Eating the Constitution

Riding the train the other day I couldn’t help but overhear an older man telling a young woman about a dream he’d had the night before. He was the sole diner in a diner, he told her, and he ordered the daily special: a three course meal.

The first course was a green salad. When it was placed before him, however, very little of it was green. Nearly every leaf was wilted, rotten, and covered in slime. And though there were a few green, decent leaves interspersed among the rotten ones, the salad as a whole was inedible. Disgusted, he set it aside.

The next course was a bowl of soup. Repulsed by the smell, and by the dead mouse, and the live cockroaches, floating about in it, he pushed the second course aside as well.

When the third course arrived he was happy to see that it was a bowl of potatoes. But though the potatoes seemed alright at first, as he examined them more closely he noticed that all of them were rotten, in whole or in part. Even the potatoes that looked good had, upon closer inspection, hideous aspects to them. Of the nine potatoes in the bowl, however, there was one, crawling with maggots and oozing a disturbing, pea-green substance, that he found particularly repulsive. Calling the waiter over, he pointed it out. The waiter, apologizing profusely, took it away and returned a moment later with a new potato. And while the new potato looked OK, he told his companion, he didn’t have a chance to examine it before he woke up. Isn’t that a weird dream? he asked her. What do you think it could mean? I’ve been thinking about it all morning.

Are you joking? she replied. You really had this dream?

I did, he said. Why?

Because it’s completely obvious, she rejoined. The three meals obviously symbolize the three branches of the government. The first branch, just as it is with Article I of the Constitution, is the legislative branch. And all those rotten leaves, with a few good ones here and there, represent the members of congress. See, though there might be a few decent leaves, the salad as a whole is rotten, and would probably make you violently ill.

The second course, like Article II of the Constitution, is the executive branch. That is, that disgusting bowl of soup is Trump and his retinue. I think that’s pretty obvious. And the third course, like Article III, is the judiciary. All those nine potatoes, see, represent the nine justices of the Supreme Court. And the one that’s sent back, it seems to me, symbolizes the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. But the funny thing is: even though people want a new potato, and are freaking out about this one truly disgusting potato, even if they got a wonderful potato, the potatoes as a whole (like the salad, and the soup) are still disgusting and inedible – and probably poisonous.

The whole thing’s absurd – as absurd as your dream; that you would send just one portion back, or a portion of a portion, and not send the whole thing back. And it’s the special, too. I mean, why didn’t you just walk out of the restaurant entirely? Who would want to eat there at all anyway? Right? I mean, if you’re starving….

You’re right, said the man. It just didn’t occur to me. I don’t know why I didn’t just walk out.

As the train clattered over the Williamsburg Bridge, and the polluted waters of the East River shimmered below us, his interlocutor replied: I don’t know why we all don’t.


Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at and on twitter @elliot_sperber