A Man’s Mouth
A very small nation found itself lodged inside a man’s mouth. They’d been dislocated from their homeland and inhaled during one of the man’s many long-winded rants. Because he ate incessantly, stuffing everything he could touch into his mouth, and because he compulsively unleashed gusting winds of pronouncements, threats and hysterical pledges, the man noticed nothing new. The nation, meanwhile, was battered relentlessly. Night offered no relief. The man mumbled and monologued in the late hours and then snored in his sleep.
A very small parliamentary session convened during one snoring period to discuss actions. Barely heard over the roar, the Prime Minister proposed a message be sent to the man to initiate a new relationship of mutual benefit. Perhaps if the man gorged himself less and tested silence in deference to their nation, they could provide some service. Maybe they could each mind their own business. A puffed-up caucus of representatives objected to this as moot. They did not know the man’s language, and in any case, such a proposal weakened the nation’s sense of pride. Why must they make accommodations? Why did they not simply return to their homeland? The Prime Minister and a number of representatives dismissed the idea as utopian. How would the whole nation relocate, and furthermore, how would they ever make the journey to their original perch-or even find it?
Three citizens then spoke up, one clearly in the lead. They were among those who had lost family members in the daily sonic booms and avalanches of grease and gristle, animal, vegetable and mineral. The man would only understand the most direct warning, they said, a sharp attack on the softest, most vulnerable place they could find. There would be no ignoring that. There were some nods at this idea plus an isolated whoop from among the visitors in the public gallery. The head of state felt nervous. Violence destabilized order by definition, and furthermore, the man was capable of crushing their people. The Prime Minister was not suicidal. Hoping to avoid an accusation of weakness, he announced that the proposal would be, without delay, studied by a committee. In the mean time, an alliance could be formed as a transitional measure. This didn’t seem to satisfy the three men, but the Prime Minister chose his moment. He corralled votes. Language would be gleaned from the man’s guttural blasts and contact made.
A very small team deciphered the man’s tongue. A national corps painted tall letters on a massive banner to spell out a simple message in accordance with the intelligence of the declarations and pledges barreling down on them. They coated the banner with a bitter oil to ensure the man did not eat it. The message, launched towards the tip of the man’s tongue, read: We are. Consider us.
The man hacked and spat out the paper fiber. He examined it, pinched between his fingernails, and then brought it under a magnifying glass. A wave of fear swelled in him. He thought he was alone. He’d been invaded. Tears welled in his eyes. How dare they expect anything when it was they who were trespassing! He flicked the fiber to the floor and returned to his usual behavior-with more vigor.
The nation continued to suffer. Soon an emergency conference found the three men who advocated a sharp shock with a larger contingent. Now the pressure to act was greater. The Prime Minister called the men aside and authorized a mission, in exchange for their public support of his official plan, which was to prepare another massive banner. They agreed. Before the banner could be completed, the unofficial mission had launched three needle-like projectiles into a canker sore just below the gum line of one of the man’s teeth.
The man cried out and clapped his hands over his mouth. A silence ensued that both terrified the very small nation and filled them with a sudden rising excitement. For the man, the pain increased. He staggered, disoriented, flailing, destroying his living room. He clawed his fingers into his mouth, drew blood, but couldn’t feel his way to the source. He beat his fists against his head and cried. What had he ever done? Moral and hard-working his whole life! He fell to the ground and pressed dirt into his gums. Then he launched an assault of chemicals. Shampoo, cough syrup, rubbing alcohol. That was it for the very small nation
Several days passed. The pain diminished. The man, however, fell ill. Silenced, weak in bed, he sipped broth. He was strong, he told himself. He could overcome anything. Still, even as he recovered, he was debilitated by the fear that a very small nation might take up inside him again. There was no way to know. Ceaseless inspection of his mouth provided no relief. What did that prove?
Weeks passed. His rants and bottomless appetite returned. And after more time had passed, he relaxed the fevered scouring of his gums and tongue and teeth. Only occasionally did he feel a ghost of a painful pang in his mouth which shamed him for the weakness it suggested.
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