Mechanically Separated Chicken.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002


The doll taught me to wisecrack, but I was always better in the other role. Eight times a week the doll hypnotised me and made me squawk like a chicken, then gave me dirt and told me it was creme brulee. It was all part of our brilliant act: I pretended to be in a 'suggestible state,' and the crowd shrieked with horror and delight. The doll sprawled on my lap and mocked my hesitation. I wore a sailor suit and cried into a champagne glass.

I ate the dirt.

They called us 'the best comedy duo since Pinochet and Villa Grimaldi.' They said we 'presented an affectionate insight into modern cruelty.' They named us 'Kenny Everett for the elite.' We were taking them by storm. We were killing them in the aisles. We were a hit.

The doll made me do awful things, and not always just for the purposes of 'subverting the niceties of contemporary theatre.' There was no respite from our routine. Sometimes the doll told me I had diseases and made me scrub my face with toothpaste and oil of clove; sometimes it put instant coffee up my nose while I was sleeping. After Saturday matinee - depending on its mood - the doll might force me to pee out the hotel window, or call me 'Princess,' or make me point out each scar and tell the story of how it came to be there. None of these acts had anything to do with 'transcending the banality of abuse' or ' commenting on pop-culture's discourse of violence.' This wasn't about show business or even art. If I protested, the doll dropped its jaw at the hinge, flailed its wooden arms, and let rip with a eye-popping gurgle that invited the Heimlich manoeuvre. Or, it would recite the alphabet in singsong and stop abruptly at the letter 'P'.

When not touring, we stayed at the Eureka, the best hotel in Ballarat. The room service was excellent but the doll, being a doll, never ate. It enjoyed Honduran cigars, although I don't know where the smoke went, since the doll was made of solid Baltic pine. I also wondered where the voice came from. I'd tried to investigate. The doll told me to mind my own business.

The doll read a lot in its spare time. It had a particular fondness for Camus and Beckett, though I'd seen a gold-embossed copy of Flowers in the Attic hidden under the bath towels that the doll thought I didn't know about.

[This story also appears as a collaborative animation on SBS's Cornerfold website.]