get off the bus a few blocks short of the bookstore because I am early. Everything
about this day has been planned in advance, including my early arrival. The sky
is drab and graythe wrong kind of weather, it doesnt match the version
of this day that Ive been carrying around inside my head in the preceding
weeks. The street is crowded. Its the end of the workday, so the sidewalks
are jammed with bodies, bicycles, and dogs on leashes. Two men approach, holding
hands. I guess this shouldnt startle me, but it does. I try to get out of
their way, but move the same direction they do. They laugh, and separate, one
passing on either side of me. I want to smile back at them, but I dont.
I look over my shoulder and see that theyve joined hands again. I walk toward
the corner; my legs feel like they belong to someone else. It seems like I am
in a whole other place, like I am having another life, or maybe a glimpse of the
on the corner is plastered with posters and advertisements, a thick, lumpy layer
of them: new fluorescent lime greens and neon pinks stapled on top of fraying
and faded grays. I want to stare at them, to take in the blurry photocopied images
of drag queens so that they are burned into my brain, because I want to carry
them home with me. When I go back to my everyday life, my life of 7-11s and microwaves
and homework, I want to remember everything I saw here today. But the light changes,
so I cross, carried along by the press of bodies around me.
the other side of the street, theres a boy about my age sitting with a big
black dog asleep at his feet.
some change?" His clothes are dirty and he has rings in his nose and eyebrows.
Startled by this intrusion,
I realize that it has been almost two hours since I left home. Ive made
a long trip via train and bus, and I havent spoken to anyone along the way:
Ive been living entirely in my own head.
been asked this before, when Ive come to the city with my parents for baseball
games. Still, I am unprepared. In Eden Acres, people who sit on the street corners
are there for a reason, like to sell lemonade, or because theyre locked
out of their houses.
sure." I open my shoulder bag and root around. I pull out a book and shift
it to the other hand while I locate some quarters I know are floating around in
the bottom of the bag.
Hes pointing to the book. "Hey, are you here for the reading by that
guy?" He gestures down the street in the direction of the bookstore.
Its strange to be having a conversation while I am standing and hes
sitting: I tower over him. It makes me uneasy, and I shift my weight from leg
to leg, and hand him the quarters. His dog stands up, suddenly. The boy looks
at me like Im under a microscope. I want to leave, to go back inside my
head. But I dont know how to extricate myself.
asks, "The talk of the town around here. You read it yet?"
nods, but hes still staring at my face. I wonder if hes read this
book too, but I dont want to prolong the encounter. I extend the hand with
the quarters and instead of opening his palm to take them he closes his hand over
mine, squeezing. He doesnt let go. I kind of pat the dogs head gingerly
with my other hand, trying to break his concentration.
works. He dismisses me: "Well, thanks man." He rattles the quarters
in his hand and nods.
turn and walk the two blocks to the store purposefully, avoiding eye contact.
The street becomes residential for a small stretch, populated by red brick buildings,
maybe three or four stories high, interrupted by the occasional storefront. There
are tiny gardens in front of some of the buildings, and chairs set up on porches
and stoops. Its overcast, but warm, so there are people outside in front
of some of the buildings. Some of them nod at me as I walk by, like they think
I belong here. Like they might know me. Like we have something in common.
Theres a banner slung across the façade of the bookstore. "Edwin
Canning reads from his controversial new novel, 5 PM today." Just inside
the door is a table covered with copies of the book, called Billy, in both
hardcover and paperback. There are lots of other books displayed up by the counter:
Our Bodies Our Selves, Epistemology of the Closet, The Best Little Boy in the
World. I browse through one of Cannings older books, which are also
on display. No one notices me. Canning is supposed to be kind of a curmudgeon.
He rarely makes public appearances, apparently, and has only agreed to come here
because one of the big urban high schools has banned the book, making national
headlines, and catapulting it onto the bestseller list. Ive read about the
controversy in the paper.
are a bunch of chairs set up in one of the back corners of the store. Theyre
mostly full, so I go over and sit in an empty one at the end of the fourth row.
There is a plump, middle-aged woman in the chair next to me. She smiles at me
and says, "Have you read it yet?"
its really amazing, isnt it? I came here to buy a copy for my son
and to hear the reading." She beams at me. She looks kind of crazy,
a bit unhinged.
Shes wearing a long flowing purple dress and chunky, heavy-looking wooden
jewelry. Her gray hair is twisted into coils that she must intend to approximate
dreadlocks. I wonder how old her son is. She doesnt look much older than
my mother. I cant imagine my mother in a place like this.
goes on. "You know, I dont understand what all the controversy is about.
So the kid is gay. If anything is objectionable its that horrible scene
where he gets beat up by his friends." Shes wearing buttons. I notice
one displays the PFLAG logo and the other says, "I love my gay kid."
I want to laugh, suddenly, because an image appears in my head, of my mother wearing
hippie clothes and a button like that. I am reminded of the time the school sent
a bumper sticker to our house that said "Proud parent of a Kennedy High honor
student." It sat on the kitchen table for a few days until my mother threw
it in the garbage. Not wanting to offend this woman, I cough to cover up the snicker
I cant beat back down my throat.
rummages around in a giant wicker bag, and produces a cough drop. "Here,
Thanks." Not knowing what else to do I unwrap it and pop it into my mouth.
Its stale, and kind of soft. I look around and realize that I am pretty
much the youngest person here. I planned for this. I was going to say I was in
college, if asked. But no one asks.
cough drop lady starts to hum softly. I flip to the back cover of the book and
read the "about the author" blurb. It is brief: "Edwin Canning
has published seventeen novels. He lives in New York." Theres a grainy
black and white photo of Canning posed on a sailboat. The wind is blowing his
hair and he is squinting into the camera.
place is filling up. People are lining up along the side wall because there are
no chairs left. Im glad Ive got a place to sit. Im glad I planned
to come early enough. I look back up and scan the line of people along the wall.
only thing I didnt plan for is this. Thick, longish black hair, pale
face, long lanky body, faded red REM t-shirt. I cant think of his name,
but there is no mistaking him. I didnt plan this part. I didnt plan
to see someone who knew me here. Or, in my worst-case scenario, I imagined seeing
a teacher or one of the neighbors. I never planned to run into someone like him,
here in this tiny hole-in-the-wall bookstore in this great big city. I look down
at my book for a long while, trying to think what to do. My chest is vibrating
like Im inside a microwave. When I look back up, hes gazing back at
me, blue eyes calm and clear.
face doesnt move, but I know that he sees me. I know that he knows me. It
isnt like when youre scanning a crowd and your eyes snag on someone
for a moment because theres something strangeor familiarabout
him. No, I can see clear recognition in this look. Acknowledgement.
are two possible outcomes that might follow from this chance meeting, two scenarios
that seem to me equally likely.
we ignore each other. We look away, and thats it. We go back to school tomorrow,
and its like any other Wednesday. Hes in my biology lab, and so we
make sure that were not anywhere near each other when the teacher partners
us up for the frog dissection thats going on for the rest of the week. If
we chance to meet in the halls, we look at our watches or shuffle our books around
until weve safely passed.
what? The other possibility is everything else. Someone talks, someone
says something, something happens, something. In this scenario, the specifics
of which I cant imagine, this moment of recognition means something. It
is the cause which leads to a certain chain of effects. It makes a mark. Things
change. Something happens. Maybe we cut up a frog together.
has to decide something. So I do. I smile, just a little. Then he does, too. He
grins, in fact, and raises his eyebrows. Just then an employee of the store
comes over and stands in front of us. The crowd settles down, books and bags are
stowed under chairs, the woman next to me puts on a pair of glasses. Canning is
introduced, and emerges from a door marked "employees only." He stares
at his feet while the clerk talks. He doesnt look at all like the man from
the book jacket photo. He doesnt look like someone who spends time on a
sailboat: though creased, his skin is pale, and he looks like he belongs inside,
in the dark.
announces that he will read from four sections of the book, which seems excessive.
One woman in the row ahead of me gets up and leaves. Canning reads quickly, without
looking up. Its hard to sit quietly and listen to the reading with himwhy
cant I think of his name?standing against the wall behind me. I want
to turn around, but I cant. I wonder what the back of my head looks like.
It starts to itch, but I resist scratching it.
the reading, I run a mental search. The new kid. He isnt someone
I have much data on. He appeared sometime earlier in the year, just after Christmas,
I think: He was just there one day, when he hadnt been before. A new kid,
a blank slate, he had no history with us. His arrival made no ripples in my life.
Hes in the band, I decide after some thought. Plays the trumpet or the trombone
or something, which I know because my brothers also in the band. A bit of
a loner, but not in an anti-social way. He seems like a good student. Inconspicuous.
He blends in. You wouldnt notice him. Kind of like me. The high school is
huge, one of those sprawling suburban monsters that draws kids from a large catchment
area. There are 700 people in our class: pretty much impenetrable to new kids,
I guess. Its funny how you can see people every day without ever really
knowing anything about them with certainty.
am startled out of my thoughts when the reading ends. Despite the fact that hes
said he will read four excerpts, Canning has stopped abruptly after two and announces
that he will take questions. Several hands shoot up immediately. It is jarring
to realize that this event I had anticipated for so long has ended without my
noticing: its taken a backseat to the unsettling circumstances surrounding
"In the end
Billy stays closeted. Dont you have an obligation to your younger readers
to model a more positive and self-accepting outcome?"
writer is irritated. "No, I dont think so." He doesnt say
"Who do you
uncomfortably in his chair. "I read magazines mostly. The Economist. U.S.
News and World Report."
you are influenced by bell hooks and some of the leading queer theorists
of the day, arent you?"
this a coming-of-age story?"
do you have to say to the PTA at Hoover High?"
much. Thanks for putting me on the bestseller list."
is the significance of the name Billy?"
Its just a name. Its a perfectly fine name."
why Billy in particular?"
just seemed like a Billy."
clerk hovering nearby is frowning, though Im not sure if its the questions
or the answers that are not meeting her expectations. She moves toward Canning
and announces that the event is over, and says that we can line up at the table
thats been set up near the front if we want to have our books signed.
not quite sure what to do, since the house of cards that Ive built around
this day has been toppled by the unexpected appearance of a classmate. I gather
my things as slowly as I can. I have to stand, though, because the crazy PFLAG
lady wants to get out; I have to move into the aisle to let her through. It seems
too odd, then, to sit back down.
dear." Shes moving up the aisle as she talks, as if she thinks Im
right behind her, so I have no choice but to follow. She looks back at me, over
her shoulder, and stops, waiting for me to catch up. She leans over, like shes
going to whisper in my ear, so close that I can smell that she has cough drop
breath herself. She hands me a business card. Its an advertisement for "Moonbeam
Psychic Services: healing, tarot, palmistry, chakras."
have a very blue aura, dear. The most intense Ive seen for a long time."
and lopes away.
move along the aisle toward the front of the store, Im relieved to see that
he is simultaneously moving down the aisle, to meet me halfway.
you going to get your book signed?"
doesnt have a copy of the book.
no, I dont think so."
not exactly Miss Congeniality, is he?" He rolls his pale blue eyes, and goes
on, "But the book is pretty good."
I work in a bookstore. Smithbooks. In Eden Dale Mall?"
nod. I have been in that mall many times, in that bookstore. It is nothing like
need a ride home? I have a car."
do. I do want a ride home. I want a ride home more than anything. "Yeah,
OK. I came on the train."
the 55 bus?"
bus takes forever."
I guess hes been here before.
I just have to pick something up on my way out. A gift. For my mom." I nod
again. "Its her birthday this weekend."
I say, and follow him through the shelves toward the new books on display up front.
have no idea what to buy though."
hover over a table while he looks at titles. He stops to touch a new edition of
the Lord of the Rings trilogy, all three volumes in a boxed set. It has
raised print and images on the front; he runs his fingers over the interlocked
I ask, "You
He picks up the box, turning it over to look at the back. "You?"
Thats supposed to be a nice edition. A new introduction."
he says, "Ive only got ratty old paperbacks from when I was a kid."
pulls one of the volumes out of the box and opens it. "My dad and I used
to have big fights over these books, and once he threw this one in the pool in
the backyard, and it got all wet and warped. But I still have it."
like, you had arguments over the characters or something?"
He cocked his head to one side. "No. It was more like the beginning of him
hating everything about me."
In the end he decides on a book for his mother from the Oprah table. "Safe,"
By the time
we exit the store most of the signing crowd has dissipated, but theres a
cluster of people hovering in the entryway. As we near the door, I realize its
pouring outside. I didnt plan for this either. The day is spinning away
from me. He looks at me, grinning again. My vision is sharp despite the hazy rain
and I notice he has a little gap between his top front teeth. "I would say
Im parked at least six blocks away." He seems to be daring me. About
what exactly, I cant say. I get a prickly feeling in my stomach, like someones
poking around in my insides with something sharp.
run for it then," I say.
push through the crowd of people milling in the front of the store. Its
still warm, but its raining so hard that water has pooled along the edge
of the street, ankle-deep; the storm sewers cant swallow it fast enough.
I can smell the electricity in the air. We pause under the stores metal
awning. Even though we should be protected, the rain is coming down at enough
of an angle that were getting sprayed. I have the feeling that events are
beginning to diverge wildly from my plan. I have the feeling that after today,
I wont be able to right things once Ive let them totally derail. I
have the feeling that time might split off from this doorway, from under this
awning being pounded with rain, that it might spin into a future where things
are different fromand maybe better thanhow they were when this day
He asks, "Ready?"
thing about the frogs is that they arent green, like you would expect. Theyre
kind of gray, nondescript. They look like the formaldehyde smells: unpleasant
but you get used to it.
have these tasks were supposed to perform, procedural ones. Weve already
cut open the chest, or stomach, or whatever you want to call it. Weve made
two incisions at right angles, in the shape of a cross. The resulting four flaps
of skin are spread open and fastened down with heavy-duty steel pins apparently
manufactured just for this purpose. With the skin pinned back, the frogs
insides are exposed. Amphibians have skin that lets in air and water and stuffits
permeableand so the boundary between inside and outside isnt so fixed
as in humans. We have this sheet of paper, like a worksheet with different areas
blocked off and labeled: liver, heart, kidneys, pancreas, and so on. Its
laminated. Were supposed to locate the specified items and then plop them
onto the correct squares. There are some extra credit squares to do with extricating
the stomach from the small intestines. And the brainthe brain is worth the
most points, which is funny because unlike some of the other parts, its
not like youre going to confuse it with anything. I guess you get chutzpa
points for cutting through the skull.
is a three-day operation. Day one was devoted to instructions, threats to do with
not removing the frogs from the room, and the preparation of work surfaces. Day
twotodaythe real action begins. We can use books or whatever we want
to aid us, but Mr. Larsen, the teacher, wont help. Hes sitting up
front reading a paperback. Its open book exam, I guess, but its an
open body exam too. We have to pull all the stuff out and when were done
we get graded on the organs. Not on how they look as specimens but on whether
theyre all there and are sorted out correctly. Looking around at evidence
of the surgical abilities of my classmates, it seems to me that we should also
get points just for not mangling the little guys. It is unclear what good will
come of being able to identify a frogs pancreas, but I can sort of see how
some of these kids might end up as doctors, and it seems like the real skill here
is a deft touch.
a group of girls missing, who object to the whole thing on moral principles. Theyre
in the library working on essays about vegetarianism and the Third World or something.
But for the rest of us, by the end of Day Three we have to have all our insides
removed, lined up, and labeled. Tidy, order imposed, reason must triumph over
jumbled chaotic bodies.
we cut in, there was initial hubbub surrounding a few oddities. One frog was filled
with eggs. Another was filled with tumors. A third had an extra leg growing inside.
Mr. Larsen discarded these frogs and issued new ones, to the dismay of all. I
think about how if only our flaws could be so easily dispensed with. It makes
me start thinking about who in this room might get thrown away if you could see
inside them, and why.
is bent over our frog. Thats his nameJack. His head is almost at frog
level and hes digging around delicately with a little pointer, taking an
initial look-see, his nose wrinkled in concentration. He is absorbed, eyes narrowed.
A single vertical crease runs from the middle of his forehead to the top of his
nose. His hair falls over his face, and he pushes it back with his forearm, because
his hands are covered in frog juice. It does not seem possible to look away.
glances up and catches me watching. "Whatre you looking at?" He
aims the pointer at meit drips on my armlike its a microphone,
or a magic wand. The crease in his forehead disappears. He continues to hold the
pointer aloft, his arm extended.
dont know how to answer. I look down at the lab table, which also doesnt
seem right, so I look right back up. He nods his head slowly, still pointing at
But then, suddenly,
he lets me off the hook, making a face like hes just tasted something bad.
"This," he swivels the pointer toward the frog, "is going to be
more complicated than I thought." But then when hes done speaking he
flicks the pointer back toward me. With his other hand, he picks up a tiny scalpel
and hands it to me. "I think we need the horizontal incision to be longer,
and I think you should do the honors."
sits back on his stool. "Is there supposed to be an appendix?" He picks
up the textbook we have opened to the section on amphibians and starts flipping
pages. Im not sure if hes talking about the book or the frog.
am not at ease as I unpin the flaps of skin and start cutting, lengthening the
incision weve already made. I am aware of my hands in front of me, performing
the assigned task, as if they are unconnected to the rest of my body, as if Im
a doll being controlled by someone that I cant see. But Ithe me thats
more than these hands and more than this arbitrary collection of other partsI
am not at ease. It is not easy to be with Jack. But strangely, its
not hard either. Its something else less obvious and I think about how if
you know you dont feel one thing, and you know you also dont
feel its opposite, then what is it that you feel? Whats left? My
own brain feels less familiar than it did yesterday, like some of the categories
that used to be there have been moved around, or subdivided, or replaced altogether.
I can sort of see why the brain is worth the most points.
I am working on the frog, I dont have to look up, so I feel different, like
I can say things that might not get said if eye contact were required. So I ask
him, "Whats the opposite of easy?"
opposite of easy?"
he can answer a scream punctures through the din of the room, a shriek that crackles
on my eardrums like breaking glass. Its followed by the clatter of a series
of stools being knocked to the floor. I jump, and sort of fall forward onto the
table and the scalpel slips and rams though a bunch of goopy frog insides and
then through one of the front legs, severing it from the torso entirely.
is looking around. Marie Mendelssohn, a skittish girl known for a tendency toward
theatrics, is whimpering. She holds her purse out at arms length, swivels
her head in the opposite direction, and turns the bag upside down while holding
it open. Pens and gum and tampons and bits of paper scatter. Loose green Tic-Tacs
bounce when they hit the floor. Theres a pausetime suspendedthen
a splat, as a frog hits the ground, too.
Larsen, who seems familiar with this scene, is calm: he begins the process of
ejecting the culprit from the lab. I turn back to survey the damage. I have indeed
severed a lega front leg, or what would be a left arm on a human. Jack is
leaning over the frog as well. He grabs a pinkish-gray bit with a pair of tweezers.
I think youve broken his heart."
the heart? Sorry. And the leg is ruined, too."
dont think we need the leg for anything." Hes fishing out the
other little pink chunkit looks like a tiny piece of spoiled hot dog. He
lays both bits of flesh side by side on the space of the worksheet marked for
the heart. "And this," he kind of squishes them together with his thumb
and index finger, then stands back to regard his handiwork, as if hes an
artist putting a final touch on a painting, "this is easily fixed."
snorts and says, "I hope this isnt predictive."
the air whishes out of my lungs and it feels like someones stomped on my
stomach, but in a good way. I have been trying to arrange the severed leg so that
it at least looks like its still attached and I pivot to face him. Hes
turned away and is writing something. He sits back a bit and I can see that hes
writing our names on the sheet of paper underneath the broken heart, the sheet
that, in the end, will display all our internal organs. The scene, the labeling,
seems surreal somehow.
the opposite of easy is possible." Hes still writing. "Possibility."
am not at ease with Jack. But hes right because suddenly I can imagine many
possible selves, selves that I wouldnt have recognized a few days ago. The
opposite of easy is possible. This seems right.
was said on that ride home two nights ago. He simply deposited me at my doorstep,
wet and uncertain. The rain had stopped by then, but he didnt say a word,
just smiled as I tucked Cannings book inside my shirt before I got out of
the car. But yesterday, on our way down the hall from the regular science classroom
to the lab, when Mr. Larsen announced that we should pair up, we were already
next to each other.
dont know what to say, so I just say, "Thanks."
offers more explanation. "The opposite of something is not always the obvious
answer," he says, as if he can see inside my head, as if its my brain
laid out under the glare and heat of the work lamp. I concentrate on arranging
the detached leg and say, "There. Good as new." He peers over and seems
to agree. I ask, "Whats next?"
I would say, lets start with the easiest. Do you see anything you recognize?"
He picks up the book while I peer into the frog. "The first layer is supposed
to contain the heart and the liver."
I see the liver." I spend the next few minutes detaching the organ and then
plunk it on the worksheet.
says, "It looks kind of sad, sitting there all by itself, dead and useless."
Its kind of oozing so I blot it with a wad of brown scratchy paper towels.
Two," he reads, "gall bladder, stomach, small intestine." He hands
me the book and picks up a pair of tweezers. We get into a rhythm of switching
off: one picks through the frog while the other consults the textbook and sort
of back-seat drives.
hes working on the intestine, he says, "Ok, then, whats the opposite
speaking in code. Its a game, but an important one. I know this, and I know
he knows it. I also know he will wait while I think of an answer. He pulls something
out of the frog, a little nondescript gray glob, and holds it under the work light.
"And why cant
I find the gall bladder?" he asks while he waits for my answer.
not it," I say. "Its supposed to be bigger than that." He
nods, and uses the tweezers to position the random bit back in the frog, but then
says, "should I even bother putting this back in?"
the opposite of alone is multiplex."
guess Ill put it back, we might need it later." He squints, bent over
the frog until he seems satisfied with the repositioning and only then looks up
you know, all these people in the dark, seeing the same movie, and a bunch of
other people in the next theater, seeing a different movie, but really all looking
for the same thing."
for the same thing? What are they looking for?"
dont know, truth? Escape, maybe?"
theyre all looking, like, collectively, right?"
sounds dumb, doesnt it?"
points the tweezers at me, just like before, but this time he lowers them and
taps them on the back of my hand, up and down, up and down, again and again. The
tapping is not as loud as the pulse that pounds in my ears, or as fast.
it doesnt. I get it." And he does, I think.
the end of the period nears weve got everything excavated except the missing
gall bladder, and we havent attempted the extra credit brain. Its
remarkable how even with all the important organs gone, theres still a lot
of stuff in there. According to the book, its blood vessels and connective
tissue. Connective tissue. Generic, it doesnt distinguish itself the way,
say, a heart does. It doesnt perform a particular, isolatable function.
But it seems pretty important to me, like there should be a square for it on the
been stalled on the gall bladder for the last ten minutes. He thought he saw it
but it kind of disappeared into the ooze as he tried to stab it. A frogs
gall bladder is the size of a pebble, says the textbook.
you think that random gray thing you had before might have been it?" I ask.
answers with a question. "Or is it possible that this frog is just totally
lacking a gall bladder?"
dont know. Is the gall bladder one of those necessary organs?"
seems like sometimes people get them removed. You know, gallstones?"
maybe this frog has already had his taken out?"
laughs, shakes his head. "I dont know, I give up. You want to try?"
He puts down the magnifying glass and stretches his arms over his head and rolls
his neck in circles as if he is stiff. I watch his Adams apple disappear
and then reemerge as he rotates his head. Its last period. Im tired.
This has been hard work, this dissection.
wait till tomorrow," I say. "Were making good progress. Were
he agrees and begins to rummage through our supply bucket. "You want to go?"
where? Go: as in leave the classroom? Go: as in go somewhere together? Where I
would like to go is somewhere away from all these body partsamphibian and
humansomewhere where hearts and brains and guts work like theyre supposed
to, automatically and in concert, without scrutiny, unselfconscious, away from
the intense beam of the work light. The opposite of easy is possible: his
speech thus far has been so precise, so efficient, that I think this vagueness
must be intentional. "Go where?"
dont know, somewhere." He laughs. "The multiplex?"
please. "Yeah, OK."
kind of milling around and starting to clean up. Marie stops by on her way to
the sink, apparently recovered from the purse prank.
whatd you guys name yours?"
both look at her kind of blankly.
didnt name yours?"
you?" asks Jack.
she squeals. "Dont you think its kind of impersonal if
you dont name your frog?" Shes got a hand on a hip and
her head is tilted to one side, so that her blonde hair appears uneven, longer
on one side than the other.
I dont know," says Jack. "It seems pretty personal to have your
insides gaping out, whether you have a name or not."
looking at him. Her eyes are wide, with a hint of accusation.
goes on, "Like, you have to be careful, you know, when you see whats
inside someone. You cant just be all casual and make jokes."
doesnt say anything, she just raises the left corner of her top lip, almost
imperceptibly, in disdain. "What are you talking about?"
spring-loaded silence ratchets out between them, but Marie doesnt leave,
she just gazes at him, eyebrows raised. She fiddles with the gold class ring on
her right ring finger, twisting it around in circles: A standoff. He seems to
need rescuing somehow. And it seems like there is a right answer here, and a wrong
Billy?" I say.
breaks their stare, meets my eyes. "Billy?"
Its just a name. Its a perfectly fine name."
add: "He just seems like a Billy."
nods, slaps the lab table with his open palm, for emphasis. "Yeah, Billy."
Hes looking at Marie, but hes talking to me.
accepts this answer, at least for today, and leaves us to clean up after Billy
as best we can. We have to make room for the next class. We store the organs for
tomorrow, on a tray which we label with our names and slide into a thin storage
drawer. We clean the tools with disinfectant and return them to their case. Last,
we cover Billy with plastic wrap, Billy whos been turned practically inside
out, scooped clean, nothing left inside him but connective tissue.