Friday, September 17, 2021


Cobalt and Sawdust

Anthony Hopkins was approached to play the lead role in the film adaptation.  This even though the real life protagonist was a woman, a Dr. Nadine Millar.  When he refused the part, the producers turned to Charlize Theron, who had prior experience playing a monster and who indeed did it exceedingly well.

Most of us know the story now, from the tabloids.  Dr. Millar (of chiropractic) spoke with her patients on their visits to her office as a hair-dresser might, and over time she got to know them well.  They confided in her in such a way that she felt that she understood their inner lives probably better than their spouses and siblings did.  And, in some cases, their inner lives were wretched.  These few in fact truly, in her view, would be better off dead.   What lay before them were years of misery, made more miserable still by an onset and progression somewhere along the way of terrible disease.  The light comfort that she was able to give them in her work was insufficient to the task of turning them toward contentment.

Suicide -- one response -- comes ordinarily with intense anxiety in the run-up, she thought.  Murder, quick and unforeseen, does not.

In school, Nadine had been taught both how to crack a neck and how not to crack a neck.  The latter instruction shared a lot with a small part of a lesson given to US Navy Seals in early training, except that they are told to do it when the moment so calls, without hesitation.

The first time, with Wallace  the postman from Framingham lying face down on the table, was messy.  There was a gigantic "Ow!!!!," and she had to put her right hand over his mouth as she snapped at it again, more vigorously.  After that (four more times in all), death was almost instantaneous, as she intended.

Then there was the problem of how to dispose of the bodies.  In this she took instruction from Walter White in "Breaking Bad" but, notwithstanding her physical strength and fitness, it was difficult to get her victims into the tubs, and then to get the tubs into the basement.  It helped that her therapy table could be raised and lowered and that it was on casters. 

The principal chemical that she used in this disposal exercise was a brilliant, cobalt blue.

Her last victim was a wiry little guy who called himself Chicky Belmondo.  In his 50s, he lived alone.  He was in truth an erudite man, largely self educated.  He seemed to have collected thousands of factoids, and not dull ones, and beyond that almost never to have forgotten one.

That's how it came to pass that Nadine had this epiphany while still holding Chicky's head between her strong hands, that every one of those factoids must have been coded somehow, physically, in his brain.  (She was, after all, a strict materialist, not a dualist or other philosophical romantic.)  Now that he was instantly dead, they would still be so coded for a little while, but it would be impossible to access them.  Maybe someday, she thought, scientists would figure out not how to transport them to another brain, resting in formaldehyde on a laboratory shelf, but how to upload them into silicon at virtually the moment of death.  With this passing thought, Nadine absolved herself.  Clearly she wanted the best for mankind, even if some would say that her methods in critical respects were unsound.

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