Just trying to get your attention. This challenge is one more galumphing bonanza. Try it!
–Eyelids –Zooming –Claw –Letter opener –Scar
Is There Such A Thing as A Collecting Gene?
My collection of eyelids was a private matter.
I originally wanted to collect eyeballs, but my older brother called dibs on the idea first. In the beginning we collected together. Our collections consisted of trophies taken from dead animals we found. Our first human additions came from an already dead body we tripped over in a darkened alley downtown.
I watched with eager anticipation the first time my brother opened his pocket knife, inserted the blade into the animal’s eye socket, and with a curving wrist motion severed the optic nerve bundles and pried the eyeball out with his fingers.
My hand shook when he handed me his knife. I felt dizzy, barely able to breathe. The blade tip was pointed and sharp, and I cut and sawed with the blade until I separated the small flap of skin.
My brother wrapped his souvenir in his handkerchief; I stuck mine in my top shirt pocket. We walked to our urban home in silence trying to feel braver than we were. When we reached home, he put his eye in a small jelly jar, filled it with rubbing alcohol, and twisted it tightly closed.
I thought of my cousin’s butterfly collection, neatly pinned to a panel from a carton, the brown corrugated kind. Beneath each specimen in her neat girly hand were the names of each butterfly and their Latin names. She won an activity badge from her girl’s organization and proudly displayed it on her sash.
I realized that my collection would win me nothing but grief if anyone found out about it, but I liked her style. After washing my new prize in alcohol, I sprayed it with an aerosol lubricant, hoping to keep it fresh, and pinned it to a similar board. Below, in my best penmanship, I wrote the name of the animal and the date.
My brother soon lost interest in collecting. His activities changed, now zooming in on girls. But his romances were short-lived. It was their eyes, he confessed to me one late night. Eyes that looked at him with romantic interest took him to the jelly jar hidden in his closet. Our hobby had left an emotional scar on his soul.. As he cried, I mumbled words of comfort while I played with a letter opener which I had sharpened to a scalpel’s edge. I finally drifted off to sleep thinking about his eyelids.
My brother never went collecting with me again. I was on my own and often lurked the darker streets and alleys of town looking for my next addition. My searches were often in vain, that is until I was prowling the alley behind Mick’s Saloon. I heard a human moaning sound, and caught a motion behind the dumpster. It was Mr. Jenkins, the town drunk. Usually by this time of night he’d be picked up and taken to the drunk tank at the jail to sleep it off.
I knelt and grabbed Jenkins by the shoulder and gave it a shake. No response, I gripped harder, my fingers gripping like a claw. “Jenks. Jenks. Are you okay?” Only guttural noises responded. I gave his face a slap. Then another. No reaction. He lay on his back, mouth slack-jaw open. Eyes rolled back. Lids nearly closed.
I pulled my box cutter from my back pocket and gave the blade a push. It gleamed in the darkness. With the fingertips of my free hand I pulled an eyelid away from its eye, and with a practiced motion, severed the eyelid. I don’t think he felt a thing in his blackout.
At home my collection now numbered eight.
My brother died when I was nineteen. I was sixteen. My parents were devastated. Few attended the service. We decided to forgo a graveside service and let the funeral home take care of the burial. I walked my parents to their friend’s car and said I would meet them at home. As the car turned the corner I made my way back to the chapel where my brother still lay. I twisted the lock on the door, opened the casket, and pulled my trusty blade.
I could barely contain my emotions when I reached home. My parents had received a couple mourners and were entertaining with coffee and cake. Of course, I was expected to participate. The half hour that passed seemed to never end.
As the guests left, I dashed to my room with my latest addition. Pulled out my collection and immediately pinned it to my board. I had no time for washing or spraying. I had waited too long to add this specimen. My hand shook as I annotated my brother’s name, James Winslow and the date.
My moment was disturbed with the chiming of the doorbell, a hideous rendition of the bells of Big Ben. I cringed at the thought of more busy-bodies and their phony condolences. A loud and unmournful male voice spoke in an authoritarian tone followed by a shriek that was definitely my mother. I cracked the door. “Where’s your other son… Mutilation… We need to speak with him now…”
I eased my door shut and twisted the lock. Picked up my pen. And, with a steady hand, I added one more name to my collection. I heard footsteps hurrying up the stairs. I turned to the mirror, lifted an eyelid and deftly sliced it away. It hurt like hell and I screamed. My vision blurred in that eye.
A hand twisted the locked doorknob. “Harold Winslow, it’s the police. Open this door.”
My remaining eye guided my hand as I pinned my severed eyelid. I wiped my damaged eye with the back of my hand and smiled as the police broke open the door.
My collection was now complete.
Loved it. Creepy tingles and cool twist at the end.
What? Are you ok, Jeff? I couldn’t finish.
Hey, man? Get out in the sunshine more, huh. Winter’s been too long for you. (good, but gory, work)
Jeff, as much as I enjoy your writing, I must say, your stories get darker and more disturbing every day. I almost couldn’t finish this one but your writing is compelling. Thanks for sharing your dark side.
Affecting your readers is what you aim for, right?
I’m less than thirty feet from the magnificent beast before me, but I turn the ring on my camera and zoom in further. Could there be anything more stunning than this gorgeous dark-maned lion resting in the shade of bushes growing from an eroded termite mound on the Masai Mara in Kenya?
I have a profile view of him as he keeps watch on something in the distance seen only by him. Between my companions and I, our shutters sound like muted automatic weapons, “brrrrrrrrrrpppppppppppppppp” as we fire shot after shot. Or, less violently, the sound of a letter opener ripping through strong paper.
Then, as if he knows when to use drama to its full effect, he turns to look directly at us and the reason why he is called Scarface is apparent. On the right side of his brow, through his eyelid, and below the eye is an horrific red scar, still open and bloody in places. His vision in that eye is questionable.
Once the dominant male of the famous Marsh pride near Governor’s Camp, Scarface strayed a little too far and attacked the cattle of a Masai herdsman outside the boundaries of the reserve. The legends vary, but the one I heard the most often was that the herdsman threw a machete at the lion, wounding him severely but saving his cattle from the predator. Another version is that the herdsman struck Scar in the side with a spear, also inflicting damage, and the eye wound was inflicted by another lion.
However it happened, Scar is a celebrity. Tourists come to the Mara hoping to see the lion featured in National Geographic specials. The park fees they pay help fund the medical attention to wounded animals, as well as the rangers and the well-hidden anti-poaching teams that protect them.
The Internet has many links to photos and stories of this lion. He is much loved by the guides and tourists who have seen him.
He has been tranquilized and treated many times by veterinarians, but using his claws to scratch at the wound and fighting with other males prevents it from healing. Scar and his three brothers, collectively known as the Musketeers, have wreaked havoc across the Mara, challenging pride males and winning the battles.
Today, though, Scar rests in the afternoon shade and graces us with infinite patience as we burn up memory cards. As we start to leave, Scar rises to his feet and limps out of the shade. Another injury for this warrior brings a lump to my throat.
(True story. I was in the Mara early February. Wish there was some way to post a photo here of this lion, but you can Google him and see many.)
Gullible, I loved your account of this experience. I could feel your wonder and sympathy for Scar. I look forward to hearing about your next adventure.
Here you go:
Gullible, thanks for sharing the link to your blog. I’m enjoying the pics and anecdotes quite a bit. Meant to check it out sooner but better late than never.
“Today, though, Scar rests in the afternoon shade and graces us with infinite patience as we burn up memory cards.” Probably because memory cards don’t taste good. Great story. I also enjoy your blog.
“zoom in farther” darn it! Farther, not further.
“Take me to your leader.”
My eyelids opened in a flash, eyes zooming around the room, finally settling on the feathery creature that was neither bird nor mammal, at least as far as I knew earth’s species. My room was illuminated by the glow of a half moon, and what I saw struck a more curious vein than one of fear.
“Take me to your leader.”
I’ll play a hand I thought. “I AM the leader. What do you want?”
“I have a message for your leader.”
“I’m the leader. I’m in charge!”
The creature approached my bed side with a bit of a waddle like a penguin. It extended an appendage, not an arm as we might think of one, but like a series of nested paper cups, which expanded toward me; at its end a claw, a fleshy claw, for lack of a better description, similar to a human hand curled in atrophy.
Two prominent knuckle joints clutched an envelope — an every-day envelope, more square than long, like those which sent greeting cards. I tried to think of the nearest holiday or special event but couldn’t.
I took the envelope, and the creature’s arm retracted. On the front of the envelope was written one word, “LEADER” in block letters, in a color of ink I didn’t recognize.
I became aware of a scent in the air. I gave the envelope a cursory sniff. Then another. Was I beginning to feel a bit dizzy?
I tried to slip a finger beneath the flap on the back of the envelope but the flap wouldn’t budge. It resisted my attempt to tear it open at one end, then the other. The top. Bottom. Feeling frustrated I attempted to wad the envelope into a ball and toss it in my trash can but it remained flat and undamaged. I went to my desk and picked up my letter opener — long, narrow, and sword-like, with a chromed hilt and leather handle, a souvenir from a trip to Barcelona when I was a child.
I pushed its tip into the slight opening of the flap, but it would not enter. I gave it a shove. And another. The tip recoiled and on the third try the tip glanced off the envelope and the blade stuck in the soft flesh of my wrist.
As my hand recoiled at the pain, I dropped both the envelope and letter opener to tend to my wound. “That will leave a doozie of a scar,” was my first thought. I applied fingertip pressure to stop the bleeding, but I had done too much damage. With each beat of my heart, I became weaker as my blood pulsed into my lap.
The scent I had noticed earlier was now overpowering. I lay on my side, dizzy, nearing unconsciousness. I squinted for the sight of my curious intruder, but it was gone.
The moon no longer cast its yellow warmth through my window. Darkness was complete.
In death one cannot hear the anguished voices of a wife crying, “Why? Why?” The answer will eventually come when she notices the wadded up envelope on the floor. When she opens the envelope. When she reads the report of a terminal illness that her husband couldn’t accept. When she picks up a blood-stained letter opener and ponders her next move.
The Grim Penguin. There’s something strangely compelling about a penguin with a scythe. Do you run, or point and laugh? I really enjoy reading your pieces.
I enjoy your stuff too. You’re always full of surprises and in case it wasn’t clear I very much like your dark side.😊
I stare at the pedicab. Isn’t that Aunt Em and Miss Strange? They are arguing in the zooming cab. The driver veers slightly and misses us by centimeters.
‘Jesse, come on!’ I yell and sprint after the cab. I know that cab. The claw marks on the side are rusted now. Well, it’s been three months. I will catch that devil. If I recognize the scar on his face and his tattooed eyelids, I will thrash him. I glance back. Damn, Jesse is still haggling over that fancy letter opener.
Enjoyed this. Short but fun read.
test – I am currently unable to post. Don’t ask my why I think this is going to work.
Ann – please delete this test. I’ve posted a piece about four times now and it doesn’t show up. I don’t know why, but I’m going to stop because if they all ultimately show up you’ll deleting for a week.
well dang. I can’t see the either. someone up there doesn’t like you! But I do. Don’t give up on me!
To the Editor of the Pennsylvania Daily Item
23 March, 1739
As it has only been a few days since my last correspondence, I take pause in my consideration of writing to you so soon. I cannot, however, in good conscience refrain from dipping my quill once more to express my feelings on a matter of great importance to myself and doubtless others in our humble community. I am, as most readers of your paper will know, a poor widow whose husband was taken from this Earth in a most cruel fashion, leaving a scar upon my heart where once only our love of each other did manifest. Although of modest means, I make myself frugal in all pursuits, ensuring that I am not a burden upon the community of Good Christian Men who so often are called to attend to the needs of those whom Providence has favoured less lavishly. Although industrious by nature and temperament, the education afforded to the fair sex in this land has left me with little opportunity. I have, for several years now, made a living as a seamstress in the employ of Messrs. VanKull and Bouwmeester. Whilst I lack formal training in the trade, I have shown some talent for zooming the edges of the fine garments these kindly Dutchmen produce.
Having made my introduction, I trust as a woman of Good Character and earnest sentiment, I wish to share with your readers the deplorable condition of the Post Office of this city. It is hardly noon on most days when I take note of our letter carrier, his eyelids resting on his boot laces, sodden with drink at the ale house adjacent to the V&B manufactory. Whilst it is never my aim or intent to unfairly judge, or demonstrate a bias against another of my Countrymen, the efficient and timely transit of our letters etc. ect. is hindered to a very great degree by the failings of such people in the employ of the postal department. It is rumored, although I cannot attest to this with any certainty, that the Publisher of a lesser paper, in poor but noteworthy competition with this one, has got his claw against the throat of fair and democratic dissemination of News in this city; the result of having been recently appointed Post Master by proclamation of Governor Wilkinson. The general effect of this appointment, in my opinion, being, as I am, a woman of industrious inclination and practical self-sufficiency, is a marked reduction in the efficiency and timeliness of postal deliveries in our fair town. The letter opener goes to rust as those who would hold the Public Trust are seduced by low women and the lures of Bacchus. It is with more than a small measure of melancholy that I ponder the loss readers of intelligence suffer due to the indifference shown to competing publications by those officials who seek only to profit by public service. I am sir, the most Humble and Obedient of all the servants your Merits should warrant.
A fun read, Gary. 🙂
Have you been reading Jerome K. Jerome (Three Men in a Boat)? If not, do so and you will understand why I ask. Fun read, Gary.
Thanks Gullie. No, but I’ll check that out. I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Ben Franklin. This was my attempt at a “Silence Dogood” letter.
Her eyelids were drooping from the anesthesia as she tried to comprehend the situation that brought her to this sterile white room. First she noticed that it smelled too clean, an unusual antiseptic kind of clean she was unfamiliar with. As she surveyed her body, she gasped when she saw the jagged scar that ran the length of her leg.
As she started to feel more alive and aware, the memory of a big tree and a collision started coming back to her. She slowly began to feel excruciating pain, like a giant metal claw scraping up her leg, she began to shake. All she could remember were the last words she heard, “Amanda, stop moving so we can secure your leg!”
Amanda, the fierce downhill skier, was known for her reckless speed and aggressive runs down the powdery snow on the Colorado Mountains. She was usually seen zooming down the slopes, with her long black hair flying behind her. She was a force to be reckoned with. And that fateful day, the force, well, as we say, “It wasn’t with her.”
Looking around her room, it took all her energy to scream, “Stop talking, and what’m I doing here?”
Everyone stopped talking. Amanda saw her mother in the corner, letter opener in hand, with a stack of open envelopes scattered on the floor like a trash can had been dumped.
The deafening silence was broken, when Amanda heard the familiar soothing deep bass voice of Jonah, her ski coach. He cautiously approached her, “Well, speedy, you hit a tree, mangled your leg on a branch, had a serious concussion and, you have been unconscious for 3 weeks.”
Heather, her teammate and ever the opportunist, piped in, “Welcome back to earth, and, oh, by the way, now that you can’t ski for a few months, can I borrow your new red jacket?”
With that, Amanda shook like a wet dog, still under the anesthesia, bounded out of bed, and whacked Heather in the head. Yes, with the help of drugs – the force was now with her!
Anton’s muscles ached as he became aware of his surroundings. He attempted to lift a hand to his throbbing temples but couldn’t. He tried to look down to see what bound his arms and legs but he was rendered completely immobile. He tensed against the unseen bindings and squeezed his eyes shut hoping to clear the cobwebs. When he opened his eyes it took a moment for them to adjust to the moon’s meager offerings of light. He surveyed the room, eyes zooming from corner to corner, from where glowing yellow orbs peered at him. He felt something claw-like rake against his calf. A yelp escaped his lips in the form of a raspy croak.
Anton knew why he was here. He thought of the moment he had reached for the letter opener and had slipped it under the envelope’s seal. A note card had spilled out with only two words – “I’m coming.” He knew there was no hiding. The best he could hope for was that the end would come painlessly. He heard a shuffling behind him then felt warm breath on his neck just behind his ear. His eyelids twitched. A knife appeared then the hand that held it. He recognized the crescent scar inside the wrist. A voice whispered, “It’s time.”
Anton felt warmth running down his neck. He gurgled as he drowned on his own blood, thinking of Yeline.
Yeline descended into the claw-foot tub, her eyes closing, surrounded by the amber glow of candlelight. The setting was tranquil. Her mind was not. She thought of the note inside its familiar linen envelope in ice blue. The traitorous window allowed the moonlight to intrude and silhouette the picture atop the window sill. She remembered taking the photo – adjusting the lighting, framing his face, zooming in on his eyes. Yeline lifted her hand to the sill and traced the outline of his profile. She imagined his caress along the outer part of her lower hip, his feather-light kisses along her shoulder blades. He had a tenderness that she had found in no other.
Yeline tapped a finger to the water’s surface and watched the ripples grow. She imagined the ripples of time wishing she could undo the last few of her life that he no longer had been part of. She picked up the letter opener from the window sill and felt along its sharp edge. Yeline drew the tip along the scars on her left wrist then dug deep. She peered at the blood that trickled into the tub causing more ripples, the last ripples. She grasped the letter opener with her left hand and dug into her right wrist. As her eyelids fluttered she thought of the note with only two words – “I’m coming.”
All right! A treacherous impending doom for two people. Lovers perhaps, dealing with their demise separately each in a different way. And the identity of the doom is never spelled out – it doesn’t need to. And you avoided the cliche ending of Yeline and Anton dying together in each other’s arms. 🙂
The letter opener hefted nicely in her hand. Well balanced, like a throwing knife, it had a substantial blade that would hold an edge over many uses. The ornate handle ending in a dragon’s claw holding a red jewel was a bit much for her tastes, but probably appealed to the clientele of the Renaissance Faire. She let her fingers trail down the dragon arm to the hilt of the blade, and ran her thumb down the edge of the blade. Sharp enough to show it’s potential, but not too sharp for the fumbling fingers of casual shoppers. She glanced up at the shop keeper to see he was still closing the sale of a decorative short sword to a would-be lord. She shifted her stance slightly, blocking his view of the knife with her body and subtly shifted the bell shaped sleeve of her peasant blouse, exposing the tender skin of her forearm. Like a cat being petted, her eyelids dropped to half closed and a sensual smile curved her lips as she traced a barely healed pink scar with the tip of the blade. Pressing more firmly, her attention zoomed in to the tiny bubble of blood that peeked out just at the point.
“Can I help you milady?” said the proprietor as he approached, having completed the sword sale.
“Why yes,” she said, turning to smile at him and casually cleaning the tip of the letter opening with a pinch. “I’ll take this opener. Could you sharpen it for me as well?”
The “darkness” is spreading. I love it! 🙂
My story, A PARAGUAYAN HARVEST, is one of three finalists at a prompt contest at “A Word With You Press.” Yes it’s dark; imagine that!
Here’s a link for those who wish to travel to South America:
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle