Welcome to the twenty-eighth in a weekly series of very short stories, and thank you for reading.
When the bell rang in June’s classroom and she looked up from the storybook she had been reading aloud to her students, she had the sensation of having seen her husband standing in the doorway as she read, though she knew that that could not be so because he was a neurologist with a full schedule of surgeries on weekday mornings. She lined her children up in two rows in the hallway and marched them down to the auditorium, where they were to have a dress rehearsal for the play they would perform that weekend. When she emerged onto the sidewalk outside the school for her lunch hour, there he was waiting for her. They had been having some problems and Saul had moved out a week ago. She’d spoken to him on the phone but not seen him since then. He had several days’ growth of beard, was thinner, and looked as if he was balancing on the sidewalk rather than standing on it. As usual he didn’t speak but waited for her to. “How are you?” she asked. “Good.” “No surgery today?” “Elmo’s covering for me.” Elmo was the skeleton he kept in his office at the hospital, hanging from a hook in its skull and held together by wire. Saul was not given to making jokes, especially about surgery. He was a taciturn man who expressed very little. This had begun to make June nuts. Now he was laughing at his own joke. “Saul, are you all right?” “No.” “What’s wrong?” “What do you think is wrong? I can’t sleep, I hardly eat. I’m on my way to give a lecture on the human brain to a group of college biology majors and my hands won’t stop shaking.” “But you said nothing when I asked you to leave. You seemed indifferent, as you seem about most things.” “I’m not indifferent. I’m different. My inside is different from my outside. I’m always feeling something, I just don’t show it. I thought you knew this.” “So what’s it like to show your feelings, finally?” “I hate it.” “I like you better this way—I don’t know what to do with you when you won’t let me inside you. Do you have another joke for me?” He pointed behind her at the front door of the school and said, “Your students are approaching me with pitchforks and torches in their hands. They look angry.” June laughed. “No,” Saul said, “I’m serious.” The students surrounded June and Saul. They had dirt on their faces and they were shouting, “Give us the monster! Give us the monster!” Saul acceded to their demands, pulling from his briefcase a large jar that contained a pink human brain floating in clear, viscous fluid. Teddy, the biggest boy in June’s class, rushed toward Saul brandishing his pitchfork. “Put the brain on the sidewalk and back away!” Saul obliged. Teddy tossed his prop to the ground, picked up the jar containing the brain, raised it over his head, and ran back inside the school, surrounded by all the other shrieking students. June went to Saul and gently put her arms around him. “Darling, how do you feel?” “I feel like I’m melting into nothing.”