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Richard Weems



The soup man was livid, beside himself, ready to gnaw his way out of his own skin. The three homeless women--who lived under the soup manís back porch and were paid the occasional dollar to sample the soup manís creations--knew not what to do about it themselves. 

The walls of the soup manís kitchen had transformed into the sides of humongous chickens, their flesh pocked and pliable, feathers black and red and falling at a regular pace. It was as if four enlargened poultry had confabulated and were sewn together by an even larger chicken master--the corners of the room came together in clean, seamless joints of skin. The door was framed by plump breast meat which bulged as if hanging over a belt cinched too tightly. The soup man had to fight and scrape to open his very own door, and outside the homeless women peered through the window, sucked on the hair growing beneath their bottom lips, and wondered at the significance of this portent. 

The soup man wept with bitterness, frustration, for not only had the feathers dropped into a thick, downy allergic nightmare, but all the soup manís soups were tainted with the taste of this overrated bird, even the turtle garlic gumbo, the Zimbabwe peanut butter garnished with broiled tofu, the tomato leek with cucumber and matzo balls served with a side of Dyonisus grape Jell-O. 

His customers bellowed their dissatisfaction. They seethed over the pots of cabbage and onion with diced pork that tasted distinctly of chicken, and restaurants were vacated due to the sudden banality of the du jour. It seemed as though the kitchen was to start clucking any second. The homeless soup tasters were pecking away at each other inquisitively--"Why is this? Why is this?" Those who were once connoisseurs of the soup manís creations wandered aimlessly, their palates vapid. They muttered to themselves, "It tastes like chicken. Chicken. It tastes like chicken." A tumor began on the soup manís neck, jutting straight and true and rectangular, as though a miniature Winnebago were erupting from his sinews, and the soup man stopped answering the complaints about another batch of chicken soup. A deluge of electronic rings, their screams no longer heeded. The soup man named his kitchen Myron, Coventry, Adlai and Papageno, and he spent his days telling them of what marvelous soups he once made: cold peach served in a taco bowl with vanilla ice cream; okra and green pepper with three barbecued gizzards floating on top; halibut and hamburger in a thick, creamy celery broth. 

The three homeless women fell into sibylline paroxysms of hunger, while Myron the chicken wall shivered restlessly under the soup manís gentle caresses... 

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