eyes…after that there's nothing. They say my legs were crushed beneath the weight of my body. Now all I ever do is eat, watch television, sleep. Sometimes I have nightmares. They're always the same: I'm always falling, falling, falling, though I never land on solid ground. The small red puncture wound at the back of my head grows every night. I wish I could move my head from side to side or stand up, but that isn't possible anymore. I don't remember my name. I used to have a name, though. Of that much I'm sure, at least.

         On certain days of the week the visitors come, but I don't know who they are. They look at me with downcast eyes, but I have nothing to say to them for I cannot talk. The best I can do is to gurgle out sounds, though the people who come to visit me don't seem to understand. The nurses do, however. They care for me in every way: change my bedpan, feed me, let me watch the T.V. I like T.V a lot. Dating shows are my favorite. Oh, and cartoons. Sponge Bob is my hero.

         The big, scary-looking doctor sometimes comes to visit. He talks to the nurses and looks at me as if I'm some sort of idiot. I don't like being patronized but I can't very well tell him so, since he doesn't seem to understand my gurgling. Only the nurses understand. They take care of me. Did I mention that already? Oh, sorry. I'm repeating myself. I do that sometimes. It's the nightmares; the nightmares keep coming back. Falling, falling…then sometimes the pain in my head starts throbbing and the wound gets bigger. It's bloody too-it gushes real bad sometimes. Yeah, then I wake up and watch Sponge Bob on the T.V. I love T.V. Did I mention that already? Oh. Sorry. I'm doing it again.

         The nurses care for me and the doctor looks at me funnily (is that a word?). He tells the nurses to do weird stuff, like stick needles in my arms and take blood. They don't do this unless the doctor is around. I hate the doctor. Why doesn't he just leave me alone? The nurses understand me, though. They let me watch T.V. and eat Jell-o. I like Jell-o, especially the green kind. It feels cool and lumpy going down my constricted throat. I forget about the pain at the back of my head when I eat the Jell-o. The nurses understand me. They know what I like to eat.

         Today the visitors came again. Who are these people? They kept calling me by name, but I didn't recognize the sound of it. It definitely wasn't mine-I think they must have had me confused with someone else. I can't remember my name, though I know I had one before: I must have. Sometimes I just want to scream out Leave me alone! but why bother? Those people wouldn't understand anyway. The nurses understand, however; they let me watch my hero (Sponge Bob) on T.V. I wish the other people would just go home and watch their own T.V. What do they want from me anyway?

         One night I had a strange dream that was different from the normal kind. I was in my bed as usual when a nurse I had never seen before tiptoed into the room. She was middle-aged, with shoulder-length hair and thin, dry lips. I know I was dreaming because it was dark in the room and the nurses never come into the room when I'm sleeping without first knocking and turning the lights on. Anyway, this nurse came into the room and took the bedpan from under me, and then she did something very odd. What she did was-it's weird, I know-she began drinking it! Such a queer dream. She drank the urine in the pan and then she put her hands on me. I couldn't feel anything, of course, since I don't have feelings down there anymore, but she put her hands on me and then she began licking my legs and, well…you know where! It had to have been a dream. The nurse would never do anything so strange, would she? After that she left the room and I fell asleep again.

         Some time afterward-I don't remember how long exactly-I was falling again. The wound in my head got bigger and some more blood dripped out like it always does. When I woke up Sponge Bob (my hero) was on the T.V. He's always on the T.V. after my wound bleeds. The regular nurse was there and the lights were on. When she checked the bedpan it was empty. I guess I really didn't have to use it that day. I probably forgot to drink my juice! I tried to tell her about the strange dream but she said she didn't understand my gibberish. Instead, she patted me on the head and brought me some Jell-o to eat. Sponge Bob had ended, so she put on a dating show for me to watch instead.

         …Oh, hello. Didn't see you there. You don't know me, do you? They call me Bob, and I'm eligible bachelor number three! The wound is getting bigger every day. No matter, the nurses will take care of me. Where are the nurses? I'm falling again, and I can't feel my feet. Nurse? Anyone there? It's so dark. Hello? What's that noise? I'm scared. Please don't leave me here alone. Please-

         I'm repeating myself again, aren't I? I do that sometimes. It's the nightmares. Have I told you about the nightmares?





Letter of Resignation


         It all started when they took my books away. I didn't think I'd make it beyond a week, but here I am. I hate to waste ink, so I'll keep it brief; your time is precious (to you, no doubt). To think that trees died so that

         Let me begin again. It all started when they took my books away. First it was one, then three, six, twelve, twenty-four, forty-eight, and so on. Now I stare at these empty shelves, dully adorned with a paper-thin monitor and AM/FM clock-radio. It's 24/7 red, white and black lights on the screen (the official colors of the “United Manhood of Skin”) accompanied by the sounds of flesh drums and the sad voices of pre-adolescent virgins (motto: “Touch but don't enter”). All eating utensils are strictly forbidden; we eat with our right hands-as was apparently the custom in what used to be “India”-and wash them (the hands) with saliva donated by the late-night farmers who produce our food under ultraviolet lamps in government-subsidized laboratories. The farmers sleep by day; apart, that is, from those that are also preachers, who don't ever sleep and die young.

         The ink is running out, I'm afraid, and, further, I've forgotten what the point of this letter was in the first place. At any rate, it will be burned like the books, burned as they burn my corpse, scattering black ash around this mazelike planet entrapped in its own distorted, holographic reflection. Forget even that a human wrote this claptrap, for humans will soon be extinct (or have we already become…?). Will the earth rejoice in our disappearance? Will it revel in having deceived its destroyers by making us believe it was here to serve us when, in fact, it was the other way around? It's no wonder the

         Yes, the books are all gone, and not because they were perceived as particularly dangerous, but rather because no one has any interest in them anymore. No one cares: paper and ink are at a premium, and there's no time for text. Why should anyone care about text? We're all headed in the same direction, as any fool can see (and we're all fools, even those of us with half-brains). The virgins die an early death and no new children are born; the whores are venerated as saints and crucified, and no new children are born; the men kill themselves and each other and no new children are born. And when new children are born the universe sees to it that they die as quickly as possible (miscarriage, fatal birth defects, plague, etc.). Merciful Mother Earth. Her colors unfurling in the

         I'll begin again. It all started when they took my books away. I didn't think I'd make it beyond a week. These inky ashes are still smoldering somewhere in the void.





A Good Example


         “Follow me,” the principal says, leading me down a long, dimly lit corridor, where she proceeds to recite the names of every room we walk past (“This is the 'Art Room'; this is the third graders' homeroom; this is the 'Science Room'; those rooms to your right are the washrooms…”). Finally, we end up in the principal's office, where an unhealthily thin man with wispy hair gives me coffee that tastes like peat moss and tells me to “relax.” The principal is of modest stature; I reckon she weighs at least twice as much as she ought to. Her eyes scan my body from head to foot when she talks, as if trying to determine whether or not I'm fit to teach at her school. She offers me a small chunk of dark chocolate from an oversized box of candies, and as I reach for one (I'm allergic to chocolate, but I don't tell her) I can feel her gaze lingering around my crotch.

         “So, this is our humble school. What do you think? The children are all very excited about your visit today. They've been talking about it for weeks.”

         I force a smile and try to divert her attention away from the lump of chocolate I've enclosed in my loose fist by loudly slurping my coffee. She is peering at my forehead now, which is slightly damp.

         “It's very impressive. I'm sure I'll enjoy teaching here.”

         A sound like a gunshot rings out from the hallway and I jump in my seat, my fist suddenly constricting like a sphincter muscle and squashing the chocolate in my hand. The principal laughs, her uvula dancing.

         “Oh, don't worry about that. It's just a blank. We do it to shake the rotten apples up a bit so that they won't spoil things for the rest of the kids. You know the expression, don't you?”

         I nod my head nervously, a waft of chocolate on the air.

         “Would you like some more coffee?” she asks, gazing at my crotch again. “How about another chocolate? There's plenty, so don't hold back.”

         “No, I'm fine,” I say. My stomach begins to gurgle. Another shot rings out. This time I yelp. The principal closes the door behind her, laughing more violently than before.

         “You silly man, I told you we use blanks! Why are you so tense? Are you sure you wouldn't like another cup of jo before class?”

         “Actually, I'd like to use the washroom,” I say, feeling sick. The chocolate has half melted, leaving a dark, sticky mess in my palm.

         “Of course. Remember that class begins in ten minutes, though. Don't be late, or we'll have to shoot you with a blank too. We wouldn't want to set a bad example for the children, you understand.” She smiles, revealing a mouth full of silver fillings.

         I nod and make for the toilet. The window is open, and as I tumble to the ground another shot goes off from inside the school, then another, this time louder than the previous one. I turn around for a moment to observe that the entirety of Class 2-A is after me. Drops of chocolate, like blood, stain my pants as cries of “Shoot the deserter!” ring out. I run, taking cover in an abandoned school bus with holes in the windows and partially gutted seats, until the noise dies down. When I emerge there is a body lying on the pavement, motionless. It is the principal, still clutching the box of chocolates under her arm, a look of astonished horror on her face. A furtive grin begins to tug at the sides of my dry mouth, and as I head for the nearest bus stop I am laughing so hard I can no longer breathe.





Eggshells


         My wife and I sit facing each other across the kitchen table. Our conversation proceeds in the usual fashion.

         “So, how was your day?”

         “Oh, fine. Yours?”

         “Okay, I guess.”

         “What did you do?”

         “Well, I worked of course, picked up some milk and cheese, called to wish my mother a happy birthday…”

         “Mmm.”
 
        “You?”

         “Same as always. Work was hectic. You know…”

         “Yeah, I know.”

         Neat rows of eggs line the table like small, rotund soldiers, trembling precariously every time a truck drives by. I have no idea why they are there, though I dare not ask.

         “Are you working again tomorrow?”

         “Of course. I always work on Saturdays.”

         “Right.”

         “What are your plans?”

         “Well, I have a few errands to run. Yup, got a few things to do…”

         She turns her head toward the large window behind her to gaze out into the empty lot. The egg nearest me suddenly falls off the edge of the table and lands under the chair.

         “Shall I pick that up?”

         “What?”

         “One of th-the eggs just fell. Do you want me to pick it up?”

         “If you like.”

         I open my mouth to say something else, but nothing emerges. I let my arm dangle for a moment, but can't find the egg.

         “I can't find the egg.”

         “It probably rolled under the table.”

         “Do you want me to try and find it?”

         “Well, do you really want to?”

         I change the subject.

         “So, what's for dinner tonight?”

         “Chicken. Every Friday is chicken night. You know that.”

         “Do I?”
 
        “Well, you do now.”

         She sighs and, standing, folds her arms in front of her chest; her lovely hazel green eyes are concealed by her overgrown bangs, which she keeps saying she means to trim but never does. I haven't seen those sad eyes of hers in months.

         “I have to go. I'll be back soon.”

         Her tone is flat, unconvincing. Is she even convinced of her own words?

         “There's chicken in the freezer. Help yourself.”
 
        “How soon will you be back?”

         “Soon. I'll be back soon. Take care of the eggs for me until then, okay? They're bound to hatch any day now.”

         “They're safe with me.”

         The moment I hear the door close I climb onto the table and lie belly-down on top of the stark white eggs; they are reduced to a chalky-powder in an instant, like ground up Tums. Realizing my mistake, I take the slab of chicken out of the freezer, lay it on top of the remaining eggshells, and patiently wait for them to hatch.