by Zack Stein

At the age of nine Arthur had the element of humor purged from his gallbladder. When the operation was complete his mother noticed that he was sad, and she told him that you can’t miss something you never had, and she laughed, but he didn’t. He began to cry because his mind still understood the humor, but the normal progression did not follow. His mother hated to see him like this so she had another procedure done to take away his sadness. She began to contemplate if this was the right course, but it was too late, so foreseeing a future argument she had another procedure done to take away his anger. Afterwards, his mother asked how he felt, and he searched long for the word. They left the hospital soon after. Occasionally, bits of various elements would show—not sad, not angry, not happy, not calm, not violent, not joyous, and the inability to locate the spirit of her son killed her. Killed her dead in the afternoon when Arthur would normally be staring at a wall or staring at the ceiling. Weeks went by before a neighbor would call the police.

Some years later, as side effects of the impermanence of the procedures, what was taken from him began to grow back. It was too much, and like an infant discovering the world again, he wanted his mother and he’d take his life. After decades of travel he finally found her. They stood eye-to-eye—still. The two stared at each other for a thousand or so years, and it’s said they stopped, when one of them made a joke.

Zack Stein has had three off-broadway plays produced — A Talk Amongst Criminals, Pills and Thrills, and most recently, Deadshot. He was just included in Microfiction Monday’s anthology. He’s 24 years old, and lives and writes in NY.