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by David Cook

“Try some,” Dad says. “It’ll make you smart.” I shake my head and look disgusted.

“My Dad,” he tells me, “ate his earwax, and his Dad before him, and they were very brainy men. Remember how clever your Grandpa was?” It’s true, Grandpa was clever — he read books and everything — but not enough to realise that he shouldn’t put the electric heater on the edge of the bath. Then Dad tries to get me to eat my own earwax and I say no. He shrugs, then sticks his finger in his ear, sucks it and makes the sort of face that Mum makes when she’s eating chocolate.

Mind you, he doesn’t seem to be getting cleverer, just more bad tempered. Mum says it’s because his mouth always tastes of earwax and it makes him irritable, and Dad says that he likes the taste and that she should shut up if she knows what’s good for her. Mum says she’d like to see him try it, but Dad just turns the telly up so he can hear Jeremy Clarkson properly.

Anyway, the other day he started complaining of pains in the gut. Mum talked about calling the ambulance but Dad said no. He doesn’t trust doctors. He thinks they tell you things are wrong with you when they’re not just to keep themselves in work. But then his pains got worse and he fell on the floor holding his stomach and Mum called the ambulance anyway.

At the hospital, the doctor cut Dad open and pulled out this melon-sized lump of greeny-brown earwax from his guts. They told him that he shouldn’t be eating earwax, but I knew he wasn’t listening. Then he asked if he could take the lump home. The doctor asked if he was planning to eat it. Dad said no, it’s a present for my boy, for his birthday next week. I didn’t think he’d remembered, he doesn’t usually. Maybe all that earwax is helping his brain after all.

Now the lump sits on our kitchen table, next to the salt shaker. Sometimes Dad puts it in sandwiches. Other times he grates it over pasta. Or if he just wants a snack, he’ll grab a chunk off it and chew away. Mum says he shouldn’t, but he ignores her. I sulk a bit — that’s my birthday present he’s eating.

You’d think with all that earwax just sitting there Dad wouldn’t need to lick it off his fingers any more, but he still does it. He tells me that fresh earwax is still the best for making you clever, and the look on his face sometimes makes me wonder if he’s right. I mean, he does the crossword in the paper every day and most times gets all the answers, even if he does spell some of the words wrong to make them fit in the boxes.

I stick my finger in my ear and pull it out again. I look at the mucky smear, then raise it to my lips.

David Cook’s stories have been published in a number of places, including The National Flash Fiction Anthology, Spelk, The Fiction Pool, and Sick Lit Magazine, which nominated him for the Pushcart Prize. You can find more of his work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com and say hello on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidcook100. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter, and doesn’t think earwax tastes very nice.