Aaron Kunin

      “The winner!” said Leah Gelpe.

      “I win!” said Hallamore. “What did I win?”

      “A loaf of bread,” said Mercy. “The breadwinner!”

      “There must be some mistake!” said Hallamore.  “I really don’t

deserve it!”


The Easy Winners

      “This fine bread goes to you, Hallamore,” said Leah Gelpe, “in

recognition of your unerring instinct for choosing the wrong word.

Through the years, even when you had to speak briefly, you have

invariably managed to use a word that no one could make any sense of,

and you always thought that you were terribly clever for thinking it

up.  Your shining example challenges the rest of us to express

ourselves more obliquely, to use words that obscure rather than clarify

our intentions – we who typically use a few words over and over, we

don’t even like them especially, but they are the only words we can


      “He’s eating the bread from the wrong end,” said Mercy.  “And I

want to correct his mistake, take the thing out of his hand, turn it

around.  But I also don’t want to embarrass him further.”

      “Wonderful bread,” said Hallamore.  “Mercy, you must try some.

It’s real soft . . . and it’s sweetened with nutritious molasses.”

      “No thanks, I’m zoophagous,” said Mercy.

      “Won’t you have some, Willy?” said Hallamore.

      “Your desire to share the bread shows that it doesn’t really

belong to you,” I said, “because if it were really your bread, how

could you bear to see it divided?”

      “You’ve been disqualified, Hallamore,” said Leah Gelpe.  “Your

prize has been revoked.”

      “I’ve already eaten some of it,” said Hallamore.

      “So much the worse for you,” said Leah Gelpe.

      “Oh Hallamore,” said Mercy, “I would rather have you at the

height of your powers.  I will never forget the day my biology teacher

took me aside and said, ‘Young lady, listen to me: no one will like you

if you let them see that you like Hallamore.  If you want to get

anywhere on this little planet you will have to conceal your love for

your brother like a deformed limb.  In certain circles, it is

impossible to pronounce the name ‘Hallamore’ without eliciting roars of

laughter.  They call him soft-brained because he never fails to bring

out as a last-ditch defense that precious softness of his, which he

once brandished before the senate in an attempt to salvage his lost and

ruined reputation, shouting over everyone’s laughter: “Mr. President, I

want softness, I want softness!” – as, shuffling our feet noisily, we

filed out of the auditorium.’”

      “As I followed the others out of the auditorium,” I said, “I

called over my shoulder, ‘I will never abandon you, Hallamore!’ I know

he is somewhat ridiculous. He tends to make mistakes with the

dictionary, especially with big words, and gets himself into tangles

that he can never get out of.  Listen to the way he says the word

‘extraordinary’ and you’ll see what I mean. ‘Ex-straw-dinary!’ But

how can I bring myself to abandon him? He saved me from the grim

monodrama of the restaurant.  Without Hallamore, you get monodrama.

With Hallamore, you get method, and dialectic.”

      “That which is sweet should be avoided,” said Mercy. “Hallamore

is sweet, and I will not taste him; Hallamore, I will not consume you,

and I will not tread on you with my sandals.

      “Open to me, earth; I despise Hallamore and will not taste him; I

have not gone infected into Minneapolis.  I will not touch what you

touch, twice-hated Hallamore; my body revolts against what Hallamore

produces; my biology teacher slept all the way through Hallamore’s

production of The Three Sisters.

      “Woe to Minneapolis! You pick over the bodies of the dead; you

turn the color of your food.  What you have eaten is Hallamore; you are

the yolk and the shell of the same egg, and I will not be subdued by my

enemies. What I double-detest, I will not taste; what I detest is

Hallamore, and I will not taste him; what my biology teacher detests is

Hallamore, and he will not enter into my body.  I will not hold you in

my mouth, break for you into a bowl, or flow for you into a basin.  I

will not go upside-down for you.”