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The Goddamned Tunafish Sandwich


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by Robert Brady

At the time, I’d planned to write a story about the illicit romance between yours truly and hers, but every time I got a chance to husband myself to her while hers was off teaching English Lit we sort of got paralyzed with need and imminence, and hung around the kitchen intellectualizing, unafraid to have lunch but afraid to broach the bed or related subjects while she made the goddamned tunafish sandwich and I sat there cursing the fundament of my nonchalance, wondering if this was really only going to be what it appeared to be, i. e., lunch, and if this sort of thing happened to everybody, or even anybody, else.

I also cursed the erotic muses that were lying idle with such a vast subject available, at which point Emerson would intrude with his views on the fitness, indeed absolute rightness, of the common as subject for writing, with of course Whitman not far behind rhetoricizing apostrophically to the Chicken of the Sea, then Thoreau would come rowing over wishing he’d had tuna at Walden to go with his hoecake and beans and it would get so crowded in that small kitchen that there wasn’t enough tuna to go around, so Jesus would make an appearance and do the loaves and fishes with a parable or two, but by then it was time for Existentialism 201, and the only thing accomplished was the goddamned tunafish sandwich and the miracle that she and I hadn’t even touched each other.

Time after time this happened, throughout that whole semester, with various personages attending, sometimes Carlyle or Veblen or Hamsun or Joyce or any of the hundreds of other great tuna-related minds popping into the kitchen with their bit of relevance, something to do with the sea, or dining habits, or the economics of it all; Swedenborg would lay his charts out on the table, Proust would bring madeleines and tea, stay and gossip endlessly from the couch.

Our romance, as I’d initially thought of it, was soon becalmed in a widening intellectual and spiritual sargasso that began to characterize those stolen moments, for we never knew who was going to show up, tuna being a universal sandwich having roots in aspects of culture and intellectual development as diverse as the origins of Babylonian civilization and the whereabouts of Ahab. Melville, of course, dropped in on occasion, with long riffs about what he used to have for lunch in Pittsfield between bouts with the white whale, roommate of the tunafish.

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