UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
TOM CONOBOY

Bittersweetness

I have eaten all the stuffed pygmy limes that were in the fridge. I have eaten the
salmon flavoured yoghurts. I have eaten the bread seasoned with copper and nickel,
the potatoes sculpted into a representation of the Hallelujah Chorus and the
melon-ball chilli tortilla wraps. I weigh 322 pounds and, until today, it has been
my intention to undulate around the world, serenely, eating, eating. It has been a
dangerous pilgrimage, but I embraced the challenge. Soon, I shall be the number one
gourmand in heaven, and my fat-besieged heart is glad that it will be able to
relinquish its burden. I am on the final quest, the search for the perfect taste. It
is a bittersweet knowledge that my love of sensation will be my downfall, and my
aspiration, my intention is that such bittersweetness will be matched at the last by
consumption of the ultimate ailment. I am approaching my last supper, and I do so
with the equanimity of our Lord. The Judas hand, however, is mine own.

The pinnacle of flavour experience, to date, is one I discovered in a street cafe on
the corner of Rue Saint Joseph in Vielle, Nice. It is a single flounder, flattened,
rolled, boiled in roe deer's blood and battered with woodbark chippings. Deep fried
in seal oil, it is left to hang for three weeks from the vaulting of the nearby
Chapel Saint Denis where it soaks up the pain of three hundred years of fruitless
communal prayer. Served on a cheap communion tray, it tastes of late medieval
civilisation, of murder and revenge and fear and retribution. For maximum effect it
should be eaten in the dark, by a wood fire, with an owl screaming in the distance
and the church spire lowering in the night sky. I believe it to have taken five
years off my life, six months per mouthful, and I would gladly have consumed ten
years more.


En route now to Brazil, on a dirty British steamer with a salt-caked smoke-stack
which smells of burning books, I saw a basking shark basking in the sea. It was
glory, it was grace. The truth is, I fell in love with that shark. Maybe if I were a
better man it would have loved me in return. Maybe if I hadn't imagined eating it
with monkey testicles and angel grass and mary malmsy, then it would not have
floated away with such disdain. That shark is my nemesis, which is to say I am my
own nemesis, beauty and despair, love and indifference, hope and repulsion all
co-existing within my bloated frame. That I, "base creature", should aspire to
perfection is an irony to be treasured.

I believe I am in a transcendent state. My soul is in that shark, swimming to
paradise. All that is left in me is sensation, the unfixed experience of emotion,
transient, ephemeral. Nothing has meaning, not any longer, nothing connects. There
is no purpose in eating other than to experience. Once experienced, the experience
is lost. We stay in our temples, contemplate infinity, and all the while infinity
is gliding effortlessly towards us, like a shark in the sea, like a child with a
toy.

Later, I shall eat my own flesh, marinated in lies and tears, grilled with
champignons and served on a bed of honesty. I shall raise a toast to my lovely
shark, shall embrace the moment to come. I shall taste myself, I shall chew,
swallow, consume my body. I realise now that here is the perfection I have been
seeking all this time. It is the marriage of life and death, that knowledge we all
seek, all of us, although we do not realise.


Tom Conoboy has been published in a number of journals and ezines, including
The Harrow, Eclectica, Reflection's Edge, Mad Hatter's Review and others.







2007 Underground Voices