Sunday Stories: “Life is a Cow with a Fly on its Eye”

Potato chips

Life is a Cow with a Fly on its Eye
by Eli S. Evans

The worst thing in the world, I think we can all agree, is cutting the inside of your mouth on the sharp edge of a potato chip. There you are, enjoying the combination of salt, grease, and crunch, availing yourself of the high satiety index, I believe is the proper terminology, of your potato chip, and suddenly it flips onto its side and slices, most of the time, into the roof of your mouth, and in that moment you know not only that you will not be able to take pleasure in eating the rest of your potato chips, the salt from which will, quite literally, be salt in the fresh wound, but that you will not be able to take pleasure – unmitigated pleasure, in any event – in eating anything, for days, because until the wound heals (a process that will suffer a setback each time you eat again), such pleasure will inevitably be compromised by a simultaneous experience of, if not outright pain, discomfort. And indeed, for some people pain can itself be pleasurable – the masochists, for instance – but no one has ever heard of anyone taking pleasure in discomfort unless, I suppose, you think of the penitents and ascetics in their haircloth undergarments, but in this case the pleasure would have been of a more abstract sort: the pleasure of knowing one’s own virtue, or of anticipating one’s heavenly reward, etc. Sir Thomas More, author of that awful schoolmarm’s favorite Utopia (short for De optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia, which is more of a mouthful than even a large, ridged potato chip), was known to have worn a shirt of hair cloth, though it is not clear whether he wore the shirt while composing the little book with which he would torture posterity centuries after his death, or only at other times of his life, such as – in order to stay awake to study for as many as twenty hours a day, so the story goes – during whatever passed for law school at that time, or while he was held captive in the Tower of London prior to, having been convicted of treason against the king, being beheaded. 

As for cutting the inside of your mouth on the sharp edge of a potato chip, I think we can all agree that this is pretty much the worst thing in the world, followed only by driving too fast over a speed bump (also known as “speed humps,” “speed tables,” and, informally, “silent policemen”), which is completely humiliating. Perhaps it is humiliating because the damage that has been done to your car – a significant economic investment for most people – as a result of your inattention is audible, in the squeak of the shocks (or are those the struts?), or the scraping of undercarriage against cement, the rattle of the frame. On the other hand, why should one be humiliated by something that has at one point or another happened to everyone, or in any event to every other driver with the exception of those who live in rural areas where there are no speed bumps, humps, or tables, and have never traveled by car to places where there are? Of course, there are other things that have happened to everyone, that is to say, everyone to whom they could happen, by which we are nonetheless humiliated when they happen to us. One example that comes to mind is a premature ejaculation or, this being a variation on the same theme, the failure to achieve an erection during an intimate (read: sexual) encounter. That said, masculinity, from which both the concept and experience of humiliation are, one could certainly argue, essentially inextricable, is implicated in both of these forms of humiliation, but not necessarily implicated in the humiliation one experiences as a result of driving too fast over a speed hump unless – as one could also certainly argue – the car is not just an extension of the body but, charged as it is (I have read) with phantasmagorias of power, possession, and appropriation, an extension more specifically of the phallus. But if the car that passes too fast over the speed bump, hump, or table is an extension of (or, for that matter, stand-in for) the phallus, is passing too fast over a speed bump, hump, or table, which is definitely the worst thing in the world after cutting your mouth on the sharp edge of a potato chip, the vehicular equivalent of a premature ejaculation or, alternately, the failure to achieve an erection during an intimate encounter?

I don’t know, but the fact of the matter is that life on this Earth is hard. Some people, for example, might look at a cow grazing in a sun-dappled pasture and think to themselves, that looks like a pretty easy life. But once I saw a cow grazing in a sun-dappled pasture (on a lovely summer day, to boot) trying to remove the black fly that had landed on its eyeball and was probably snacking away at it by – lacking any hands with or arms with which to accomplish the mission – rubbing said eyeball against the sharp point of a bit of loose wire jutting out of the long fence that ran, for as far as the eye could see (my eye, not the cow’s), along the edge of her grazing land. 


Eli S. Evans has recently published A Partial List of Things I Thought Might Kill Me Before I Started Taking a Daily Dose of Benzodiazepines, a chapbook, with Analog Submission Press, and Obscure & Irregular, a book of small stories, with Moon Rabbit Books & Ephemera. The former is sold out and out of print, while the latter can be purchased here. For completists, an internet search on Eli’s full name, including the middle initial, will yield access to a good deal more recent and not-so-recent publications, including some possibly regrettable ones from the early aughts. Leave out the middle initial and you’ll instead discover information about, among others, a president emeritus, a litigation attorney, a rally car driver, and the young son of an evidently well-regarded British voice actor.

Image: Mustafa Bashari/Unsplash

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