The Vegetarian

by John Rathbone Taylor

You said you wouldn’t.

No, I said I’d try not to.

It’s the same.


Is, because you shouldn’t have.

Jesus, because I erred, once!

Tell the pig that.

It was already dead!

Only because people like you wanted to eat him.

You want to eat flies?


You kill flies.

Never! I always swish them away. I think you should go back to mowing the lawn.

He mowed a yard then stopped and spun, top lip furled, ready to attack.
Instead, he looked where she was pointing, bottom lip quivering.

Two ends of a worm—squirming, where he’d mown.

In the last little while John Rathbone Taylor has been mentally shredding all the business plans and strategies he used to write as a director in local government. He says he has turned to the more serious mischief of writing stories. Some are lengthy short stories and novelettes in the bizarre/absurd style. The first one he wrote was published by a British LitSite called Beat the Dust. Others, like the one featured here, are tightly drawn 100-word compositions that have fun with characters, language and logic. Dreamscape Press included one in their 2013 anthology: 100 Worlds: Lightning Quick SF & Fantasy Tales and Literary Orphans ran a set in their 2014 Bettie edition. Rathbone Taylor recently worked with Luke Rhinehart–author of The Dice Man–to help produce a screenplay of one of Rhinehart’s other titles. He also has a non-absurdist novel nagging for his attention. John Rathbone Taylor lives in Sheffield, England and is a member of “The Garret”–a writers’ group led by the author Simon Crump.

What fascinating, surprising things can you tell us about the origin, writing, revision of this piece?

I had only the comedic appeal of human argument in mind when I began writing this piece, but I pondered on how to resolve the story of the couple’s battle of wills within my (self-imposed), target frame of a mere 100 words. Then I remembered a haiku I once wrote about two severed ends of a worm (apparent duality) searching for one another (the true one-ness of itself). Using this image here makes The Vegetarian a kind of Zen parable because the couple’s differences are dissolved in the horror moment of seeing the severed worm. It also completes and qualifies the piece as Absurdist for me—my aim – because it has the double edge of comedic nonsense and deadly seriousness.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.


02/26 • D Angelo
03/04 • Steve Cushman
03/11 • Rita Taryan
03/18 • Jessica Purdy
03/25 • TBD