The Microcephal

Contributor: Joseph Carfagno

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We sat on the couch crammed so tightly our legs were touching, the popcorn was on the table in front of us, we didn’t touch it, our favorite show was on, live from Paris, we saw it on tape delay, each week a new remarkable guest. The host, prone to logorrhea, strode to the podium.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a very special show for you tonight. We’ll be talking to the smartest man in the world.”
The guest came on, he was thin, he wore a brown suit, he was a little shorter than medium height though that was probably due to the extraordinary smallness of his head, about two-thirds the size of an ordinary adult male’s. This head, in its mid-forties, had reached an advanced state of baldness, due, we conjectured, to the extraordinary brainpower it contained. Seated, he looked like a miniature. The host showed a short video clip that explained the origin of the guest’s intelligence. The usual authority provided the voiceover:
“Many people speak of synapses firing when they are engaged in profound or insightful thought. Though” – we were relieved didn’t say while – “it is true that sparks traverse our synapses when we think, we must still acknowledge the source and sustaining force of those thoughts. All thinking originates in the dendrites. By shrinking the gap between the dendrites, reducing the synapses to near nullity, thought becomes both more profound and quicker. Our guest became the smartest man in the world, a man who thinks as deeply as the Buddha and faster than any game show champion, by so compressing his synapses that his head, in natural sympathy, compacted.”
There were photos of the guest growing up, riding his bike and playing soccer as a boy, finishing off bicycle kicks, playing parts in university dramas -- that’s when his head started to shrink, it seemed normal before then -- his first job at the lab, and so on. The video ended with the guest, his tiny head filling up the camera, screaming at the top of his vocal range, “Dendrites are what matter! Dendrites make you smarter! Dendrites are all!”
The show broke for commercials. We remained silent, no one touched the popcorn, we were all silently wondering what amazing things the small man would say. The host came back. “Of course tightly packing the dendrites is merely a prerequisite, a necessary but insufficient condition, for extreme intelligence. They must also be cleverly arranged and have the power to originate and appreciate the most brilliant thoughts.” He sat down next to the guest, sipped some cold water, leaned over to him, and asked his first question. We all leaned forward for the answer, at last we’ll be enlightened, the camera zoomed in on him, we saw the tiny vocal cords quiver.

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Joseph Carfagno was born in Brooklyn but lives in Connecticut.
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