Summarized Souls
Brian Allen Carr

We were so poor our summarized souls moved away and never phoned back. The cooks spooned static in our bowls. White-noise porridge, they called it, and The Captain said, because it was Christmas, we could have seconds, though he shook his head at thirds.

He walked the mess hall wearing a necklace made from the hands of human babies—a gift from the wife. By some new science the flesh did not rot, but lived. He took it off to show us. The hands were couplets. Two hands, aimed in opposite directions, shared one wrist. Each hand in the six couplets grasped another couplet's hand. In this way they formed a circle. Pink little fingered links of a fleshy chain.

—We've a special treat, said The Captain.

A Santa Claus came from somewhere, sat on a large chair at the front of the hall.

—Everyone's to get a turn, The Captain continued.

The rest of the men banged their spoons on the table, heaped static at one another, smiled grey teeth like fools. My heart grew warm.

We formed a line. Each of us blank and scrawny in our charcoal suits, our balding skulls like knuckles flecked with clay.

I didn't like the custom.

Each man took a turn sitting on the lap of Santa and pulling his fake beard from his face. Each time like new, the men laughed when the beard showed false.

It was my turn, though I had no hatred in me.

I sat on his lap. His red-magic body a soft mound you could sleep against. I cupped a hand to his ear. I put my face near his face. I whispered what I'd like him to bring me—and my whisper and his smell made the stink of laundry.

—Is that all? he asked.

The Santa motioned for The Captain. The Captain came, and then they whispered. The Captain looked at me. He stroked his baby-hand necklace. He smiled silver teeth, puffed up like a proud thing.

—I like your style, he told me. You're made from better than average things.

I tried to thank him, but he shushed me.

—Today, The captain hollered to the rest of the men, because of this man, The Captained pointed at me, everyone gets, The Captain raised both of his arms high in the air, A THIRD BOWL OF STATIC!

And all of them men hooped an hollered and danced in circles, and picked me up upon their shoulders and marched me to my seat at the table where I was the first to be re-served. 

Brian Allen Carr is the author of SHORT BUS, a collection of stories.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Squirrely Mae.

W i g l e a f               12-12-11                                [home]