Two Micro Stories by Roberta Allen

THE DYING MAN

The dying man just told the barmaid and two customers that he is dying. The two men stare at their drinks. The barmaid washes glasses so she doesn’t have to look at the dying man. “I’m so sorry,” the barmaid says. But she’s not God. She can’t save him. Still, the dying man feels better now that he’s told them. For a while the dying man is free of the death that has crept into every corner of the bar.

THE PAINTING

Skin and bones, the anorexic hypochondriac feels too weak to get out of bed. Of her many illnesses, only her anorexia is real. Her caretaker sits on a hard folding chair, her back against a huge painting of a devil with knife and fork munching on a little girl’s brain while a little boy with a penis growing out of his mouth beheads a giant cat. A comfortable sofa and easy chairs face the painting but the caretaker can’t bear to look at it. Neither can the hypochondriac’s cousin when she comes to visit. “You know that’s a penis growing out of his mouth,” the cousin says to the caretaker. “Yes, I know!” she replies. But the hypochondriac won’t let her family throw out the painting. As the cousin gets ready to leave, the caretaker says wistfully, “I wish you would visit more often,” but she knows the cousin will not.

–Roberta Allen


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