A Useless Wrapper

Mike loved candy. He always had a stash of sweets at hand, and it was a short distance from hand to mouth.

More than anything, Mike liked to indulge his sugar addiction with hard candy, letting the sugar form a thick layer of deliciousness upon his teeth. Years of this activity caused his teeth to slowly decay and in their place grew new teeth of crystalized sugar.

Mike’s sugar-based diet had taken a toll on his health. He now lay dying, too weak to even lift another piece of candy to his mouth. Still, he felt no repentance for his gluttony. His last breath escaped him like a belch after a long gulp of pop.

God reached down into his stash of humans. ‘This one is ripe’, God said as he latched onto Mike’s limpid form.

God plucked the sugary teeth from Mike’s mouth. ‘No use for the wrapper’ God muttered, crumpling the now useless corpse and tossing it down toward hell. Mike’s discarded flesh dropped through the heavenly regions, a lonesome soul on a lonesome journey, downward and further down.

A passing angel took notice, swooped in on mighty wings, and used its talons to grasp the curious object falling from above. With a single thrust of wings, the angel returned to its perch among the clouds.

The angel added this new find to its nest, placing it with great care just in the right spot alongside some moss and a piece of string. Before the angel nestled down, Mike looked around and thought to himself, ‘The clouds look like cotton candy’.

18 thoughts on “A Useless Wrapper

  1. This is what I’d call a Yourgrauesque story. I came up with the basic story idea with my friend Mike. He then asked me how would Barry Yourgrau end it. The last part of the story with the angel is the essential Yourgrauesque quality.

      • I’m not particularly familiar with either Saki or Dahl. I’ve quite likely read some of their fiction in some collection or another; but if so, it has been a long while. I’ve come across Dahl’s work when perusing books at various places. I’ve less often come across Saki. Is there a specific book by either author that you’d recommend?

        As for authors I am familiar with, I enjoy the writings of Thomas Wiloch at least as much as Barry Yourgrau. Both have playful imaginatons, sometimes dream-like. Wiloch, however, is more experimental and dark. Some of Kafka’s shorter writings have a similar quality.

        I’ve been a longtime fan of fairytales or any story that mimics the style of fairytales. Grimm’s fairytales can be extremely dark in some cases. Anyone who thinks fairytales are just for kids hasn’t read many fairytales in their original form.

        • Roald Dahl you’re almost certainly familiar with, since his children’s novels have been adapted to so many films; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Willy Wonka), James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Gremlins, and all contain his perverse sense of humor. In Willy Wonka, the bratty kids getting their “just desserts” (pun intended, perhaps even by the author) especially reminded me of your story. However Dahl also wrote for adults, nearly all of which were short stories with a twist; some have an element of horror, so it wouldn’t be unexpected to find him in an anthology alongside Lovecraft. Off the top of my head, for sheer cleverness, I’d recommend the story “Parson’s Pleasure” from Dahl’s collection “Kiss Kiss.”

          Saki was the pen name of H.H. Munro, an Englishman who wrote mostly short stories which parodied high society around 1900 or so, kind of like Wodehouse, but with a much more dark and perverse bent. He was a strange kind of war hero – despite being an aristocrat, and technically too old to fight, he enlisted and fought in the trenches of WWI, where he was killed. In London, at a tiny theater off the main drag, I saw a play about the life of Saki, in which the first few acts were based on several of his short stories, but the last act consisted of a reading of some of his anti-war journal writings from the trenches, and an enactment of his death. It’s still the saddest and most moving drama I’ve ever seen.

          Unlike Dahl, Saki seemed to dislike children and they were often meeting a bad end in his books. This story, called Esme, demonstrates his sarcasm and dark humor:


          • Yeah, I definitely have an indirect knowledge of Dahl’s work through movie adaptations. I’ll keep the “Kiss Kiss” collection in mind. Is that one of his collections of stories for adults?

            I just read Saki’s Esme story you linked. It was enjoyable. It was also dark for sure, but it sounds like his own life had a dark ending. I wonder why he enlisted. Sad.

          • Kiss Kiss is a collection of stories for adults; “Parson’s Pleasure”, however, is not a horror story. It’s just one of those “Damn! I wish I could write like that!” stories. “The Visitor” from the collection Switch Bitch is a horror story. Though not supernatural, it’s one of the most disturbing I’ve ever read. Don’t google it if you don’t want to give away the surprise ending!

  2. I’ll respond to your comment here as that thread is getting long and narrow.

    I’m not sure I can speak of suggestions in this case. I own and have read a ton of PKD, but that particular book isn’t one I’m familiar with offhand. PKD wrote a massive amount of fiction, not to mention non-fiction as well. I don’t even know which stories are in that collection. I own many collections of PKD stories, some of which may include stories from that collection.

    I’d have to find a list of the stories in that collection and get back to you, but I’m away from any computer since I’m at work. I’m on my kindle at the moment and it isn’t the easiest device to try to use for surfing the web.

    • I had a bit of free time here at work. I was able to check out the table of contents for The Golden Man. I haven’t read the title story, but I have seen the movie adaptation (Next). The movie wasn’t that great and it sounds like it was very loosely based on the story.

      There is only one story in the collection I know for certain I have read. It is The King of the Elves. As I recall, I enjoyed it and I would recommend it as a less serious story. It probably is the only story PKD ever wrote about elves. It was going to be made into a movie, but I never heard more about it.

      The synopsis of the story Not by Its Cover says it is a sequel to Beyond Lies the Wub. I have read the story it is a sequel to, quite an amusing story. The Wub is an interesting Creature and it appears to have been put to innovative use in Not by Its Cover.

      You might want to read The Little Black Box. I haven’t read it, but I’m indirectly familiar with it. PKD first presented the religion of Mercerism in his story whichhe later expanded upon in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, one of my favorite novels. PKD wrote that, “Actually, the idea is better put forth in the story.” It was the stoy that PKD recommended from this collection, saying it is “closer to being my credo than any of the other stories here.”

      So, you can either take my meager suggestion or take the recommendation of PKD himself.

  3. Thanks! I just jumped right in. Introduction (by PKD) is interesting; I like his style; not your “typical” counter-culture figure, is he? And he loves music! And no one but an ADDer could write fiction AND listen to music at the same time.

    Also read “The Golden Man” – hey! Evolutionary biology!

    I still think that the Golden Man is more of a throwback, rather than our future. I believe those Neanderthals were similar to him – more animal-like in their physical abilities, and in their processing of the world around them. They were probably capable of things that we would regard as telepathic, or even magical. If you read the section of the story which briefly describes the mental processes of the Golden Man from his own viewpoint, his thought patterns seem very web-like to me (as opposed to linear.) I kind of liken that to a spider sitting in the middle of a web and taking in sensory information from everywhere around itself – even beyond the boundaries of time. Perhaps in order to continue to evolve to the next level, or even to survive, we’re going to have to re-discover some of those lost abilites.

    On the materialistic side, I looked my copy up on abebooks.com – I think I’ve got a first hardcover edition!

    • I like his style as well. I could see the ADD interpretation, a definite possibility, although his heavy drug use probably contributed. I’ll see if I have The Golden Man in any of my collections at home. I should read it. My reading of PKD is a lifelong project. I recently finished listening to 50+ hours of his Exegesis on audiobook. If you like his crazy thinking style, you should readsome of his nonfiction. There are some nice collections of essays and speeches. Yeah, first editions are always a nice find

        • It depends.

          I own the audiobook and the ebook of the most recent publication of the Exegesis. I also own a physical copy of an earlier publication of the Exegesis. Physical copies are nice and I am one to take notes, but I thought the reader conveyed well the sense of PKD’s voice.

          I should point out that I wouldn’t normally recommend the Exegesis to anyone who wasn’t already seriously interested in and familiar with PKD’s other work. Yet neither would I seek to dissuade someone from getting the Exegesis if it interested them.

          You might consider another nonfiction collection with the title of The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick. It includes a wide variety of nonfiction, including some excerpts from the Exegesis. There are some awesome essays in that collection.

          I should mention that you can find some of PKD’s nonfiction for free online. You could check out some of it first to see what you like the most.

          • How ironic is it that the “true” first edition of The Golden Man is actually the cheap paperback copy pictured in the Wiki article I linked to? How many successful authors in the 70’s saw their latest work go immediately to paperback, with the first hardcover edition a cheap Book of the Month ten years later? It’s EXACTLY what Dick laments in the introduction to the book – Sci Fi writers get no respect! (at least back then.)

          • Yes, PKD was a true pulp writer back in the day when most, if not all, genre fiction came out in paperback first. Genre writers have come a long way since then, although I doubt it is any easier to make a living at it. The sad part is that PKD only began to make some decent money and get some respect near the end of his life.

          • A friend has located Exegesis in hardcover in a nearby library and has ordered it for me. Going to take a test drive first. 🙂

            Are you acquainted with the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of paperbacks from the 70’s? I noticed on another one of your threads that you like gothic/victorian horror (like Wuthering Heights). Lin Carter was the editor of this series, and although he is a terrible writer of SF and Fantasy IMO, he’s a great historian of the genre. This series brought back into print a whole bunch of authors of pure fantasy like William Morris and Lord Dunsany, as well as some Lovecraft (Kadath) and also the first paperback of Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturas. These books are mass market PBs which can be identified by Ballantine as publisher, a “custom” unicorn’s head logo somewhere on the cover, and the intro by Carter.

            Hey, they even rate an article on Wikepedia:


            The pictured book “Imaginary Worlds” by Lin Carter is a kind of skeleton key to the whole series. It’s also, if I remember correctly, a great short guide to writers of SF and Fantasy, as to the techniques used by many of these authors to acheive their success.

            I began reading these as they came out in the early 70’s (same time I was reading Castaneda) and used to get them from B. Dalton Booksellers (Remember them?) My stash was destroyed when I was in college and my mother’s house flooded while the roof was being repaired. I had to rebuild from scratch, but eventually I managed to acquire every single one of them (without resorting to buying them from collectors.)

            Of all the great books listed there, if you have never read Ernest Bramah’s Kai Lung books, I highly, highly, recommend them to you!

          • I’m not familiar with the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. I do spend a lot of time looking at used books and so I’m sure I’ve seen many books from the series. I looked at the Wikipedia article. I haven’t read most of them. I don’t even recognize Ernest Bramah, but I’ll see if the public library has the Kai Lung books. And, yes, I do remember B. Dalton Booksellers. There was one in the local mall when I was growing up. BTW do you like graphic novels?

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