Here's another fine story from the American Sudden Fiction collection. The story's humor reminds me of watching Three Stooges episodes in a Shakey's Pizza restaurant when I was a kid. A group of guys used to laugh hysterically while others stared in disbelief. I don't mean to imply that this story has the same artistic value as The Three Stooges. There's more to this story than idiots clunking each others' heads together.
By Russell Edson
An old man sitting at table was waiting for his wife to serve dinner. He heard her beating a pot that had burned her. He hated the sound of a pot when it was beaten, for it advertised its pain in such a way that made him wish to inflict more of the same. And he began to punch at his own face, and his knuckles were red. How he hated red knuckles, that blaring color, more self-important than the wound.
He heard his wife drop the entire dinner on the kitchen floor with a curse. For as she was carrying it in it had burned her thumb. He heard the forks and spoons, the cups and platters all cry at once as they landed on the kitchen floor. How he hated a dinner that, once prepared, begins to burn one to death, and as if that weren't enough, screeches and roars as it lands on the floor, where it belongs anyway.
He punched himself again and fell on the floor.
When he came awake again he was quite angry, and so he punched himself again and felt dizzy. Dizziness made him angry, and so he began to hit his head against the wall, saying, now get real dizzy if you want to get dizzy. He slumped to the floor.
Oh, the legs won't work, eh? . . . He began to punch his legs. He had taught his head a lesson and now he would teach his legs a lesson.
Meanwhile he heard his wife smashing the remaining dinnerware and the dinnerware roaring and shrieking.
He saw himself in the mirror on the wall. Oh, mock me, will you. And so he smashed the mirror with a chair, which broke. Oh, don't want to be a chair no more; too good to be sat on, eh? He began to beat the pieces of the chair.
He heard his wife beating the stove with an ax. He called, when're we going to eat? as he stuffed a candle into his mouth.
When I'm good and ready, she screamed.
Want me to punch your bun? he screamed.
Come near me and I'll kick an eye out of your head.
I'll cut your ears off.
I'll give you a slap right in the face.
I'll break you in half.
The old man finally ate one of his hands. The old woman said, damn fool, whyn't you cook it first? you go on like a beast — You know I have to subdue the kitchen every night, otherwise it'll cook me and serve me to the mice on my best china. And you know what small eaters they are; next would come the flies, and how I hate flies in my kitchen.
The old man swallowed a spoon. Okay, said the old woman, now we're short one spoon.
The old man, growing angry, swallowed himself.
Okay, said the woman, now you've done it.