ward gleason



Amoeba Costume


The Halloween of her eighteenth year, Mallory designed the perfect amoeba costume and attended her parents’ annual Halloween bash, doing her best to dance amoeba-like to late sixties soul and cringing every time one of her dad’s friends stumbled up to her, beer in hand, and gasped something like, “what are you, the blob or something?” before cackling and stumbling back to a sweaty wife.  The amoeba had fascinated Mallory ever since the fifth grade—its flexible membrane, graceful cytoplasm, aesthetically blobby structure.  In her view, it was the perfect creature.  She admired its ability to form psuedopods, and had often imagined how her life would’ve been different if she could do this.  The piano was the perfect example.  Much to the disappointment of her parents, she’d always had trouble traveling up and down the keyboard and this minor setback ensured that she would never be a child prodigy despite a gaggle of expert tutors and the best Steinway money could buy; but, with psuedopods she could play complicated French sonatas for her parents as they beamed in the background, vicariously full of her talent, happy that their investment was well made.  But the crowning trait of the amoeba, the one that showed nature’s true genius, was it’s asexual reproduction, its ability to divide, to create perfect copies of itself, which in turn could divide again and again, propagating its species throughout the vast microscopic landscape of a puddle or pond.  She often dreamed of dividing like that, of thousands upon thousands of her own perfect copies spreading throughout her town, her state, the world, until everywhere she turned, she found herself staring back, on the television news, at the local bowling alley, the state of the union address.  The world would be idyllic then, made over in the image of Mallory, and not a parent anywhere to criticize or expect or advise.  Her mother hadn’t wanted her to wear her amoeba costume to the party.  It embarrassed her.  She wondered aloud why Mallory couldn’t be a princess or a pirate, something normal and respectful, something worth showing off, not some single-celled blob with a scandalous transparency that exposed all of its inner organs.  Mallory did her best to ignore these comments, and as the party doused itself in a liberal measure of white zinfandel, her father’s business friends joked about her costume and offered to dance with her, staring at her breasts and asking if the left one was the nucleus, the right one a vacuole, and she danced, while their hands slid over her ass, while they gaped at her, tongue flopping, until she grew tired of their leering and panting, their lust disguised as humor, and flounced upstairs to her bedroom.  She stripped and stared at her full-length mirror, took her breasts in her hands, turned side to side, admired the proportions she’d been blessed with, and thought again about dividing, about fission, about the curious replication that made the amoeba so special, and as she watched the mirror and smiled and imagined, she saw, to her astonishment, that she was dividing.  Within minutes, there was a second Mallory, naked and beautiful and smiling.  “Who are you?” Mallory asked.  “I’m Mallory,” she answered, then divided.  Soon there were twenty Mallorys and hardly room to move in the bedroom, and still they were dividing.  They marched out of the bedroom and down the stairs, right into the middle of the party, the original Mallory at the head of the procession, smiling triumphantly, shouting, “I told you, Mom.  I told you.  Amoebae!”  And all of the Mallorys took up her voice, and divided again and again.  The guests clustered and chattered among themselves, scandalized.  Mallory’s parents stared in disbelief as the Mallorys surrounded them, all babbling in unison.  Mallory’s mom said, “what have you done?” and her father huddled low and wept, and the Mallorys drew closer, joined hands, still dividing, and when it seemed that Mallory’s parents must be crushed beneath the masses, when their cries could no longer be heard, the original backed away, willed her copies to back away as well, and her parents were gone.  “Where are they?” she asked.  “We absorbed them,” a Mallory answered.  The original shook her head, frowned, then smiled, understanding.  Pseudopods and vacuoles.  A new order of things.  The Mallorys marched outside, intent on world domination.



WARD GLEASON lives in Pittsburgh with his collection of microscopes, his harmonica, and a canary named Onan.