Alligator, an autopsy

Alligator, an Autopsy

by Steve Himmer

Case Summary: Subject is a 236 year old alligator. Preliminary observations indicate a toxic preponderance of incompatible dietary elements, as recorded below. In the opinion of this examiner, the greater surprise is not that the unlikely creature expired but rather that it clung to life as long as it did.

Stomach Contents:*

* items recorded in order of removal, which is not thought to reflect the order of consumption as strata of digestion were found to be overlapping and tangled, making precise chronology indeterminable

  • thirteen cellular telephones (“smart”) with varying degrees of damage—cracked screens, scratched casings, etc.—but still functional, all streaming 24-hour news broadcasts, all incapable of navigating to other websites and/or being deactivated;
  • one rosewood work desk stocked with stationary and ink and pens;
  • one oil lamp, dim glow cast;
  • faint shadows on three walls, fourth wall mysteriously unshadowed;
  • one electronic megaphone with pre-programmed musical selections and sound effects, playing Sousa’s “The Thunderer” non-stop at slow tempo as the batteries wind down;
  • the thunder of one billion feet;
  • the roadwork and rubble of one billion feet;
  • the unplanned paths on the land ground by one billion feet;
  • emerald-hued lawns populated by chickens and rabbits, their cages and hutches shattered and broken;
  • the bones of chickens and rabbits;
  • bunting half-hung or half-dropped from its hanging;
  • spent fireworks and scorched earth left behind by the launching;
  • gunpowder smoke drifting in low-lying clouds;
  • lands fogged by the steam of rails, lands of dead grasses and vast forests, lands of grazing bison and bleached skulls;
  • one (all? the sole-and-infininite?) ouroboros, half-eaten;
  • the intention to sell dry goods, and the longing to take up the sword again;
  • business deals, soured;
  • treaties, violated;
  • an island worth more than a fistful of beads;
  • men with heavy whiskers and beaver fur hats shaking hands and offering cigars;
  • a molasses tank ruptured, hot liquid running the streets, corpses choked and preserved in hot sticky syrup;
  • a young nation’s own small Pompeii;
  • the rest of the world and its riches;
  • a triangular trade and a bottle of rum and the black skin of a broken back bloodied, said blood thickened dark as molasses;
  • a father’s fond opinion of and strong words regarding the beauty of a good thrashing;
  • said thrashing, administered for diverse reasons: failure to admire a well-manicured lawn, failure to refer to one’s father as “the General,” failure to comprehend finery finely, poking of chickens with sticks, failure to play with neighborhood boys also failure to cease playing with neighborhood boys when so instructed, failure to adequately perform household chores;
  • assorted gasoline soaked rags apparently for the purpose of scrubbing insubordinate genitals and hands;
  • new life, born from the fire of the plains;
  • smoke from fire;
  • nothing but smoke;
  • also mirrors, reflecting the sun;
  • a sun obscured by hand (left, the back of which bruised, knuckles bloodied, index finger askew at the tip from an old break healed badly);
  • the sound of echoes, of wild dogs baying, of gulls shrieking and swirling—these sounds lost within the alligator amidst the meat of dead soldiers;
  • one wagon, emptied of soldier’s rations;
  • one soldier, emptied of organs;
  • waterways soured with blood and offal;
  • rivers choked by steamships and the skiffs of fur traders;
  • fur traders and steamboats choked by the murky water of rivers;
  • one land of cobbled streets and brick butcher shops and haberdashers and grocers and barbers, and these buildings painted with advertisements for lye soap and calf-skin boots;
  • men (precise count impossible) crazed and camping on porches;
  • threats from above men to “shoot the next damn unpaid I see”;
  • that great untapped resource the unpaid, tangled in digestion with their satchels of tobacco and hand-me-down clothing, bloody aprons and gristle smeared hands;
  • assorted poor, tired, and huddled (inseparable from a great mass of unwashed);
  • Pandora’s box, open (contents absent);
  • one Constitution;
  • one Declaration of Independence;
  • two World Wars;
  • various Pentagon Papers;
  • the head of a soldier, carved into shape for plugging leaks;
  • a hole in the President’s head;
  • an evening at the theater (quality of performance otherwise unrecorded);
  • an assassin’s broken leg;
  • plush carpets and velvet lined walls;
  • various theories on blood removal;
  • barrel-chested men wandering railcar compartments, shod in overcoats, pockets stuffed with common revolvers;
  • plates of sliced meat slid into a room and corresponding emptied plates slid out;
  • inmates, locked in;
  • inmates, let out;
  • outmates, wandering among us;
  • not a body who remembers how to tell them/us apart;
  • bodies (~900) of assorted ages, races, and sizes in proximity to spent Kool-Aid cups;
  • an actress and her companions, murdered in a Hollywood home;
  • a song by a band dead before we were born;
  • a song by a once celebrated singer;
  • a musical litany of historical events without context (attached by staple to infinite essays regurgitated by bored students upon instructions of uninspired teachers);
  • a filmmaker insistent upon happy endings, strangled by heartstrings of his own sentiment;
  • another cellphone (“smart”), screen cracked, also paralyzed by the 24-hours news cycle;
  • a machine, cranked by hand, able to steal the thunder of trains;
  • the voice of locomotives whistling and steel rails vibrating, broadcast through speakers hanging above city streets, interspersed with the marches of Sousa (full volume, full speed);
  • infinite televisions left on until late, abandoned to blizzards of static and snow;
  • infinite poorly received images of flags being lowered;
  • multiple sounds: bridges collapsing into rivers, the jangle of wood and rock and iron, the peeling apart of metals (possibly new patterns and melodies concealed within);
  • preachers;
  • fornication;
  • hypocrisy;
  • wolves (heard, not seen);
  • a city of parades and confetti;
  • no one to clean up the confetti;
  • decades of confetti ruined and rotting in streets;
  • sodden paths carved by habit through mounds of confetti;
  • the tamped down confetti of one billion feet;
  • blinders to never notice the rot of yesterday’s celebrations;
  • all tomorrow’s parties;
  • a silvery wig, suspended atop a silver foil balloon;
  • 32 soup cans, acrylic on canvas, 20×16″ (50.8×40.6cm)—slight variations by flavor;
  • an electric chair’s blurry image, ad infinitum;
  • this boy, dead in his bed clothes;
  • recruits too young to shave (partially obscured beneath the long beards of veterans too old to bother);
  • two corpses, shot by snipers over campfire scorched baked beans;
  • infinite beaver fur hats;
  • zero beavers;
  • a million more soldiers if we are to have any hope;
  • the total absence of hope;
  • three corpses of this examiner’s colleagues, cause of death gunshot wounds (self-inflicted), fallen in despair upon their own overstuffed carcasses of alligators—autopsies left incomplete;
  • one pistol (.38 caliber);
  • zero rounds of ammunition (.38 caliber);
  • one alligator, age 236 years—autopsy as of yet incomplete;
  • one remaining medical examiner—autopsy to be left incomplete;
  • another—the same? the only?—ouroboros;
  • a floor slick with organs;
  • a room soured by blood;
  • one latex glove of inadequate length to keep out the blood;
  • a hand red with blood;
  • blood smeared by hand;
  • a muffled march by Sousa from within the bloody heap at our feet;
  • everything blood;
  • everything;
  • blood;
  • everywhere the debris of war, massed in unsightly ruins.

Steve Himmer is author of the novel The Bee-Loud Glade, and editor of the webjournal Necessary Fiction. He has a website at SteveHimmer.com

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