Evelyn Hampton

The Largest Unobstructed Area Given to Ham

For Jackie, no thoughts came from ham. For Sean a little thought, a miniature ham. It sat on a miniature plate, but then it started to be a hat, and soon a man was wearing the hat and telling Sean to eat the ham. Without identifying him as such, Sean knew the man was the Commander, and the hat he wore would never go back to being the miniature ham, which had been so good to Sean because it had looked just like the ham he was about to eat but had also been small enough to fit whole inside his head, and its wholeness had consisted of various scenes from the past three months of Sean's life of Sean successfully leaping over large holes of known area but unknown depth that Jackie had created.

If there's going to be a plan it has to come from inside Sean, Jackie thought, in momentary lieu of a bite of ham. Only Sean knew that inside Sean the Commander wore a hat that had once been a miniature of the ham Jackie was now large-scale eating. A series of joins between disparate entities and experiences connected the men to each other; for Jackie the series of joins was visceral, transitory pleasure enduring now as ham; for Sean the series was a more static structure, a house situated on what happened when Sean thought the words "arable land". When Sean thought about its construction, the house would lose parts of itself inside itself; nevertheless, lately Sean had begun to inhabit one of the lost quadrants of the house.

In the lost quadrant Sean had begun to inhabit, Jackie ate ham and Sean tried to diminish the Commander by thinking "arable land, arable land." A notable feature of the Commander was that he was Sean if Sean were to wear a hat that had once been a miniature ham and now cast a shadow the size and shape of the average-sized ham Jackie was eating, Jackie being an important structural element of the house that was for Sean what gathered and held in coherent order all that connected the men. Sean believed that Jackie received experience through a filter or screen that corresponded to an object Sean often encountered in his dreams—a telephone. Jackie believed that Jackie received experience via the ham and Sean, whose face formed part of the background of the ham. Sean, now that the comforting thought of miniature ham had become a commander he had to combat with "arable land", tried to find some comfort in the thought that he, Sean, was receiving experience by way of the dream phone—that it was all a message being relayed to him by someone else, a dream interlocutor whose important role in Sean's life could only be known when Sean situated himself in one of the lost quadrants of the house.

"Arable land, arable land," the voice on the other end of the telephone was saying, and this voice now belonged to Jackie, and was Jackie's only voice within the house. But the voice was something additional, an overlay of voice atop the underlay of voice that was actually Jackie's, and it confused Sean, why Jackie was introducing this unnecessary technique of asserting his authority, using the dream phone to say the words that were what the house was situated on—they were its foundation.

So now that Sean's plan came from Jackie, and Jackie ate ham, Sean ate a bite of ham, connecting himself, for Jackie, to Jackie. Part of what formed the background of the ham, for Jackie, was Sean's face; the part not formed by Sean's face was a window, and through the window Jackie saw the tinted window of a van. Though Jackie could not have known this, the tint of the window was the color of the phone through which Jackie's additional voice repeated the words that had been Sean's private command, or anti-command, since they opened up space that had been occupied by the Commander and his commands to Sean to eat ham.

"Arable land." Sean ate ham. He and Jackie ate ham together. For Sean, this shared act of eating ham became part of the structure Sean had recently begun to inhabit, and for Jackie, this shared act of eating ham was a shared act of eating ham, one with a foreground (ham) and a background (Sean's face, tinted window of van), with Jackie positioned at the shared act's center.

Evelyn Hampton lives in Providence. Her stories are forthcoming in NY Tyrant and The Brooklyn Rail. Her website is

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