Sunday Stories: “Tumpangisme”


by Dale Stromberg

“Give me liberty, or give us death!” So says Jephthah.
“Wait—really?” says his daughter.
(Or so she might have said—but nobody wrote it down.)

Tried swallowing poison. Tried swallowing mousetraps. Tried quicklime, helium, eye of newt, flea collars, fragments of vinyl, a mysterious fish doll, a cabinet key, and sand. Began to despair of ever being cured.

So then, nearly at the end of my rope, I swallowed an eraser. It was a white, gummy one, and it tasted like an eraser. Soft as a berry but too, too dry. It wasted no time, but got to erasing straight off.

Gone were my tumors. Gone, polyps. Gone, swelling and bloating and abscesses and plaque. Gone, hateful tapeworm. I tell you, I felt like dancing.

But then it erased my appendix. I should have been more alarmed than I was. But you know what they say about the appendix.

It got my large intestine. Large gouts of eraser shavings came up, burp after burp. I began to feel nervous. My small intestine did not last much longer, and then it erased my stomach and my liver. Pancreas, gone. Kidneys, gone. I began to worry about my lungs, and about my spleen and bladder too.

About my heart, I wasn’t so worried.

I had to do something to fill up the hole, and I had to act fast. I swallowed you. I opened up my jaws impossibly wide, like a python or a baleen whale, and down the hatch you went. What was my plan? Well, don’t laugh, but I thought you’d be my eraser-stopper. I thought I’d figure out the details once you were down there.

How was I to know the eraser would erase you too?

It has already rubbed away your entire left leg. Parts of the fingers on both hands. Your crow’s feet and the mole by your belly button. Both eyebrows. I imagine you look perpetually surprised now. With no eyebrows, that is.

Once it erases you entirely, I don’t know what I’ll do.


Dale Stromberg grew up not far from Sacramento before moving to Tokyo, where he had a brief music career. Now he lives near Kuala Lumpur and makes ends meet as an editor and translator. His work has been published here and there.

Photo: Kim Gorga/Unsplash

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