Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Bodies" by Erin Gleeson

Every once in a while forays into the outside world do not end in existential anguish, but in the magic of discovery. Such was, and usually is, catching the latest WORMs reading and hearing for the first time writer and puppeteer and filmmaker Erin Gleeson.

I quickly swooped down in all my mothball menace and booked her for the Shattered Wig Night that coming weekend where she said "I will read my best stuff for Shattered Wig Night. I kind of coast for Bob O'Brien because he once stole my watch and beat me down at a craps game."

And indeed they were two fine pieces she read at the Wig Night, both of which will run in the next Shattered Wig Review. Here is one now for your seasoned palate.



1. You are asleep and you have pink eye. Earlier in the day, your best friend told you that pink eye comes from poop, leaving you wondering who put poop in your eye. Around 1 am, you're awakened by a gentle squeeze on your foot. You roll over and see your mother in the shadows. She whispers, "I just wanted to make sure you're still breathing." As you fall back asleep, you begin to worry that pink eye can spread to the lungs.

2. Performing daily and rushing from one city to the next began to take its toll; his body grasped at sleep whenever it could. Mid-tour, he began to fall asleep without warning. He'd be drinking his coffee at a cafe or reading somewhere and he'd drop off. Head flying forward, shoulders hunched, he'd nap unintentionally, then wake a little while later, disoriented and confused.

He wore an old 35 mm camera around his neck: an SLR with a nice long lens. He wasn't entirely sure how to work the thing; he just pointed, feebly twisted the focus ring and clicked. In spite of his temporary narcolepsy, the camera found a permanent home on him. He kept it on-hand for fear he'd miss something. He hadn't traveled much before and now he was eager to sop up every moment he could. The idea that it could be stolen or damaged mid-slumber nudged him from a distance, but overall he ignored it.

He developed the photos as soon as he got home and found a long series of poorly composed, soft images. A couple of kids in upstate New York waved fuzzily at him, an old woman in Chicago bled fluidly into the newspaper she was reading. A couple photos seemed to be extreme close-ups of his lap, accidental snapshots taken as he nodded off. Shuffling through the pictures, he was startled to find three of himself: asleep, slack-jawed and in crisp, beautiful focus.

3. You have just had sex with someone you’ve recently fallen in love with. Your love is so new, in fact, you realized you were falling in love earlier today. The feeling socked you in the stomach when she was miles away, when you were explaining to your mother how to use the computer she recently purchased. You turned it on to find everything a little off.

“Mom, all of your programs have been renamed ‘Jerry.’”
“I didn’t do it.”
“You’re telling me it came from Best Buy like this.”

Your mother shrugged and you flashed forward to an imagined future where you’re old alongside the woman you love. She has accidentally renamed all of the newfangled appliances she doesn’t understand. The electronic cat, your bionic grandchildren, your USB ear, everything. In that moment the world was Jerry. Sprawling and perfect, unified under one name.

And here you are now, young and still in touch with the times. You haven’t told her about your realization from earlier in the day because it terrifies you. That said, you’re also eager to know if the feeling is mutual. You open your mouth to start the conversation, but in the dark she can’t see this and interrupts you to sit up, lifting the curtain beyond your bed. A brilliant white light is thrown onto her face and she gasps, “Oh it’s snowing again.”

The two of you roll onto your stomachs and watch the world turn white. You hold the curtain up together, listening to your inhales, exhales and the sound of snowflakes slamming into snowflakes.

4. A half hour before the barbecue, Julia could not stop eating the cake. She decided to bring one of those American flag cakes, a sheet cake depiction of the stars and stripes fully illustrated in strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. As she applied the finishing touches, though, she wanted nothing more than to run a knife right through it. She wanted to enjoy the springiness of it, to take out a slice for herself and feel the heft of it in her hand.

So she did.

She took a bite and felt the soft snap of it as she punctured its surface. The whipped cream stuck to her lips and the cake clung to her teeth as she bit down on the blueberries. The pop and burst of each piece thrilled her, producing a rush of flavor that flooded her senses before fading into nothing.

By the time half the cake was left, she felt the stretch and ache in her stomach and a sense of sleepy satisfaction. She staggered into her bedroom, passed out face down on the unmade bed and sunk into a light nap, only to be brought out of it when her husband shut the front door with a slam. She could hear his steps through the house to the kitchen, his muffled voice through the door of the bedroom. “Julia. My mom isn’t going to want half a fucking cake."

5. It’s in AP English that all of the televisions click on at once. No explanation, no word of warning. Thinking it’s a technical error, your teacher reaches up and turns it off without looking up. She continues the lesson without breaking her stride, pausing briefly when Sister Joseph Anne’s voice crackles through the PA. “Francis Taylor, please report to the Principal’s office immediately.”

This strikes you as odd, since only assholes are called to the principle’s office, and Frank Taylor is one of the quietest, most unassuming kids you know. The lesson continues until Sister Joseph Anne interrupts again. “Anthony Nguyen, please come downstairs to the Principal's office.”

Weird. Anthony’s on the fast track to becoming valedictorian. What did he do?

But your teacher continues, trying to wrangle your wandering mind. Her efforts are obliterated by the PA once again. This time, Sister Joseph Anne is calling off a list of names and you count them. Eleven. And the lesson continues.

A half hour goes on like this, the lecture pierced by the voice from the speaker overhead. No explanations, just a cold list of names. You begin to suspect that half the school has been sent downstairs, when the dean’s voice booms out of the PA. “Class is dismissed for the rest of the day. Please leave the school at once.”

You and what remains of your class pour out of the room and into the hallway, along with all of the other kids in all of the other classes that didn’t get called downstairs. You all course through hallways and down staircases, herded by a fleet of nuns and teachers, the deep red of your sweaters creating a dense, bold streak throughout the pathways of the building. Rumors hum through the crowd, and the only plausible piece of information you can pull from the lot is that the list of names read over the PA were kids that were picked up by their parents. The rest of you are being sent home, but you’ll discover soon that all bus service has been cancelled.

You and the rest of the school stream out of the building, blinking in the sunlight. From above, the red of your uniforms makes it look like the school punctured an artery and is gushing blood into the street. You all spew out, then disperse. You find Gina, your best friend, and try to figure out where to go from here. The streets are quiet, save for the mass of disoriented Catholic school kids. You see one of your classmates from English, one of the chosen few with a car of his own. He breezes by you and Gina, sticking his head out the window. “We’re all gonna diiiiiie,” he bellows, then disappears down the block.

Okay, I get it. We’re going to die, you think. But would someone just tell me how?


is a writer, illustrator and co-creator of the touring puppet series Showbeast. Her work has been featured all across the country, and she recently co-wrote and co-directed videos for Dan Deacon and Beach House. She writes the blog, in which she explores sustainable living in an urban environment.

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