When the Aliens
Took the Boy

Robert Kelly
They were taking out his organs one by one, cutting them loose with the sharp conchoidal volcanic glass, then licking the cut with their own tongues, finally shoving the rifled vein or stripped tendon back to reconnect with the replacement item they had found to do the work.

They took out his urinary bladder and put in an alarm clock, an old round wind-up brass clock with two bells and a striker on top. It was ticking as they settled it down snug into his abdomen. Some days he can still hear it ticking. Tick, tick, when he hears the word he thinks: urine, urinate, now. The clock is always telling me to go. When he learns the word ticking later, which means the soft striped cotton cloth that binds the straw and hair and strapwork of a mattress and covers it all around, he thinks, pissy mattress, bedwetting, a mattress wrapped in what defiles it, urinary stripes, the stripes of man, old men with stains round the gaping fly in the once-white broadcloth of their underwear, tick, they wake at night to pee. Old men wake at night to pee, little boys pee without waking, Christ, what a life, tick.

And in their busy cave they went on working, lifting out his young pure smokeless lungs. In their place they carefully tucked two gray squirrels, apparently alive and breathing, and nested together like a pair of shoes in a shoebox, tail of one to the head of the other. And when they pulled the liver out slimy with blood, they shoved a live hawk in its place, which fluttered its wings once or twice and then kept quiet, its wild eye looking here and there.

    They told me they used a shoe for my heart and they laughed. I said what kind of shoe? They said it was leather, and stuffed my old tennis socks with the orange rings round the shank deep in it to make the shoe keep its shape. Why is that funny, the coat hanger for my clavicle isn't funny, what's so funny about a fucking shoe! They said it goes. A heart goes, get it? I got it but I don't think it's so funny.

He worried the ways boys do that they were thinking about pushing the wooden coat hanger up his anus to see what would happen as it spread him open but they didn't. He was sure he could hear them thinking about it, and it scared him. But other people's thoughts are always frightening. At least to him.

But they had hung the hanger in his chest, and neatly festooned some of the loose vessels, vena, aorta, over the trouser rod to keep them out of harm's way as they worked. Now they were ready for the big exchange. They took away the sternum and one of them, Kavdil, I think, shoved it in his hip pocket like a kind of money. In its place they spread a postcard from Bolzano in northern Italy, with cardboard glued to the back to stiffen it, so you couldn't read the address or message or sender anymore, just the blank cardboard backing the picture of a mountain called The Rose Garden glowing from the setting sun.

The aliens seemed fully absorbed by this examination, which they called a Vivi-redaction, of his interior. They talked to one another steadily, in quiet, discovering tones that strangely calmed him. It is not all that bad, being an object of interest.

His pancreas they replaced with a pink rubber tobacco pouch still half full of Red Rapparee. The left kidney they lifted out and replaced with a big green emerald --- where could they have gotten it? --- all faceted and glittering. The right kidney they sliced out more neatly, and stuffed a blue forty-watt light bulb in its place.

    I was watching them take things out of me, I couldn't believe it, stuff dripping with blood and lymph and bile and piss, and then shoving things in. Shove with a little twist, a little tap, and each time one of them would do that, the other would say tza! It sounded as if the sound had some work to do in the process. The little Peruvian ocarina they put into my midriff to replace my gall bladder made a soft too-tootling sound as I breathed and as they twisted things out and in. It was dark glazed, with a blue pattern in it, a five-pointed star with blunt rays. I guess it still is making that sound inside me. I never listen to what's going on inside me. Can you hear it?

--- From How They Took My Body
Apart and Made Another Me

Reprinted from Conjunctions in
The Best American
Required Reading

©2004, Dave Eggers, Editor
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