“The winner!” said Leah
“I win!” said Hallamore. “What did I win?”
“A loaf of bread,” said Mercy. “The breadwinner!”
“There must be some mistake!” said Hallamore. “I really don’t
The Easy Winners
“This fine bread goes to you, Hallamore,” said Leah Gelpe, “in
recognition of your unerring instinct for choosing the wrong word.
Through the years, even when you had to speak briefly, you have
invariably managed to use a word that no one could make any sense of,
and you always thought that you were terribly clever for thinking it
up. Your shining example challenges the rest of us to express
ourselves more obliquely, to use words that obscure rather than clarify
our intentions – we who typically use a few words over and over, we
don’t even like them especially, but they are the only words we can
“He’s eating the bread from the wrong end,” said Mercy. “And I
want to correct his mistake, take the thing out of his hand, turn it
around. But I also don’t want to embarrass him further.”
“Wonderful bread,” said Hallamore. “Mercy, you must try some.
It’s real soft . . . and it’s sweetened with nutritious molasses.”
“No thanks, I’m zoophagous,” said Mercy.
“Won’t you have some, Willy?” said Hallamore.
“Your desire to share the bread shows that it doesn’t really
belong to you,” I said, “because if it were really your bread, how
could you bear to see it divided?”
“You’ve been disqualified, Hallamore,” said Leah Gelpe. “Your
prize has been revoked.”
“I’ve already eaten some of it,” said Hallamore.
“So much the worse for you,” said Leah Gelpe.
“Oh Hallamore,” said Mercy, “I would rather have you at the
height of your powers. I will never forget the day my biology teacher
took me aside and said, ‘Young lady, listen to me: no one will like you
if you let them see that you like Hallamore. If you want to get
anywhere on this little planet you will have to conceal your love for
your brother like a deformed limb. In certain circles, it is
impossible to pronounce the name ‘Hallamore’ without eliciting roars of
laughter. They call him soft-brained because he never fails to bring
out as a last-ditch defense that precious softness of his, which he
once brandished before the senate in an attempt to salvage his lost and
ruined reputation, shouting over everyone’s laughter: “Mr. President, I
want softness, I want softness!” – as, shuffling our feet noisily, we
filed out of the auditorium.’”
“As I followed the others out of the auditorium,” I said, “I
called over my shoulder, ‘I will never abandon you, Hallamore!’ I know
he is somewhat ridiculous. He tends to make mistakes with the
dictionary, especially with big words, and gets himself into tangles
that he can never get out of. Listen to the way he says the word
‘extraordinary’ and you’ll see what I mean. ‘Ex-straw-dinary!’ But
how can I bring myself to abandon him? He saved me from the grim
monodrama of the restaurant. Without Hallamore, you get monodrama.
With Hallamore, you get method, and dialectic.”
“That which is sweet should be avoided,” said Mercy. “Hallamore
is sweet, and I will not taste him; Hallamore, I will not consume you,
and I will not tread on you with my sandals.
“Open to me, earth; I despise Hallamore and will not taste him; I
have not gone infected into Minneapolis. I will not touch what you
touch, twice-hated Hallamore; my body revolts against what Hallamore
produces; my biology teacher slept all the way through Hallamore’s
production of The Three Sisters.
“Woe to Minneapolis! You pick over the bodies of the dead; you
turn the color of your food. What you have eaten is Hallamore; you are
the yolk and the shell of the same egg, and I will not be subdued by my
enemies. What I double-detest, I will not taste; what I detest is
Hallamore, and I will not taste him; what my biology teacher detests is
Hallamore, and he will not enter into my body. I will not hold you in
my mouth, break for you into a bowl, or flow for you into a basin. I
will not go upside-down for you.”