The Mouth
Merrill Sunderland


It was time, the old man decided, for a change. Deciding what to change was easy.

The old man’s mouth was the size and shape of a shirtsleeve button.

The old man’s wife had loved her husband’s mouth. When she kissed the old man, her mouth swallowed his. She kissed the old man, and two mouths became one.


The old man’s surgeon was gentle, kind. She didn’t ask the old man to open wider. She didn’t ask why, after all these years, he wanted this operation now. What had happened?

The old man was put to sleep while the good surgeon worked. As he slept he dreamt of bobbing for apples. He dreamt of devouring a Big Mac in one satisfying bite.


A week later, after the bandages were removed, the old man drove himself to the food court of the local mall. He ordered two of the largest burgers on the menu. The old man licked his lips while he waited for his number to be called.


In one bite, the first burger was gone, swallowed whole.

When the old man unwrapped the second burger, however, he was deeply concerned. He hadn’t expected to be full, but that’s what he was. He wanted to eat the second burger, to swallow it in one bite like the first, but only his mouth had been enlarged and not his stomach, which remained the size of a tennis ball. He couldn’t take another bite.


The old man went home then. To his big, empty house. He gargled an entire bottle of mouthwash but was unable to erase the taste of microwaved burger that lingered on his tongue like a burn.

The old man went to his room then. To his big, empty bed. He fell asleep, finally, and in his dreams, the ones he had every night, the old man kissed his wife the way she’d kissed him. He kissed the old woman, and one mouth became two.


Merrill Sunderland has an MFA from George Mason University. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in 100 Word Story, Airplane Reading, Full Stop, Star 82, and elsewhere.