January 27, 2010

FIRST PLACE: The Man Who Disappeared

By Robert L. Penick

It didn’t happen all at once. At first he appeared shorter, but everyone thought he was slouching. Then he grew shorter still, but it was football season and folks were distracted. His little piggy toes went next, then his floating rib. Then, mysteriously, his coccyx vanished. His testicles were the next to go.

Just kidding. It was his appendix that deserted him in some uninhabited hour. Of course the hair fell out and co-workers made jokes about middle age. But what they didn’t know was all his hair emigrated to the shower drain. He scooped it out with the three fingers of his left hand (pinky gone) and slapped the wiry mess into the toilet.

A man without a left pinky has little to lose and a lot to think about. So this brave, shrinking fellow quit his job, sold his house, and bought a tent. In his now-too-big shoes he hiked into a forest, hammered down stakes and settled in to review his life.

His parents both died before he graduated high school. His college lost its accreditation his senior year. The first three companies he worked for went bankrupt. By his mid-twenties, he was anemic. The handwriting was on the wall.

So he sat in the forest. When his camp was finally discovered, the only things found were his tent and a pair of boots he could never fill.