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My Undignifying Exchange with a
Mr. Tommy Pepperman

Chinelo Osakwe '23

Art by Z Santilli '23

          Now, I must confess I had never encountered a sleeveless being until the evening of a monstrously boring affair. The climate was, in fact, humid–this, to which I can attest–but I must tell you, young fellow, nearly twenty-three flies camped out in my left tonsil as I gaped at a man whose arms had no skin.

          To be quite frank, Thomas Pepperman did not excel at being ordinary. All his children had abandoned his awkward spirit, and to fill the void, he created spirits of his own. The police received all sorts of reports about Thomas Pepperman the militant, the arsonist, the butterfly–but surely they knew (…and the town, and perhaps every member of the affair knew) that a man of fibs was no fibber at all–only someone who could get quite absorbed in the selfishness of his imitative identities. You know, young fellow, if you look into his eyes, you will see he is actually a very stupid person.

          So, it was true that Thomas Pepperman was (according to my terminology) a bit crazy. I had this all in mind, of course, as I traversed to the affair. I was dreading it, you see, the marriage of man and language. I hated a talkative man–I really, really did–and that was all a family gathering was: an era of talkative men. When 

I arrived outside someone’s home, I contemplated running away. Man would be a fool not to consider. But then, as the garden gnomes on the front lawn watched me under the strained yellow light, anxious and as sweaty as capable, I approached them instead. I walked over to one which drowned itself in dysfunction and pure mediocrity… Young fellow, I might have fibbed to you just now; it was mediocrity engrossed in dysfunction. I spat on that garden gnome because it deserved it because I hated it so. I disassembled its face in as cruel a manner as any, and I would do it twelve times over if I could. That gnome was unusually unattractive; quite undeserving of even the inclination of a joyful memory. Then I walked up the front doorsteps and was swarmed by dull-witted conversation.

          Young fellow–are you still with me, now? We have finally arrived at the best part, see, so pay close attention. The men in the room resembled a funeral’s masterpiece, with guffaws of black, grey, blue… so many colors stained on their clothing. I, too, was dressed in style (even my sneakers were a bit charred) as a commitment to the cause. Regardless, the party reacted over and around me, beneath and behind me, for my presence should have hardly been a source of scene. To remove myself entirely, I tip-toed away to the washroom, greeted by a rather frightening sight.

          I would swear that Thomas Pepperman choked me straight to death with his degrading stature in that washroom, young fellow. I have never seen a man so horrified by the ugliness of his own arm. He and I stood there for an awkwardly short amount of time before I finally worked up the courage to utter a thought.

          “I believe there might be an issue with your arms, young fellow,” and to my horror, the lips of Thomas Pepperman moved as mine did. “Be that a talent of yours?” and the mirror of my image spoke with me, once more. No–this man was too weird, too odd of a character for my conscience to grapple with, and so I tried running away from him as I perhaps should have a long time ago. I ran away from an uncomfortably freakish display. I certainly ran away from the washroom whose mirror contained my unpleasant depiction as Thomas Pepperman. I ran through the living room whose sudden bright colors revealed the men in blue and black, yellow and helmeted. One in yellow approached me just then, rubbing their gloved fingers to my naked arm. The rest of them moved all around me, a rotating simulation of nurses, police, firefighters, and monsters, and I could tell by the depth of my children’s gape that a neurocognitively-disordered man who went by the name of Tommy Pepperman had engulfed the tiny beige house and himself in flames, for he had set fire to his dwindling dignity and smile lines and to what used to be known as the Alzheimer’s care home of Ffelps Road.

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