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Zen Man's Sandbag
About the Author: George Wilhite's short stories appear in Rio Grande Review, ShadowKeep, American Western Magazine, Fedora III (an MWA anthology), INSIGHTS: An Anthology of Contemporary Short Stories, Kings River Review, and Hardluck Stories. His novel is The Texas Rodeo Murder.

“Sure, simple substance, all of the same matter, I can do pretty quickly,” Matt said, reaching for the glass of iced tea with his index finger.

The fingertip slowly passed through the side of the glass until almost his entire finger was inside. With one flick of the last knuckle, he sent an ice cube spinning. Then, slowly, almost as if it hurt, he withdrew his finger from the glass. Snake handed him a napkin to wipe his finger off with. Matt shook his head.


He held his finger up. It was dry. Frank Kovar looked at it closely.

“How …?”

Matt shrugged.

“Same way I sync the neutrons and protons with that of the glass. I just don’t do it with the tea or the ice cubes. That would take longer. They’re made of different stuff. Then, when I bring my finger out, I just sync it so that the tea, water, or whatever doesn’t come through the glass with the molecules of my finger.”

The two gangsters were impressed.

“Or I could make sure that some molecules of air or glass went into the tea with me and then the tea molecules wouldn’t even touch my finger. I could …”

Kovar raised his expensively manicured hand from the top of the gleaming mahogany desk.

“Good enough, Mr. Morgan. We’ll leave the technical stuff up to you. Is it some kind of chemical or pill or what that lets you do that though.”

Matt smiled.

“Nothing like that, Mr. Kovar. It’s all mental. I studied martial arts for many years as a youngster and all through college. Zen and all that kind of stuff. One day while I was meditating, thinking about how, with my mind, I could make things not be …”

Kovar interrupted.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Make things not be?”

“Right, like a sound. If I concentrate enough, I can eliminate the sounds around me. They’re still there, but they’re not. You know? Kind of like I wipe them out before they reach my ear … or maybe my brain. I can do that. You probably could, too, with a bit of training.

“Anyway, I was sitting there in the middle of the floor meditating when I got a funny feeling in my butt. Like it had gone to sleep. But it hadn’t.”

He waited just a second before he continued, the pause dramatic in its effect.

“My butt was sunk down into the floor a good two inches.”

Kovar’s mouth, already open, gaped a little more.


“I had actually synched myself with the floor, a concrete slab with a pad and a carpet above it.”


Matt shrugged.

“I’m still not really sure. But it has to do with that Zen philosophy of being one with all, you know?”

Kovar, Snake’s head just above his, looked blankly at Matt. They both shook their head in unison, as if both heads were attached to an invisible pole that moved them side to side together.

“Well, Zen deals with becoming blank of mind and achieving a state where you are one with the entire universe. I’d always heard of Zen masters being able to do it—to seemingly disappear at will or walk through walls. But as much as I’d studied, I guess I still didn’t—really—believe it. Then I sat there that day and did it.”

Snake spoke first.

“You mean your butt mashed a two-inch deep hole in solid concrete.”

Matt shook his head.

“No, Snake. I didn’t do anything to the concrete pad or the carpet. It’s just that the molecules of my butt were so perfectly attuned to those of the carpet and concrete that they were able to pass between each other. My butt wasn’t on top of the slab, it was IN it—the molecules of my butt co-existing IN spaces in the molecules of the concrete.”

Matt set his hand on the desktop and let it slowly sink into the wood. Snake shook his head, then shook it harder.

“But wait, ain’t there somethin’ about two things in one place at the same time? Ain’t it a sin against God or something?”

Before answering, Matt lifted his hand out of the desktop, not so much as a smudge left on the sheen of the expensive wood.

This story appears in our NOV 2023 Issue
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