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Mister Octopus

Erin McIntosh

Pancreas feels left out, because nobody talks about him. To go unnamed for so long, he thinks, is  a kind of erasure. Liver invited him for a party the other day, but Pancreas declined, saying Liver drinks too much, gets belligerent, etc. Says Liver is self-sabotaging, which goes against what Pancreas stands for, which is efficacy.  


On the other side of the pond, Octopus wants a voice. Wants to be called “Mister” even though  Octopus’s mom says that’s a human thing. “What if I feel human, mom?” asks Octopus, but  Octopus’s mom died a long time ago. Now, Octopus talks to its tentacles and occasionally Harry, a sea anemone. The great thing about Harry is, anemones stay put. They don’t leave, and they don’t judge. They certainly don’t fail, not like—  


Pancreas wakes from his dream in a full-out panic. The dream, as all his dreams are, was about  failing. He was so busy helping Digestion he forgot for a second to regulate Blood Sugar,  and Blood Sugar got away from him, went totally rogue. Even though it was all just a dream, and Pancreas is fine, as is Blood Sugar, as is Body, Pancreas feels bummed out all day. It’s all too much stress. Why should he have to do two jobs? Liver pops over to say hello and check-in, offering Pancreas some chocolate cake.           “Hey buddy, we’re all rooting for you, and low-key, I  kind of need you for Lunch Digestion, which is on the schedule for two o’clock. It’d be great to see you there, buddy.” Pancreas is quiet so Liver backs out, not wanting to crowd him.  


Pancreas first started dreaming of Octopus about 527 meals ago. He’s not sure why, or why he  can visualize all eight tentacles; Pancreas is not what you’d call a visualizer on any normal day.  He’s not sure how he even knows what Octopus is, or why when he dreams he wakes feeling like  freedom is possible and failure is imminent. Pancreas finds himself missing Octopus, and Harry,  when he’s down with Liver lending a hand with Digestion or when Spleen starts making a racket  on the other side of town. Pancreas starts to wonder what things might be like outside of Body, if  he could maybe make some friends or at least find some Organs with similar interests and  hobbies. It’s lonely all day; and Liver talks too much, and Stomach can be mean, and Gall  Bladder won’t even acknowledge his existence, which feels like abandonment. Maybe in another  Body there’s an Organ called Octopus or Harry. Maybe he too could have eight tentacles and a  dead mom.  


One night Pancreas dreams of Octopus, and Octopus is nowhere to be found. It’s all darkness, and Harry calls out “Who goes there?” But no matter how far or deep Pancreas swims, he can’t see Octopus. 

          “Mister Octopus,” he even tries calling, in hopes that the special name will bring his friend out of hiding, but no. No Octopus. Pancreas decides to never wake up, vows he will stay here with the little anemone and take Octopus’s place. Very faint and far-off he can feel Body pressing in on him and muffled voices calling his name, but Pancreas refuses, utterly refuses, to listen, and he burrows in deeper and darker to his dreamland. The muffled sound only increases, and suddenly bright, piercing light surrounds Pancreas, and he hears sounds he’s never heard  before—BEEPS and SHOUTS and plastic-gloved tentacles reaching toward him, pulling him out of his ocean, plopping him into a cold silver dish, and Pancreas thinks—alive with joy—this is it!  This is freedom. There are Bodies all around, flashing lights, probing, and Pancreas thinks, now I  belong! Now I am a part of this world! And he imagines for the first time steps on a journey, lets  himself dream of vast things, words he’s picked up over the years like Castles and Carrot-sticks,  and thinks of all there is to explore, now that he’s out of Body, now that he’s released, now that  he’s unafraid of failing, ever again.

About the Author

Erin McIntosh is a Los Angeles-based writer whose fiction has appeared in Two Serious Ladies, Hobart, and Noble / Gas Qtrly. More than 30 of her poems have been published internationally in journals including Bone Bouquet, Lavender Review, Venting Machine Press, and Two Hawks Quarterly.

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