Today I eat the world, I said to myself.
I descended the stairs, pyjama-clad, and began preparing an American breakfast from the deepsouth of my childhood. The kind of breakfast that gave my bearded forefathers,still stinking of bourbon, the get-up-and-go to destroy entire Native American nations and still have enough moxy and pep to lay an intercontinental railroad with their bones. It was to be nourishment enough to win the cold war, the war on drugs, and, for kicks, a few south Asian conflicts and humanitarian interventions. You don't cure polio or invent rock and roll on an empty stomach, no sir.
I'm talking about plates of eggs smiling at me sunny-side up. Strips of bacon burnt to a crisp with a heap of sausage patties on the side. Chicken-fried steak. Hash browns. Grits with brown sugar. Pancakes, God blessed, pancakes. Buttermilk pancakes. Buckwheat pancakes. All of them stacked fat and tall, smothered in maple syrup and butter. Biscuits, not the cookie kind, God damn you, sopped in red-eye gravy. Now we're talking. Cornbread muffins and blueberry muffins. Grapefruit halves drowning in honey. Peach cobbler.Some toast too. And to wash it all down, freshly squeezed orange juice and endless cups of black coffee.
I took a moment to thank the almighty and survey the spread before me. I ate and I ate. When my knife and fork woredull, I used my hands, two fists full at time. I licked up the dribbles of syrup on the tablecloth. When every plate was cleared of every morsel, I leaned back and sighed with satisfaction. The elastic on my pyjamas cried for mercy. Now…
Now, with my throat lubricated and my belly stretched, I was ready to make good on my pledge.
Today I eat the world.
The plates and glasses crashed to the floor as I pulled off a table leg and ate it likea drumstick. I drank a pot of coffee between each leg. Wiping my mouth with the tablecloth, I ate that too. I ate the broken plates. I ate the glass. I ate the counter tops and the bottoms too. I ate the fridge. I ate the kitchen. I swallowed everything I own, the car and TV last.My chest burned and I heaved to take breaths as I sat on the bare foundation of my house. Water spraying from a mains pipe cooled my sweating brow. The neighbour's cat Tiddlesmewed at my distended belly beached upon on the driveway. Tiddles was the cherry on the top of a sundae; I popped him into my mouth and was ready for the desert.
My family tasted sweet; my neighbours tasted bitter. The town went down easy, but the roads got stuck in my teeth. I chewed contented, because today I eat the world.
I was eatinga mountain that tasted of pennies, or blood, when I saw a girl munching a snow capped peak at the end of therange. Her shining coal hair was speckled with crumbs of the Great Wall. She watched me from the corner of her hooded oily eyes, muttering something and spraying alpine trees in my direction. I turned my back so I didn't lose my appetite from watching her grimace and squint as she stuffed her face full of earth.
It was no good. I stuffed one ear with Liechtenstein and the other with Andorra to block out the crunch crunch crunch of her. I squeezed my eyes shut until I saw stars and sipped the watery bouillabaisse of the Mediterranean. Now I could forget her and remember that today I eat the world.
I chewed in silence. I chewed in darkness. I must have been eating Africa – it tasted of spice and history – when I smelled the scent of peonies. As I slurped up my continent, the smell strengthened. My lip felt rubber, and I sent my tongue to investigate the quivering mass. I licked its length, and it tasted of sweat.
I jerked back enraged, holding my bitten tongue. I opened my eyes and the girl stared at me. She chewed and swallowed, watching me. Go away, I thaid. She wrinkled up her nose and smiled. Rolling over, her doughy flesh slapped against the earth as she laid on her belly to finish the remains of northern Russia. Blue veins thickened with the cholesterol of the world, my world, ran up the dimpled and ridged flesh. The flat wide expanse of her ass was covered in Gobi sand. I turned my back and licked the penguin sprinkles from Antarctica. Today I eat the world and I'll eat her too.
When I finished that frozen continent, I looked around for the next course. The only thing I could see was her foot at the end of a leg that stretched out of sight. I pulled myself along the drained ocean bottom, stopping to suck at theseafloor volcanoes for that last little bit. Heryellowed toenails disappeared into the cracked and flaky flesh of her toes. I swallowed back the gushing saliva in my mouth and bit down on her.
My scream was muffled as I worked my lips around the dripping fat of her ankles. She was eating my foot. I worked my jaw open, dislocating it like a snake. I pulled at the loose flesh of her thighs, then her stomach, then her chest to drag her down my gullet, no longer taking time to chew. I felt her teeth sink into my throat just as I bit into hers. And when I took that last bite, it was dark. It was warm inside her and my eyes were getting heavy. I felt her shifting to get more comfortable in my stomach. As we settled down to sleep, today I ate the world, we thought.
© Jarred McGinnis, 2008
Today I eat the world by Jarred McGinnis was read by Tim Aldrich at the Liars' League "Feast & Famine" event on Tuesday 13 May 2008.
Born in New Mexico, raised on an island off the Florida coast, today, Jarred McGinnis is just another Londoner. He wiles away his days publishing academic works such as the sexily titled, On the Mutability of Protocols. At night, he writes stories to amuse himself, his wife and a Russian who lives in Texas.