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
—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
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
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.
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