The Topic At Hand: Blank Slate


Your body
The ocean
Your privates
A pig
Manly clothes
Red Pepper


1. Stand naked at the edge of a granite cliff. Laugh, letting no one know why.

2. Lean your taut body, oh my godless God, back against the granite. Feel how the spray rising from the roaring ocean far below tickles your orange short hairs. A single thought will take shape in your groin brain: “Head cheese.”

3. A pig will approach. That pig needs you. Lift the pig without effort, and smash its head into granite. Ho ho ho ho ho. One brief moment in battle, and all that.

4. Now put on your dirty shirt with rolled sleeves and your trousers smeared with stone dust. Bloody them with the pig’s heart and skull as you carry them to your kitchen, where you will rip the fat from the insides of the skull and submerge the skull in brine in a large pot. Let the skull sit as you recall your and the pig’s brief, shared moment. Then rinse the skull and cover it with fresh water. Happiness is always private.

5. The kitchen’s silence will catch your thoughts and hold them. This is when you should add the pig’s heart to the pot and set everything to boil.

6. Oh, blessed be the tie that binds! Now! Go! Chop the pig’s heart!

7. You are handsome like a law of nature, and no one can quite name why.

8. Onions, celery, parsley, and red pepper must all sacrifice their vegetable existences. Chop them, add them, and, in an uncharacteristic gesture of tenderness, as the brew boils think with curiosity of the pig. Always the pig. The meat will separate from the skull.

9. Strain away the water so that you can shape what remains and refrigerate it. But do not look at it, except with contempt. That should drive it wild.

10. Remember the cliff. Remember the rocks holding you firmly.

11. In the kitchen, step as if to the edge of the cliff. Don’t be shy. Raise your arms as if to dive, or in salute to the sacrifices you require of others. This moment is like a point reached, a stop in the movement of your life.

12. And you look Olympian.

13. But fat lot of good that will do you with the authorities.

14. The days ahead will be difficult, with questions to face. Accept that if you kill the pig alone, you eat head cheese that way, too.

image by Meg Zimbeck
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8 responses to “Ayn Rand’s Head Cheese”

  1. amymeckler says:

    Hate Ayn Rand. Love this piece.

  2. Sean Kinney says:

    I am so disgusted with how wingnuts are selectively using Rands perspectives to justify the most disgraceful narcissism and political and social policies. So much of what Rand wrote and wingnuts say makes me want to projectile vomit…but then, so does head cheese. Thank you for sending this to me.

  3. heatherauthor says:

    Rebecca, this is totally beautifully twisted fun. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Joseph Friday says:

    Almost as good as the Gallant Gallstone by Lois Cook!

  5. Lizad says:

    This is great. Philosophy and food…what a combination. works for me.

  6. Shannon Hubbell says:

    This is hilarious.

  7. Yeah, all the Ayn Rand haters really dislike anyone who reminds them that they should take responsibility for their own lives, quit blaming everyone else, and stop expecting the government to make their life easy and happy.

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The Author

Rebecca Coffey

Rebecca Coffey writes nonfiction, fiction, and humor. She is an occasional contributor to Discover magazine and to Vermont Public Radio's "Commentary" series. Short fiction and humor have appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, JMWW, Miranda, Narwhal, The Linnet's Wing, and Breakwater Review. Her nonfiction book Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings won recognition from the American Library Association's Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book. She recently completed a fictional memoir, Becoming Anna Freud: Reminiscences of Sigmund's Youngest Daughter. Rebecca's site is here.

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