Chip On Your Shoulder

By Jack Zeidman

“I’ve been dreading this all week,” Jack Petersen began, addressing his girlfriend from the other side of the coffee table. “We’ve had some good times, and I wish we could stay together, but-”

Vanessa Holman crashed her coffee cup down upon the saucer. Her lovely blue eyes had suddenly grown cold. “There’s another woman.”

“Nothing like that, Vanessa. It’s…well, it’s the chip on my shoulder.”

A puzzled expression appeared on her pretty face. “The chip on your shoulder?”

“That’s right,” Jack replied, somberly. “Chip’s dangerous when he’s hungry.”

“He?”

“Yeah. I nicknamed him ‘Chip’.”

Vanessa snickered. “As in ‘Chip on your shoulder’?”

“Exactly. And he has a voracious appetite.”

She threw back her long, brown hair, and spoke in a tone that was icy to the core. “Two questions, Mr. Petersen: Why did you wait until we’d been seeing each other for seven months before telling me about this? And, are you aware that you’re making ‘Chip’ sound like a living thing?”

“Chip is alive,” he replied. “And to answer your first question, Chip has been dormant for many months, but he started acting up about a week ago. When he does that, he can be very unfriendly.”

“Why am I listening to this nonsense?”

“You’ll have to answer that question yourself.”

“Listen Jack,” she said impatiently, “‘Chip on the shoulder’ means that someone has an attitude. It’s a figure-of-speech, college boy.”

“Not in this case. It’s quite literal, believe me.”

Vanessa leaned across the table. “May I make one suggestion?”

“Sure.”

“For you own sake, see a psychiatrist.”

“Why would I want to do a thing like that?”

“So he can tell you that you’ve created an imaginary storage place where you keep your angers and fears, and have given it a name: Chip.”

“You sound like a Psychology 101 teacher,” he said, leaning back in his chair to put some distance between them. “I’m doing this to save you, Vanessa, not because I have a mental problem.”

She stood up, a whirl of self-confident defiance. “He could hurt me? Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Yes, Vanessa, he could. That’s why we can’t see each other anymore. Forgive me for any distress I’ve caused you, but I really must be going.”

He arose, put on his black leather jacket, and reached for his car keys on the kitchen table. She covered them with her hands. “I don’t know what your real motives are, but I’m not letting you leave until I’ve had the chance to meet Chip. Show him to me.”

“Trust me, you don’t want to meet him,” he answered.

“Trust you – that’s a joke!” She put his keys in her pocket. “I don’t think he exists!”

“Believe whatever you want. Please, give me the keys.”

“Not until you show me the chip on your shoulder.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking.”

“Show it to me.”

“I-”

She grabbed him by the arm, and demanded, “Show me the chip on your shoulder, Jack!

He sighed deeply, resigned to the inevitable. “Alright, Vanessa, but I didn’t want it to be this way.” He knelt down, until he was at eye-level with her. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this.”

Something began to move beneath the left shoulder of Jack’s coat. The cloth began to rip; suddenly, it burst open, and a jack-in-the-box pushed up through the rift. From inside the red-and-white box came the sound of a violin playing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

The song had only played for a few seconds when Jack-rather, Chip-popped out of the box. He sprang upwards, grew dramatically in size, and his smiling jester-mouth descended directly down upon Vanessa Holman. Her scream was permanently stifled.

In an instant, Chip was back inside his box, his hunger satisfied. Jack stared at the black container, nonplussed, for nearly a minute before Chip reappeared; then, with a spidery hand, Chip tossed him his car keys, saying, “I believe these belong to you, Jackie boy.” A second later, both he and the box were gone, having returned to their home beneath of skin of Jack’s shoulder.

He looked at his torn shirt and jacket. “Kinda gives a unique meaning to the phrase ‘carrying your past around with you,’ doesn’t it?” Jack asked rhetorically, walking to the front door of Vanessa’s apartment. “I lose more girlfriends, jackets, and shirts this way,” he said, then departed, closing the door quietly behind him.

***

The End


Jack Zeidman is a teacher/published writer who lives with the love of his life, his beautiful wife Gladys, in Canoga Park, California. He has composed numerous short stories and poems, written and produced a variety of school holiday programs, and is currently working on a screenplay. He and his soulmate love animals, old movies, music, the beach, baseball, and, most important of all, studying the Bible. As they journey through life together, their faith provides Jack and Gladys with the deep, abiding support needed to weather the storms of this life. Both of them believe, however, that after every storm there may be a wondrous rainbow, and at the end of that rainbow is peace and happiness.

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