New Hampshire Is for Lovers

The candidate looked down at his chest and another face, just like his, was looking up at him, grinning like a knife salesman.

Published August 3, 2004 9:58PM (EDT)

As Rob Jones awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant ... Well, what the hell was that thing, anyway? He hadn't grown, size-wise, in any discernible way, but there was certainly something like -- like another face sticking out of his left pectoral. Rob Jones looked down at his chest and from his chest another face, just like his, was looking up at him, grinning like a knife salesman. After a second, the chest-face winked at him.

Rob Jones sprang from his bed and walked to the full-length mirror he insisted upon in any hotel. And in this mirror he saw the face, exactly like his own, though frozen in a perpetual grin, as if he'd just heard a mildly amusing joke told by very attractive woman. The grin was the sort known in the South as "shit eating," and though it appeared natural enough, the face on Rob Jones' chest did not break from this expression nor appeared able to form any other. The one and only possible deviation from this grin seemed to be an occasional wink, which the chest-face did with his left eye, in a way that seemed quite practiced and completely insincere.

At the very moment Rob Jones began to form a prayer that the chest-face lacked the power of speech, the chest-face spoke.

"Hey buddy, good to see you here," it said. The voice was Rob Jones' own, but it was just a bit more fratty, more ingratiating -- at once deeper, more mellifluous, chirpier and more teetering on cheerful laughter.

"I'm glad to see you," the chest-face said, and winked at Rob Jones in the mirror. "Not too hot out for ya? Great day, huh? Great event! Just great. So happy to be here."

Assuming that he was dreaming (he was a prodigious dreamer) and that his last night's ingestions (three Manhattans and a fajita plate) had provoked some bad-dream synapses, Rob Jones went back to sleep, skipping a morning phone interview with a blogger of some kind. He'd been told bloggers were not to be ignored, were the key to this election, much as, say, Arsenio had been in '92.

After an hour more of slumber, Rob Jones woke to what sounded like an escalating argument happening in close proximity to his face. He looked quickly at the television, thinking he had left it on. It was not on. He closed his eyes again but the sound persisted, and now the dialogue became clear. Two voices were having an intense whispered discussion, both parties seemingly aware that Rob Jones was trying to sleep and thinking he couldn't hear them.

"You kidding me?" one said.

"Am I kidding you? You should hope I'm kidding you," said the other.

Rob Jones did not want to look down at his chest, for he feared the result. He knew, now, that he was awake and that this was real. Without glancing downward, which he would not do for another few minutes, he knew quite certainly that there were two faces, one on each of his breasts, and they were arguing. Overnight he had grown two small heads, both of them having sprouted from his nipples, thus explaining the dreams he had had -- very pleasant ones, he had to admit -- of having given birth to twins, and the pleasures of nursing thereafter.

When he finally steeled himself and looked down at the second head, he regretted it. This head grimaced at him. It was a pained grimace, one full of regret, an expression of total mental constipation. It was Rob Jones' face, again, but grotesque and pained -- the face Rob Jones might project if he had been required, out of love of country and necessity (if not expedience), to bury a litter of rabbits, while still alive and squealing, in his backyard, with his hands.

This face, noticing Rob Jones notice it, said this:

"Pragmatism -- it'll do in a pinch." Then the second face again oozed into the most unsettling closed-mouth smile, completely without mirth, projecting only resignation.

Rob Jones sat up as the two heads remained quiet. As he rubbed his eyes and scratched the back of his head, the two faces rotated themselves to face outward -- they apparently had the ability to turn 360 degrees. Now, like two dogs barking at the door, expecting to go walkies, they were looking forward, ready for the world.

It really was the worst thing that could have happened so close to the primaries.

By Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers is the author of "You Shall Know Our Velocity" and "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius."

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