Wednesday, July 02, 2008

He Chopped Up the Body

He chopped up the body.

First, he sawed the head from the remainder of the body. Then, in the following sequence, he sawed off the right arm, the right leg, the left leg, and then the left arm, moving cautiously with his bonesaw in a counterclockwise direction until all the limbs had been removed from the torso and carefully laid out in a chain-link circle of toes touching fingers--with the head intersecting the circle in the middle of its diameter.

It was a hypnotic, meditative scene of mortality. Made more so since the body parts, save the torso, were arranged on a quilt featuring a bright fuchsia swastika pattern that he had commissioned from a blind and crippled Estonian merchant of made-to-order bedding. The very man whose limbs, torso, and head these had once been.

He wasn't sure what he was going to do with this project. At this point, it was a rough sketch. He would have been the first to acknowledge that he was still in the experimental stage, moving slowly, but surely; ever confident of his abilities as an artist.

Sometimes, however, artistic inspiration requires a little force, a jarring loose of inhibitions and a freeing of the subconscious. This is what he had hoped to achieve when he first began chopping up the body nearly an hour ago. The overall theme would come to him, he was sure of it, if only he could only stop obsessing about the particulars and serve his artistic muse--whom he called "Nancy".

"What are it all about, Nancy?" he asked the heavens, "Are I creatin' real art or are I just fingerpainting?"

As he surveyed his handiwork, he felt that the composition needed fine tuning. Switching from his bonesaw to his jacknife (which his grandmother had won for him at the county fair twenty-five years ago by sleeping with one of the judges), he set about removing all ten fingers from both hands.

Then, he used the ten crimson-stained digits to create a series of five "V's", or peace signs, with the tips of each pair of fingers spreading outwards and connecting at their bases. After this, he arranged the five "V's" in a line of descending sizes, from larger to smaller, left to right.

First came the traditional peace sign pairing of the index and middle fingers. Following these two pairs, came the single pair of thumbs. Next to the thumbs were the two pairs of ring and pinky fingers. He set the line of "V's" in a horizontal line, spacing them out widely from one end of the circle to the other, with the two thumbs (the only single pair of digits) resting conspicuously underneath the decapitated head where only an hour earlier a neck had once been.

He stood back and, with his own thumb, squinted his left eye and surveyed his canvas.

"Are see what it are!" he exclaimed, "Nancy, are you see it from heaven? It's are about Abu-Ghraib! Are about unjustices! Nancy, are you hear me? Are you see, Nancy? See how I crate art fer ya, Nancy?"

Nancy did not respond. After all, Nancy was not in the heavens. Nancy was in his mind. For an artist, it is often easier to speak to the heavens than to hear one's own mind. Had he bothered taking the time to listen to his head, he might have heard Nancy say the following:

"But what are you going to do with the torso? And what about the genitals? And I like what you did with the fingers, but aren't you going to do anything with the toes?"

He was not thinking about the toes. Or the genitals. Or even the torso. First, he didn't want to cut off the toes, as he had done earlier with the fingers, because feet have always creeped him out--that's why these feet still had their shoes and socks on. As far as genitals were concerned, he didn't know what genitals were--having been raised in a 300 square foot Old Testament in Oklahoma City, Georgia.

And he hadn't even given a thought to the torso from whence the limbs and head had come. To demonstrate this, in his absent-mindedness, he propped the torso up vertically, thinking it a flesh-colored and flesh-textured log-stool. He sat down on what used to be a pair of shoulders capable of authentic human shrugging and lit a Pall Mall. "What are I forgettin' here?" He took a deep and thoughtful drag, "Nancy, ya done abandoned me!"

Suddenly, he heard a twig snap. His heart skipped a beat and he held his breath. Then, he remembered that there were no twigs in this part of the hospital. He relaxed for a bit, until he remembered that he was not in a hospital.

He was in a forest.

"Who goes thar?" he asked.

"Are you chopping up a body?" came a reedy, Irish-accented voice from behind the yoocaliptis trees.

"No," he said, "I's smokin' a cigarette."

"New York State Law says you can't smoke a cigarette where there's youckalyptys trees," returned the voice.

"I'll put it out," he said, using his bonesaw--which doubled as a sound-effect machine that specialized in sound effects of cigarettes being put out--to imitate the sound-effect of a cigarette being put out.

The Irish voice, undaunted, continued, "It still smells like smoke over there."

"That's just innards. Innards always smell like smoke. Them and brains. I ought ta one time write up myself a list of all the times I thought my house was on fire and it were just innards and brains." He gave a fake laugh, hoping what he had just said had sounded natural.

The voice wasn't buying it, though. "I'm coming through the trees now."

"No, daren't do that! It aren't good for it! Im's the innards that are smelling that way!"

The Irish voice came through the trees, but no body came with it--for the Irish voice turned out to be just that: a voice without a body. But it came through the trees anyway, crunching leaves with its word-boots.

Before the nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs could reach him, however, he put out his cigarette in the now-unused belly button between his legs and ran off pell-mell in a wild search for Nancy The Muse.

"Nancy! Nancy! Are ya seeing, are ya hearing! That voice are's a-gonna conciskate my art!"

Stay tuned for Part 9.17: GOING THE DISTANCE