Mechanically Separated Chicken.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003


In one dream, it was handkerchiefs, the coloured silk ones that magicians use. He felt his lips itch, and putting his fingers to his mouth, found a corner of fabric poking out. He pulled and out popped a string of scarves, one after another, tied at the corners. At first it seemed wondrous: like kissing, like finding money. Imagine the looks on their faces! he thought. At last, a real talent! He liked the handkerchiefs, and some had tiny, silver, hand-painted stars that made him feel lucky. Also, there were economic benefits: no longer would he be forced to purchase handkerchiefs like ordinary men. He couldn't wait for the weekend. He couldn't wait to show his ex-girlfriend.

But after the eighteenth handkerchief—a blue one with white dolphins swimming along the edge—he started to get frightened. Each handkerchief ended with another knot, another handkerchief. On it went. It began to hurt his oesophagus. They were scratching him. His gag reflex made a comeback. His eyes watered. It seemed as though it would never, ever end. And it didn't.

Another time it was tongues. His tongue came out and then he grew another and that came out too. He grew another but the third tongue was deformed. A broad, triangular stump of flesh: a cane toad's tongue. He didn't know how to speak with it. He knew that even if he managed to learn how, his voice would be different than before and this made him unhappy. He looked in the mirror and manipulated the strange, vestigial amphibian tongue with his fingers, tried to stretch it. It struck him that he was now ugly. No one will ever be able to love me with this tongue, he thought. I will be alone forever. And he was right.

For a week, he awoke with a lump in his throat and foam on the pillow. He dreamt that cocktail umbrellas pierced the hollow of his cheek. He dreamt of spitting tennis rackets and mice; a surge of blue electricity like vomit. He dreamt that bullets poured from his mouth into a glass slipper. In the mornings he would drive to work, thinking: This means something. Perhaps I should go to the dentist; maybe I should stop telling lies. This is a sign of some kind. This is a sign, a sign. But it wasn't.

[This story appears on the Visible Ink 'Soundtrack' CD.]