On the day of the final exam, students walked into the classroom to find a long table lined with body parts inside jars. Confused, and not seeing their professor anywhere, they walked along the table and read the labels on the jars:
– #1: Albert Einstein’s Frontal Lobe
– #2: Frida Kahlo’s Hands
– #3: Chris Hemsworth’s Biceps
– #4: Joan Sutherland’s Lungs
– #5: Usain Bolt’s Feet
– #6: Jane Austen’s Temporal Lobe
– #7: Freddie Mercury’s Vocal Cords
– #8: Oprah Winfrey’s Mouth
– #9: Anthony Bourdain’s Tongue
– #10: Beyoncé’s Legs
– #11: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Heart
– #12: Mother Teresa’s Heart
One of the students noticed an envelope at the end of the table marked, “Please read aloud.” He picked it up and said:
“Hi, class. This is your final exam. You get to choose one jar to eat from. A few minutes after you’ve eaten, you will receive skills and talents related to the person’s body part you’ve selected. As there are only 12 of you, you must choose quickly. You will receive your grade after the test is complete. Once these instructions have been read aloud, you have precisely one minute to select and eat. I am watching. Go.”
The students were the best and brightest at the university, maybe the country. They scurried around the table, some diving for their desired jar, snatching off the lids, shoving the various body parts into their mouths.
After the minute passed, the students stood around the table alternating between looking at each other and looking down at themselves, blood smeared across their hands and faces, meat wedged between their teeth. Only one person stood apart from her classmates.
She clung to the wall, face ashen, body shaking, but as each of her classmates began to clutch at their throats, lines of red crossing across their eyes, gasping, reaching out for help, toppling to the floor, convulsing and then settling into grotesque stillness, she noticed the lone jar left on the table, the one that would have been hers, shining like a beacon, and she understood.
The door opened, and the professor walked in, beaming.
“Congratulations,” he said, shaking her hand. “You passed.”
Elison’s work has appeared or will be appearing in The Rumpus, The Santa Monica Review, The Portland Review, Lost Balloon, and other places. Elison has an MA in Creative Writing from Sacramento State and was selected as a Best Small Fictions 2020 winner. To learn more, please visit www.elisonalcovendaz.com.