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The Silver Web page 60


"The Comedian" fiction by Stepan Chapman

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"Run!" sang the echoing voice. "He's coming!This way! No, this way! Help us! Hide us! Don't let him catch us! The Salami Man! The Awful Rotten Salami Man! He's after us! He's coming! The Salami Man!" By now, the cheerleaders were shouting insults down at the chickens and laughing, because they had a pretty good idea of who had engineered this spectacle. Shell burst forth from the locker where he'd been hiding. He ran up and down the length of the locker room and then sprang onto the equipment table in his telekineticized costume. He wore a wriggling wig and a squirming loin cloth composed entirely of deceased nightcrawlers. There were also were the seven salamis, linked together end to end, doing their imitation of a swaying cobra with its tail tucked between Shell's legs. Shell had coated himself with blueberry pancake syrup for the occasion. He spun around on the folding table, butt naked except for the worms, the blueberry syrup,
and the salami snake.
"I am the Salami Man!" he declaimed. "I am the Great Salami Man!" That was as far as he got. The cheerleaders dragged him down, buried him in dirty gym clothes, and sat on him.
The cheerleading squad had a great time. The school administrators, by contrast, were not amused. They suspended Shell. But they could have expelled him. The thing of it was, they liked Shell. Everyone liked Shell. So they gave him a chance to pull himself together, which, as it happened, was something that Shell had already done.
He salvaged his declining grade point average, dated a few of the cheerleaders, and graduated with honors.
The year after that, Shell was at college, and my own ability kicked in. I stopped filling notebooks with accounts of my weird brothers. Suddenly I had my own problems to cope with. But Shell's never forgotten Bekka.

a false promise. You grow up, and you forget about them.
He runs a funeral parlor, actually. He embalms
Oh, I know what you're probably imagining now. You're thinking that he turned into some psychotic necrophile who secretly molests the corpses. You're so wrong.
I paid him a visit, last year, and guess what? He does use his talent on the cadavers. And his clientele know all about it They call him The Mortician Who Always Leaves Them Laughing. Shell has that printed on business cards. The people in Wyoming are sur­ prisingly broad-minded about the whole thing. What Shell does is-he tells jokes to the dead people. And he makes them laugh.
I saw him do it, once. He was draining this chubby
old guy named Carpinno. There were three other bod­ ies lying around on gurneys, wearing towels, looking as though they were lounging at pool side.
"How's tricks, Mr. Carpinno?" says Shell, screw­
ing a long needle onto a rubber tube.
Mr. Carpinno just stares at the ceiling fan.
"Got a riddle for you, Mr. Carpinno. Why did the chicken cross the road?"
Mr. Carpinno stares at the ceiling fan. "I blame society, " says Shell.
I didn't see the joke. But all four of the dead people laughed. Mr. Carpinno even slapped his thigh. It's a peculiar sound, four dead people laughing at a joke you don't get.
When the chuckles died away, Shell turned to me.
"You see?' he said to me. "These are the only people who appreciate my sense of humor."


In college, women would try to get close to him and end up wondering what his problem was. The prob­ lem was that Shell was in mourning. He still is. Never got married. Never even got close. I told you: She broke his heart.
He finished college. Found a career that suited him. Did the technical training and got certified. Moved north to Wyoming. Rents a furnished apartment in Sheridan. Makes good money and leads a quiet life. A solid citi­ zen with a bald spot.
These odd talents that run in our family, they seem

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terribly important when you're young. But they don't
change anything. After a while, they're just a nuisance,

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