By R.J. Patteson
The recruitment officer told the man to stand and he could see that his feet bones connected to his leg bones which connected to his knee bones which connected to his thigh bones, backbone, neck bone, and head. But most importantly, he could see that the man’s finger bones could grip a rifle, so he asked him to sign his name.
“Are you prepared to die for your country?”
“What’s your name, Boy?”
“My name is—”
When the man was just a boy, he plucked his sister’s doll from its crib and began to pluck out its eyes with a knife. He held his eye to the doll’s eye but could see nothing but an empty void. He could see nothing, so he cut away the face and was disappointed when his autopsy revealed little more than a shell of hollow plastic.
His sister came in from outside and saw her doll’s face and fell to her knees and sunk into her dress and cried.
The man stood quiet, with his feet bones planted, with his rifle held towards the front door of a cottage somewhere in France. A soldier on the other side of the door banged thrice and said something in German. The door erupted in a smoke of dust and splinters and swung open and when the smoke cleared, the two men stood looking at the other with their feet bones planted, with their bayonets pointed at the other.
He laid in bed between the legs of his partner and her pelvic bone connected with his pelvic bone. And she leaned forward until her jaw bone connected with his jaw bone and they both laid there for a while. Afterward, she lowered herself until her ear had sunk to his chest and she could hear his heartbeat and she whispered for him not to leave. She cried into his chest saying, “You could get yourself killed.”
When the man was just a boy, he found a frog covered in flies and he pulled the frog’s skin away with a stick and there was a complex working of parts and the man, who was only a boy at that time, wondered what sort of complex parts were behind his skin.
Later that day, he snuck his father’s knife and crept to his sister’s room when she was playing outside and took her doll from its crib.
The door swung open and the man stood with his feet bones planted, with his bayonet pointed at his enemy, and he thrust his bayonet with his arm bones and the blade punched through the rib bones of the German and the German collapsed backward, bringing the rifle with him, backward, backward, until the German’s legs were contorted in the shape of a ‘W’. The man looked into the German’s eyes and they were unlike a doll and so, with his bayonet still embedded, the man’s finger bones pulled the trigger and the eyes of the German turned instantly to plastic.
When the man was not even a boy, when he was not yet in this world, a midwife pulled him from his mother and she wiped the blood from him and placed him in his mother’s arms. And his mother could see that each appendage had five fingers and five toes and that he was a boy and would, one day, become a man. She held him to her chest and he could hear her heartbeat and he cried into her chest and his mother cried, too.
R.J. Patteson is an author/screenwriter from Toronto, Canada, and a finalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. He’s currently writing his first novel and can be found @rjpatteson on twitter.