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THE GREAT MASTER / Thomas E. Kennedy "I fall asleep hoping I will not dream. That I won't remember my dreams in the morning. I point my mind toward tomorrow, where I must believe I'll find myself. Where I wait for myself, in mufti, some new, different, whole person." —Gordon Weaver, "Macklins Epigraphic Loss" YEARS PASSED IN THIS WAY, this duU, grey quotidian. I was nothing, an endless succession of days, today disappearing into the blur of a past so undistinguished as barely to exist. I decided to eat everything in the house. It seemed a worthy project. To void the house of food. It would be a pure act in an impure world. Bottles, jars, biscuit tins would achieve an immaculate emptiness. The refrigerator would become pure in its frost, empty, sterile as the white tundra. My body would become a shelter, sculpture, art. I worked at night while the others slept, teaching my body to expand. Red wine to thicken my gut. Milk, cold in the glass, to expand the beUy capacity. I started by vacuuming off leftovers. Nothing was wasted. Salami heels. A bowl of congeaUng cold spaghetti. Broken Lorna Doones in a nest of crumbs at the corners of the packet. I sat at the kitchen table, my work tools around me: a loaf of Wonder Bread, tomatoes, quarts of milk, olives, cloves of garUc, sUced cheese in plastic wrappings, oatmeal. Up on the pantry shelf a block of dark chocolate. Beneath the sink a can of brown beans in molasses, sardines, tuna chunks in oü. Sitting alone, I chewed and swaUowed, chewed and swaUowed, belched and smiled and knew I had found my work. Beneath the glass globe of the kitchen Ught, shaped like an inverted clam sheU, glowing around its hundred watt bulb, I sat facing the white refrigerator, the stove, the pale blue tiles of the wall. I belched through closed smüing Ups, sighed, gazed into the bottom of my beautiful empty mUk glass, fiUed it again, carved myself a wedge of Baby Bel cheese and sat smüing, munching, staring at the long rectangular box of choco-chip cookies to which I would address myself next. The happiness of my Ups, of a fuU mouth, full throat, fuU belly which would continue to expand The Missouri Review · 179 in capacity, continue to be fuU for as long as my work should continue, made me know I was chosen, blessed. The world loved me then. Fat man. No, man of appetite. Mensch. I drank till wine ran from the corners of my mouth, wiped it away with the back of my hand. Tore meat from the bone with my teeth, Ucked the gUstening fat from my Ups, my fingers. I wolfed blue cheese on toasted buttered baguette, washed it down with müdly tempered Fitou; raw onion nestled on a bagel, spread with cream cheese; Wonder Bread buttered thick with a wedge of raw Bermuda on a sheaf of packaged salami sUces, a schooner of foaming draft. There was no happiness like mine. I worked hard, but aU my best efforts seemed futile. Every time I eUminated a product from the house it reappeared the next night, or the next, or a week later. No sooner was a purple jar of grape jeUy reduced to a sticky residue than a new jar appeared and those hours of labor with knife, jar, saltine crackers, that sense of triumph and accompUshment as the blade clacked against the glass bottom, screeching as I sought to scrape up enough to purple the pale face of the last salty cracker in the pack, gave way to futility, resignation. My body could never expand enough to contain this bottomless cornucopia. I would never empty this house of food, never. How could I go on? I had to. I went on. In the end they began to hide things so that my nightly labors became a search and destroy mission. The fruit cake in the washing machine, half gaUon of red wine in the vacuum cleaner tank. Always, beneath the roU of wax paper beside the utensü drawer, was a long flat pack of raisin cookies. Chewie ones...


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