By Christopher Woods
Sure, I’ll admit it. No problem. We weren’t so smart. Now, it’s different. But last night? I guess we didn’t know no better. Clint and me. That’s why we went ahead with it. THE PROJECT. Yeah, that’s what we called it. THE PROJECT.
Doc, he’d been our neighbor awhile. We counted on him for the wisdom business. And vodka, too, when we was out. Doc, he was real smart. But he’d been out of his line of work a long time. But that don’t mean he didn’t like to talk about it. He did.
I’d ask him, “Doc,” how do you crack one?” And Doc, he said it was like cracking some old dinosaur egg. Kinda hard, you see. He even showed us how to do it. He pulled out that black doctor bag, the one he hadn’t used in so long? He blew off the dust. He showed us his shiny tools. He’d been sidelined a few years for shaky hands and what all.
After he got everything spread out on the kitchen table, I asked him how he knew what was what. So he told me. He got out some big old book. Medical kind of book. Doc showed me a map of the brain. Like a roadmap, but all the roads was inside, if you follow me.
I was watchin’ Doc, looking at the pictures. That’s as close as he’d get to operatin’ again, least ‘til he got his hands settled down. But there wasn’t much chance of that happening, the way Clint and me saw it. No, Doc was down the tubes. Else why was he hangin’ out with a couple guys like us? You never saw Doc without a drink in his hand, and that’s the bottom line.
That roadmap book was the first thing I went lookin’ for last night in Doc’s kitchen. When things went wrong? And Clint actin’ like a yellow bastard, lettin’ me do all the work? Oh, he helped me crack Doc’s dinosaur egg, but that was only after I started hollerin’ at him.
Once I had everything out on the table, I started lookin’ at it real hard. And you know something? Doc’s brains didn’t look anything like the pictures in the book. No roadmap, is what I mean. Messier, too.
I didn’t let that stop me. I’d look at Doc’s brains, then the pictures. I started seein’ things. Places I didn’t know about before. I came across the place where feelings hole up. And this and that, like where talk starts. I poked around. There wasn’t no labels or nothin’ like in the book. Hell, I couldn’t read ‘em even if there was. No, it was mostly like pushin’ jelly ‘round on a plate.
While I’m operatin’, Clint’s walkin’ ‘round the kitchen. Openin’ cabinets, then slammin’ them shut. He’s bitchin’ ‘cause he can’t find Doc’s gin bottle. He’s so drunk he can’t stand up straight. I said, Clint, you dumb fuck, how do you think we got Doc to pass out in the first place? We got Doc to drink the whole bottle. Good thing, too. Who can have their head split open without some of that...oh, what do you call it? Uh, oh yeah, annis asia. That’s what it’s called.
I’m workin’ hard, see? And Clint, he’s breakin’ out the bourbon. Sour mash. I say, give me some of that stuff. Settle my stomach with all that blood everywhere. Doc’s brain was pretty good for browsing. I was enjoyin’ myself. Pretty soon, though, it stopped bein’ fun. Things started dryin’ out on the table. Real dry. I knew my time was runnin’ out. I tried to put it all back like I’d found it. Like in the book?
But I looked at all that flattened out jelly, and I didn’t know the first thing ‘bout puttin’ it back together. Oh, I tried to line it all up nice and proper. Clint was watchin’. I knew he was thinkin’ the same thing.
Clint said he didn’t recall me askin’ Doc about this part. That’s what I know, I said. That’s what I know. Damned if it wasn’t so! Hell knows it was too late to ask Doc.
So maybe I messed up big time. Wouldn’t you say so? Yeah. How else can you explain how somethin’ like this happens? Soon as I sober up, I’m gonna study Doc’s book real hard. Next time, I’ll be ready.
Christopher Woods is the author of a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY (Panther Creek Press), and a collection of stage monologues for actors, HEART SPEAK (Stone River Press). He lives in Houston and in Chappell Hill, Texas.
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