Everything’s in Something Else

Christmas, 1998 / No. 2

A man had been saving all year for a microwave oven. Finally, he brought it home from the department store. He unpacked it from its cardboard box and fastened it above his stove, just as he’d always dreamed of doing. Then he chose a microwavable dinner from his freezer and set the time and level on his new oven. But when he opened the door of the oven–behold! There was a human head inside. “That’s strange,” he thought. “A human head in my brand new microwave oven!” He referred to the instruction booklet, but in none of the six languages could he find an entry applicable to his particular situation. Blustering on regardless, he opened the jaw of the human head and–behold! There was a small velvet-covered box on the tongue. “A small velvet-covered box in the mouth of the head in my microwave oven,” he thought. “That’s really unusual.” He lifted out the velvet-covered box and set it on his kitchen counter. He checked to make sure he had plugged in the microwave oven, and everything seemed to be in order. Very gently, preparing to leap out of the way should he trigger some sort of detonation, he pressed the brass latch on the velvet-covered box, and the lid flung open silently. Inside the box, on a miniature scarlet cushion, there was a tiny plastic head. On closer examination, the man saw the head wore a military helmet and around its severed throat were toothmarks. “Now I’ve seen everything&,’ he thought. “A chewed-off soldier’s head in the velvet-covered box that came out of the mouth of the human head in my new microwave oven. A stranger thing I could never have dreamt up.”

Then something twigged in his brain. He ran to his storage closet and rummaged through bags and boxes. At last he came to a particularly tattered cardboard box and pulled open the flaps. He felt around the inside until he found what he was looking for. A headless plastic soldier carrying a bayonet. “So that’s where it went, after all these years!” he exclaimed, rushing back to the kitchen.

In the utility drawer, he found a small tube of superstrength glue and proceeded to glue the soldier’s head back on to its plastic body. When the glue had dried, which didn’t take long at all–behold! The little plastic soldier grew up into a full-sized, flesh-and-blood soldier, right there in the man’s kitchen. “This is something so amazing&,’ he thought, “that nobody would ever believe it!” Then he noticed that the head had disappeared from the microwave oven. It was the head that now sat on the shoulders of the soldier standing in his kitchen.

“Thank you,” said the soldier. “Now I am whole again. I am your buddy, Allen Burton, from Grade 2. You once slept over at my place, remember? Then my dad was relocated to Thunder Bay and the family moved. We never kept in touch, because that’s the way it is with little kids. Later, I joined the armed forces and my head was blown off by a mine planted by our own men. I am back now to offer all my energy to the anti-war cause, and it is you who has made this possible. I will speak to the people and to the politicians. I will demonstrate in front of embassies and chain myself to the gates of armament factories. I will tirelessly cross this country again and again until our leaders have spoken out against all forms of violence; until they’ve dismantled our army and called for the dismantling of armies around the world; until people learn to solve their differences through talk and compromise instead of murder and mutilation.”

The other man stared at the soldier for a moment. Then he lifted up a kitchen chair and beat him to death. He slid his microwave dinner into the new oven and pressed the start button.