a delightful inconvenience in discovering limbs by shane jesse christmass

I’m a cleaner in A&E. Happiness is the most effectual thing I can contrive. Wallet is mothballed, broke, leather cracked, cotton wool oozes from the quilting on the corpse. Pockets burst, my boss gives out demotions on the spot. I’ve practised my English for several weeks now. I’m getting better, tongue like a tri-plane trying to get the tied words out. The reporters in the lobby grow tired of speaking to the press agents about the Actor up on the psychiatric ward. The cooks in the basement kitchen rush headlong into the night once their shift finishes. I doubt we’ll ever hear of those boilers again. A Pepsi from the vending machine, war heroes drinking cups of tea. Masses of billowy clouds in Theatre. Surgeons setting up camp in the dense jungles. Nurses with piquant features, white tights on feathery legs, their enthusiasm roused by having access to the medicine cabinet. Belgian engineers sitting across from me in the cafeteria, gobbling sauerkraut and giant pretzels, dusting their donuts with a translucent powder. The PA system summons me to Triage. The commonplace grafts of the hospital’s hallways cloak the bumped bridge of my nose. White walls, full of whirlpools, cries, the rest is silence, cleaners move out of my way, soap suds, detergent on the floor, rancid mops and corroded buckets, surface cleaner messing about with sinuses, smells like coloured sugar-plums. Triage is a queer old thing, thoughtless, misery, Doctors, Nurses, bumbling together in saline drips and EEG machines. Slow motion staring, slight time periods and places, all delicate, sickly patients admitted, possible enthusiasts and dilettantes rolled into my mucky workshirt sleeves. The Charge Nurse gives me a paralysing stare, all gangways, walk planks, an outlandish shrew who pronounces her words exactly.
        “You’re late.” She advises me.
        Humiliation is hibernation. She should be ashamed of herself. The shadow of the buildings opposite. The Charge Nurse points, pokes sternly at two yellow buckets. An odd feeling overcomes me, felicity by a profound obscurity. Neither the Charge Nurse, nor the Doctor behind her are beautiful. An aeroplane flies over the hospital, the walls judder, a gradual appearance of familiar quakes. I pick the buckets up by the handles, one handle for each hand. I leave Triage without hesitation. The Charge Nurse is the main character in a contemptible rolling day, her mouth, her lips, entire horror with a mouthful of grass. The heaving reef of hospital traffic. I navigate to the morgue. What’s in the yellow buckets? Small people? Diminutive animals with snorkels to breathe? I need to pick up a box of cigars after work, the linoleum creaks under my sneakers, the spokes turn in the wheelchairs passing me. I place the yellow buckets down, ripping the tape from around the seal, flinging the lid to the wall. A fresh mental effort, a lottery, a plainly felt look, what’s inside the buckets?
        The answer.
        Plain old hairy legs. Legs hacksaw from below the knees. Legs sawn from a person presumably injured in a car accident. Legs, I assume because of the amount of hair on the calves and shins, to be from a man. Legs that belong to no human, or to anything. Legs. Lonely, lost legs. The exhaustless energy of flesh is no more. A distant collection of scars, a patchwork of important tattoos upon the skin. I push through the plastic flap-door into the anteroom of the morgue. Here’s your legs.
Shane Jesse Christmass is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based writer. He’s a member of the band Mattress Grave, and firmly believes that the future of the word, the novel, will be in synthetic telepathy. Most of his writing is archived at Lupara Publishing. He also hosts the Lupara Sound System at www.radiovalerie.org