Bruce Nachsin

BOB’S SOUL IN A JAR

Here is a short story I wrote a few years ago and I think you just might find 
funny.

Bob’s Soul in a Jar

My name is Bruce. I was a teenager sometime between heavy metal and grunge 
while metalheads still roamed the landscape in their long hair and tattered 
black leather like the last of the dodos. I was an anomaly, the one of my social 
group who had mastered esoteric skills like reading and writing. It was rumored 
that I actually owned books, and that these books might even have been 
opened and read. I knew things. So, like a tribal 
shaman, strange things would happen to me as I was called upon to solve other 
peoples’ problems. That’s why I wasn’t terribly shocked when my phone rang one 
night at three AM.

I groped around on the night table like a mole, knocking things to the floor, 
before I finally got the phone, pulled the handset under the warm covers and 
croaked “Guh. Hello?” into the mouthpiece.

“Hello?” said a voice on the other end. “Are you sleeping?”

“No. I’m dancing the Can-Can.”

“Huh?”

The voice on the other end belonged to Paul. Paul was one of my closest 
friends and the person voted most likely to get killed by a car while picking up 
a shiny object.  Paul’s finer points were his kind soul and his caring. Less 
well developed were his intelligence and common sense. He would often try to 
help people whose bizarre problems were really signs that they should be thrown 
out of the shallow end of the gene pool, then halfway through this attempted 
assistance he would realize that he was out of his depth and needed some help 
himself. He had a big heart, and I was the one who often paid for it.  This was 
going to be one of those times.

Me: It’s three AM, Paul, of course I’m sleeping. What is it this time?

Paul: Oh, sorry, man, I didn’t realize. Listen, can you come over now?

Me: What?

Paul: Something really weird is going on.  I don’t know what to do.

Me: Is someone dying?

Paul: Not yet.

Me: That might change.

Paul: Please… I wouldn’t call if wasn’t important.

Me: If what wasn’t important? What’s going on?

Paul: It’s…Well I… It’s kind of… I can’t explain it. You just have to see it 
for yourself.

I knew it would be useless to try to get anything more out of Paul. Paul had 
a simple, linear thought process, and it went something like this: “I have a 
weird problem I don’t understand. Bruce is a smart, weird guy I also don’t 
understand. Therefore, call Bruce. He’ll know what to do.”

“This better be good,” I growled. “There better be food there when I 
arrive.”

Paul readily agreed, so I gave up on continuing the kind of dreams that 
plague a lad’s developing sense of sensuality, groped around in confusion and 
befuddlement, and somehow managed to dress myself. It was about a mile to Paul’s 
house and I had no car, so the walk gave me a little time to clear my head in 
the cool night air.

Paul had a problem he couldn’t describe. That could be almost anything. What 
do you bring with you when you’re awakened at three in the morning to solve a 
problem Paul can’t describe? Do you bring tools? Do you bring a gun? If you 
do bring a gun, do you load it with silver bullets? I had nothing but 
some pocket lint and $1.98 in spare change.

When I got to Paul’s, instead of the half-dead person I figured must be 
bleeding in his living room, Paul was alone and on the phone.  “Here,” he said, 
handing it to me, “talk to Bob.”

Me: “Bob?”

Paul: “Yeah, you know Bob.”

Me: “…No, I don’t know Bob?”

Paul: “Sure you do, you met him at the Mills”

Paul was talking about the Franklin Mills mall, a Philadelphia hypermall that 
had everything you could possibly want, need or desired.  In other words, it was 
was like saying: Sure, he lives in New York.

Me: “Great, which one is he then?”

As usual, this was going nowhere, so I got on the phone and said, “Hello, 
this is Bruce. What’s the problem, is somebody dead or pregnant?”

“No,” said Bob, “it’s nothing like that.  I don’t know how to say this.”

Me: “Try English, it’s too early for me to try to translate you.”

Bob: “Well, my soul is stuck in a jar and I can’t get it out.”

Me: “…”

Bob: “I need to get it back.”

Me: “Did you say your soul is in a jar?”

Bob: “Yes.”

Me: “Hold on, please.”

Paul and I clearly needed to have a conference regarding what constitutes an 
important or pressing problem: My sister Suzy lost her arm in shop 
class,
 or Phil needs help hiding the body, versus, say, My 
fairy godmother has left me to pursue other princesses
 or Does Blue go 
with Black?
 But that would have to wait. Right now I had a lunatic on the 
phone to deal with.  Back on the Phone:

Me: “Have you tried one of those little rubber grippy things?”

Bob: “I can’t.”

Me: “Maybe try running it under some tap water.”

Bob: “I don’t have the jar.”

Me: “Uh, Bob, why do you think your soul is in a jar?”

The story was confused but essentially it went like this: there was a kid 
named Stiggy in Bob’s school who fancied himself a warlock, the next Alastair 
Crowley. Stiggy had a little cult of teenage demento followers, of which Bob was 
one. Apparently, Bob thought Stiggy was cool. After becoming buds, Stiggy had 
asked Bob if he could borrow Bob’s tap-shoes, which Bob handed over without 
asking for a reason. No one, including Bob, was ever able to explain Bob’s 
passive compliance. Two days later, Stiggy handed Bob’s shoes back and told him: 
“I have used this personal object of yours to steal your soul. Your soul is no 
longer yours and now resides in a Mason jar that I will not ever give back to 
you. You must do as I say.”  Bob just said okay and did whatever Stiggy said. 
But he began to panic a few weeks later as the cult activities got progressively 
weirder. Bob didn’t want to participate anymore, but Stiggy had his soul. 
Somehow, Bob had found Paul, who just happened to know someone who knew 
something about these things: me.

What Paul didn’t know, is that what I knew, was that these people were 
idiots.  First I told Bob that a soul was not like a shoe and you could not 
simply take it off and give it to someone. He didn’t believe me. I tried logic, 
which was like trying to explain to a fish the benefits of riding a bike. I 
gently pointed out that if his soul were in a jar, he would not be in his body, 
would not be able to move, or in fact do any of the strange things that had 
culminated in Paul ripping me out of my nice warm bed at such an ungodly hour.  
No dice. Stiggy had powers. I couldn’t convince Bob the only power Stiggy had 
was the power to make me want to put a fork in his eye.

When logic fails, it is time to turn to religion. “Bob,” I said, “what 
religion are you?”  He was a Catholic, but was nonpracticing.  That made sense, 
he certainly wasn’t any good at it. I couldn’t help myself, logic interceded 
again: “If you’re not big on Catholicism, why the hell do you believe in 
Satanism?”

“Stiggy says he knows everything,” Bob replied.

Thank you, logic.  I suggested Bob confess to his local parish priest and 
seek forgiveness. That wouldn’t work, Bob said, the power of Stiggy is too 
great, he would know. Well, had Bob considered visiting a shrink? No, Bob did 
not believe in psychology.

I told Bob I now knew exactly what his problem is. “Bob,” I said, “you are an 
idiot. I mean, really stupid. You know that, right? It takes a certain kind of 
moron to have someone tell him his soul is stuck in and jar, and have him 
actually believe it. Not only that, but you have no spine or sense of self, and 
probably no real personality. But I can help you.”

I bellowed into the phone, waking several of Paul’s neighbors: “Did Paul not 
tell you who I am? I am Bruce! I whisper into the ear of the Archangel 
Michael!  I walk between the raindrops! I have lived more lives that you have 
had years on this earth!” (Not bad for next to no sleep at four in the morning). 
“I too have powers, and it is by my Grace that you are now free from your 
confinement. The next time you see Stiggy; tell him that Bruce has commanded 
that you are to be left alone. Bruce has given you his word of protection and 
you are one of my chosen. I will be displeased if Stiggy does not leave you be. 
There will be no end to my wrath if Stiggy tries to continue his claim on you. I 
further command that you go back to church. You will not question this. Your 
soul is once again yours, never to be parted from you. Now go to sleep and wake 
up less of a worm.”

I whiled away what was left of the night by forcing Paul to bake me cookies, 
and watching music videos.  Thus was the mighty Bruce pacified.

As unlikely as it sounds, my ploy worked. The next day, Bob called Stiggy to 
inform him that he, Bob, was now free of Stiggy’s insidious clutches, and that 
by the will of Bruce he would never fall under his sway again. Then Bob hung up 
the phone with the warm and fuzzy feeling that being under the protection of 
Bruce gives you. Stiggy, on the other hand, was not feeling either warm or 
fuzzy, and did what any self-respecting Satanist worthy of his King Diamond 
record collection would do: he swore my death, and by all that was evil, he 
would make it so. I think I might have been eating a bowl of Cheerios at the 
time.

So it was, that for the next month the battle was joined. Not by me, mind 
you, I was completely unaware that there was a cult of Satanists huddling up 
under the trees in Pennypack Park, chanting dark curses at my name under the 
harvest moon. I was too busy taping Warner Brothers cartoons on my VCR. For 
weeks, they pleaded for the Dark Horde to slay me. Would Beelzebub, in all his 
malevolence, strike me down? I did develop a case of the 
sniffles…Coincidence? Can one ever be sure?

My blissful ignorance was finally shattered when Paul, in his normal mode of 
panic, ran to my house to tell me my life was in danger.  He did this in the 
kitchen, while my mom was making meat loaf. This was fortuitous for Paul; he 
liked meat loaf. In his normal tactful way, Paul stormed in and shouted, in 
front of my mother: “Stiggy is trying to kill you!”

Mom: “Who’s Stiggy?”

Me: “Some idiot”

Paul: “He trapped Bob’s soul in a jar.”

Mom: “Who’s Bob?”

Me: “Some idiot”

Paul: “Its okay, Bruce got it out.”

Mom: “Let me get this straight. Stiggy put Bob’s soul in a jar and you had to 
get it out?”

Me (trying not to look at her): “Uh, yeah, something like that.”

Mom: “Well good, if you can get Bob’s soul out of a jar, you can open the 
Prego.”

Mom was always practical and didn’t see any reason why such a special skill 
such as mine should go to waste.  She was not too concerned about a cult of 
15-year-old wannabe wizards and witches, she was cool like that. She was sure it 
would resolve itself in a way that would leave no one permanently scarred. She 
was right.

Appropriately, the story ended in a strange and random way, with little 
actual input from me. Just like it started The event that flipped the situation 
did not even seem like an event at the time, but the ramifications were 
so great that it warranted the use of the word “ramifications.”  My great and 
awesome powers had put the fear of Bruce into Stiggy, and he saw where the true 
power of the Walking Man lay.

Here’s how it happened: Paul wanted to hang out at Washington High School, so 
he took me along to meet his friends. But instead of making introductions, Paul 
left me alone in a huge sea of people I did not know. In those days I wasn’t 
comfortable in large crowds of strangers, so I was standing there, staring off 
in Paul’s general direction, looking for a familiar face. Maybe I looked a 
little intense, but that was just because I was trying so hard to hide my 
discomfort. That’s all I did. Really. No, wait, I think some girl gave me a 
hamburger for some reason, I don’t remember it tasting that good.

Little did I know, while I was wrestling with mystery mastication, Stiggy was 
in the crowd. While I was trying to figure out both where Paul had gone and 
where my hamburger had come from, he saw me. I never noticed him, and he had 
never seen me before, but that didn’t matter.  I heard later that this
is what Stiggy, through his hysterical imagination, saw: me staring through him, 
magic power radiating out through my eyes and burning holes in his paper-thin 
soul. Stiggy was scared. He realized his error. Some nameless wrath had been 
visited upon him, and he knew he was doomed.

Stiggy ran away, and after asking around, learned that the being who had 
faced him down was the great and terrible Bruce. He contacted Bob and begged him 
to ask me to be merciful. Stiggy would disappear, he promised, he would pray in 
my name. All he asked was not to be tormented. Stiggy would turn out to be as 
good as his word.

Bob continued his dancing and eventually went on to open a chain of dance 
studios. Paul decided he was not happy being the butt of everyone’s jokes and 
decided he would try to become smarter, and amazingly enough, he did.  Paul now 
builds and calibrates Lasik equipment, so the next time you are staring down the 
barrel of a laser scalpel pointed at your right cornea, know that you are under 
Paul’s meticulous care. Last we heard of Stiggy, he was still performing rituals 
in my name. And as for me, I learned to not answer my phone after midnight.