Friday, December 9, 2022


Only the Tail

Only the tail of my coat was drawn into the chipper that morning.  As of the 1990's or thereabouts, all of the machines had a sensor and kill switch installed as a precaution, and this one by that design stopped as soon as it began to eat a truly "foreign object."  But it did flip me over on my back, and I lay in the bed of the truck, on a nest of rough branches, for nearly an hour, until my foreman Marvin came back from the convenience store with coffee, gum and a big package of jerky, beef and venison mixed.

Marvin and I had relations that you could call unfriendly.  I thought that he was weak of mind; he thought that I was the sort of person whose coat would get caught in the machine.  When he returned from his errand there was no one else around, and he could have turned the machine back on, overriding the safety, in which case it would have devoured me.  I was nearly certain that for all his faults he would not do this demonic thing, and it probably never crossed his mind.

As I lay there waiting, I thought of one cartoon motif from my childhood -- the evil banker with the moustache and the big hat (why a banker?) and Little Nell, tied by the banker to the railroad tracks.  Nell would scream weakly but hysterically while the banker twirled his moustache.  She would feel the rumble of the oncoming train through the iron; she would hear its whistle approaching relentlessly.  Always, at the very last moment, a big-jawed captain of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would whisk her away from what appeared to be certain death.

We didn't think much about PTSD back then; Nell didn't, and I didn't.  In the event, I developed no hostility to mulch or mulching.  My wounds went much deeper than that; in fact they will not heal completely until all of my memories, and all of my memories of memories, have been erased.

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