Philosopher Sandwich

Jay Gershwin


One morning when I was sixteen I opened the fridge and found a dead philosopher inside. He’d been shoved in among the eggs and tomatoes, so that one foot rested near his head while the other dangled past the butter.

“What’s a dead philosopher doing in here?” I asked.

My mother yanked the man out, staggered to the nook and threw his body onto the kitchen table. “You spread him on toast. Here.” She hacked off his thumb, ground it into paste, and spread it onto wheat bread.

“We think he was German,” my father said at breakfast, licking his fingers.

For lunch, my mother made me a philosopher sandwich with cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and sea salt, which won the admiration of all my friends. I gave them each a bite before devouring the thing, relishing each mouthful as if it were a treatise on mankind’s existence.

Over the next month, we hacked away at the philosopher and made hamburgers, burritos, tacos, falafel, stews, jerky, chow mein, soup, more than a dozen concoctions. It was a sad fate for a man who had spent his life writing a book.

My mother began at his legs and worked upward, saving his face, so that his blue eyes watched us while we ate. His expression disturbed me. He looked as if he’d discovered a new philosophy that could have saved mankind, but had died before he could get his book onto the bestseller list.

I found his book online and ordered a copy. Was it a book, or a history of snow and darkness? Either way, it arrived at our doorstep three days later, in German. I bought a German-English dictionary and worked my way through chapter one. My father scoffed.

“That philosopher has nothing to offer but his own demise.”

Maybe. But I felt I owed him something after eating all his toes and fingers, legs and arms, his heart (which we fried in olive oil and dipped in bread crumbs – delicious), his ears and nose. He was better than a supermarket where all the shelves held glowing jars of happiness.

So I labored on, running my finger under words like lebensmüde till after twenty pages, I understood my father was right.

The book was shit.

By then, we’d eaten his entire body except for his startled-looking face. My mother kept it under plastic wrap. We planned to have it on Thanksgiving, which drove us mad with anticipation. Like a constantly falling Icarus, we reached in our cloudy minds for a guess at how sweet it would taste.

A week before Thanksgiving, I came home from school one afternoon and decided to unwrap the philosopher’s face and have it on a toasted brioche with gruyère. I knew my parents would be upset, but there was nothing else to eat.



Jay Gershwin is the author of three novels. You can get a FREE copy of his new novel, Poor Man’s Autumn, here: