The Law of Suppression
Past few months have found him cursing the energy in his legs. Wanting nothing more than to reach down and excommunicate his calves, rip them clean from bone and leave them to stew on the kitchen linoleum. Kick at one every now and again just to ensure its ambivalence without him.
Against his better judgment he fishes an old shovel from the garage and begins digging, sinking the heavy metal tongue into the scalp of the lawn. Seesawing root and casting heavy divots of earth aside like tiny islands. No longer a young man, he tires easily. Pain rings the bell. Sunlight fades. Bats use sonar to bleach hunger. He reaches down and clicks an old radio at his belt loop, scrolls stations with his thumb and finds the ball game. He'd always considered himself a pragmatic man, one who sought discernable outcome through practical action. But that was out the door the minute he stabbed that soil. Ribcage, clearly it is part of her ribcage. He goes into the house and retrieves his tooth brush where it lays on the sink. Bone's a resilient thing, but what with chemicals and the onset of nature, nearly anything could be broken down, right? Not to mention time. He feels it best to go easy. Gripping the brush is tedious, fingers unwilling to cooperate in any sort of reliable way. He runs a finger along the ridgeline of her vertebrae where tumors once hung loose and warm as baby birds. Canine cancer had come on. Roughie died in a matter of weeks. Surgery was an option, always an option.
"Should we be worried, Mr. Wellens?" says a voice. Kid Boiler puts his weight into a chain link fence that borders the neighboring lawns. "You're not gonna start fashioning lampshades out of human remains? Perhaps a nice jawbone-ashtray or upper torso ottoman?" There's a pacified sadness to Kid Boiler. One of those poverty-stricken white kids whose mattress contains no sheets. But lately he'd sort of come into his own, began sporting gauges in his ears and wearing jeans that put a hell of a strain on his pecker, seeming more concrete in his element.
"Never had much use for folks," Porter replies. "That includes furniture and household accessories."
Lightning bugs hit their mark. He recalls collecting them as a child. Making happy little ecosystems out of mason jars, dropping blades of grass down inside and punching holes through the lids with his father's screwdriver, inevitably smashing a few during the hunt and wiping their little radioactive bodies in the grass.
"And don't lean on the fence like that, damn-it."
"Easy." Kid Boiler dismounts the fence, allowing it to return to its pathetically demure structure. "Gram made you these," he says, presenting a saran wrapped plate of homemade cookies.
Only one who comes by on a regular basis is a fella Porter served with by the name of Joe Monahan. Joe still woke at night churning shit. "Churn and burn," he'd call it. "Can smell it on the sheets, your skin." The war had become less poignant for Porter. More like a story someone's telling that he's hardly even listening to. He'd nearly married at one point, pretty little girl by the name of Nadine Lally. Hit a knee and she'd accepted. But then rose concerns with all that Orange. She began crying at night. Claimed she felt empty inside. "Thank your grandmother for me, Kid."
Following morning comes without sleep. There's the whirl of a DeWalt, drill bits tunneling bone, fragments of Roughie strewn across the porch like pieces of a model car. Porter lines the bones of the vertebrae, verifies quadrant and ensures location, slides them down the avenue of a 10 gauge wire. He begins at the core and logs his progress in a journal. He'd managed to stave arthritis up until this point, or at least an official diagnosis, but now he could feel the oil leaving his joints. His knuckles pulsing like little beating hearts. An old yellow van pulls to the curve and sheds itself of Kid Boiler. He appears disheveled, hair scattered by the patterns of sleep. He walks around back and pops the latch of the fence, lets the gate swing open as a broken jaw.
"Perhaps God took a similar approach?" he says, taking note of Porter and his work, "Similar standards, an assembly line of heart, soul and matter, justification for faulty defecating units?" Porter sips at coffee and appears to be unaware of Kid's presence, or at least makes no posture to prove otherwise. "Your last decision and first go at innocence, built right into your DNA?"
That evening Kid goes out to the far corner of the lawn beneath the shroud of a giant Oak. He sits down in the grass, back against bark. Sunbathing Animal pumps through headphones horseshoed around his neck. Rhythmically, he spins the threaded wheel of a zippo, lights a cigarette and stamps out the flame with the little metal head of the unit. Neighboring houses illuminate like silent fish aquariums. He brings a heel up in the air and brings it back down in the dirt, denting the world. In a window past the fence line he watches Porter rinse a bowl in the sink. "Silly old goat," he says aloud. But then it happens. Something he can't rightly explain. As Porter goes to set the bowl down toward the floor he sees something glinting white ricochet off the man's thigh. Porter scoffs and stumbles. Then it comes at him again, a quick flash, bright as ivory.
Lancaster Cooney graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a B.F.A. in Playwriting. His work can be found or is forthcoming at Alice Blue Review, Everyday Genius, Matchbook Lit Mag and Heavy Feather Review, among others. He lives with his wife, two daughters and pup in the Northern Kentucky area.