Caleb Puckett

The Case of the Missing Chin

          One morning, in the midst of shaving, Delbert discovered that his chin was missing. Confused and frightened, he gingerly toweled the cream from his face and started searching. After a thorough investigation, the best he could come up with was a flabby little mass that sloped from his bottom lip to Adam’s apple—a sad substitute meant for some yokel or lackey. That’s when he knew he was in real trouble.
          He called work and feigned a cold, knowing that he needed time to recover what he’d lost. After all, it would be extremely unseemly to arrive at the office and attempt to represent the company with such an obvious fault. He hated to mislead them about the true nature of his condition, but who would believe him? How could he convince them that it wasn’t some invention meant to excuse him from his duties, or some insane delusion that would surely bar him from ever attaining a managerial position? Convenience and simplicity, he thought, can easily lead to sin, but the sin itself may be the best remedy.
          He knew that he absolutely had to have a chin in order to get through life with minimal damage. After all, didn’t people always advise him to keep his chin up in times of trouble? There is wisdom in that notion, he thought, wisdom that I can no longer turn to for comfort. So he started researching the problem, which must have some precedent and explanation. He spent hours online looking for some clue, but he found very little that seemed to explain this untoward removal. However, research did turn up a disconcerting fact: apparently, studies show that men with square, well-defined chins tend to fare better in business transactions. This tidbit simply compounded his fears, so he quit for the day, crawling back into bed with a tissue for his tears.
          Nothing changed for the next several days. No matter where he looked and no matter how he tried to coax the creature back with promises, spells and angry demands, the chin kept its distance and silence. He’d had to miss work for almost a week and he was sure people were starting to refer to him as a freak. He grew weak at the knees, knowing that his tenuous position turned trickier with every abnormality in conduct, every deviation from the model his bosses strove to keep.
          In a bout of stern self-loathing the image of his neighbor, Harold, shot into view. Harold, who had at least three distinct chins, might hold an answer or at least a clue. After all, one doesn’t acquire extra chins without being privy to some deeper secret, some source of procurement or sorcery beyond the understanding of common men. Harold—a success by anyone’s standards—had always been a good friend, a confidant in most matters thick and in some thin. Delbert slipped on a turtleneck sweater, pulling the neck up to his nose, and took off across his lawn. It was winter, so suspicion would be at a minimum—layers and extra covering were requisite. Still, he tucked his head into his chest. He wanted no close calls, no possibility of even being partially detected.

. . .

          After sitting down next to the fireplace and relating the rudiments of his dilemma, Delbert felt intimate enough to show Harold his haunting absence. He was sure that Harold would cringe, aghast at the spectacle, but his friend merely nodded and began an illuminating narrative.
          “Delbert, you’re at a crossroads. Believe it or not, you’ve little to fear but ignorance. You’re entering the most sublime stage of manhood, one that can be alarming at first but perfect in the end.”
          “But, Harold, I don’t understand”
          “Of course not. Few of us do at first. Listen, your chin is still with you. It’s within you as we speak, generating unimaginable jewels that will see you through posterity. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s, in fact, with you more than ever now. It’s making a future for you—a future of ease and comfort, one of eminence and profusion.”
          “What do you mean, Harold? I see nothing. Nothing.”
          “You haven’t the eyes for it now, my boy. You’re new, an initiate, a babe in the woods when it comes to the mysteries of chinhood. You see your tiny chin missing without knowing that the chin is in fact growing beyond measure. Your perception is faulty. Middle age can do that to men who aren’t completely self-aware. They expect their narrow, boyish body image to see them through all of adulthood. They don’t understand the deeper, mystical properties that come with what is often termed a “decline” in muscle tone. That “decline”, if you will, is the fool’s way of describing a series of additions which represent the final assent into adulthood.”
          “Yes, I think I’m beginning to see. It’ a way of viewing the problem that makes it no longer a problem, right”
          “In a way, then, I’ve been both blind and irresponsible. I’ve missed the mark of manhood and have cursed a chin that is doing me nothing but good.”
          “Yes, my boy. Yes. Now listen: I didn’t get these three chins that you admire so overnight. They took some time to develop, you see? They aren’t easily won, but once they’ve arrived they’re not easily forgotten. Loss is the first step in gain. You’re at the point of loss now. Gain is on its way. Let me explain. I used to resemble Dick Tracy—sharp outline and mesa like prominence. My mandible was, in short, the very model of rugged manliness. However, the ease of marriage and a relatively successful career loosened my body up, made a mush of my otherwise chiseled physique. Some call it ‘giving up’ or ‘laziness’, but I called it ‘relief’ and ‘maturity’. It was, in my mind, a time to relinquish all of those nervous energies that lead to nowhere and take up the lovely long haul with full-bodied strength.”
          “I see.”
          “I started to ‘lose’ my chin at around 28. It petered off into nothingness by 31, but I wasn’t afraid. Having observed my older co-workers—the ones with real power and prestige—I noticed that a faint outline of their smaller, more angular selves resided beneath their sprawling, monumental bodies. They had, in short, kept their original frame but loaded it with greater carriage, richer, kinglier aspects—some call it weight. Such loss, as you might imagine, was ultimately their gain. They no longer fancied the small vanities of childhood as the end to their vast aspirations. After all, it was contained within their expansive sense of strength and grace.”
          “Ah, I see! So, they had to temporarily ‘lose’ their chins in order to get more chins. They had to give up the one to gain many others.”
          “Generally speaking, yes. That original chin, however, remained. It was simply transformed much like a moth in a cocoon. They bred a batch of butterflies, so to speak, from a single, less desirable insect. Larger, more vibrant beauties came from patient cultivation. You have just entered that stage. Welcome to Brotherhood, my boy. Welcome to the wisdom of the ancients.”
          With this revelation, Delbert embraced and thanked his astute ally, bursting back home with confidence, with visions of prominence beyond the pale of his youthful whims for those feverish monstrosities. He had plans to attend to now, plans to shake off his dim, ineffectual image at work, to climb up into the echelons of middle management like a benevolent berserker. He could get remarried too—some girl with a cultured appreciation of mature chinage. Her name might be Minnie. She too would be built for greater deeds, greater considerations, for life’s larger niceties. Soon, if he cultivated things with care and expert capability, he could expect at least a double chin to make its debut before spring came. He could, once the warmth permitted, start sporting v-necks and open collar shirts to maximize the affect of his rolling, delicately sculpted duo of alabaster mounds. He had no doubt that people would respect him then. He had no doubt that he would finally feel satisfied, triumphant and proud.

Caleb Puckett's fiction currently appears in Noo Journal, and his poetry chapbook, Desertions, was just released by Plan B Press

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