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tearing the rag off the bush again
How Everyone Came to Put on Their Coat PDF E-mail

Never mind how I got it. Maybe I helped pay my way through college working part time as a museum guard. Lifted it one night from a case. Or I attended an underground auction where, for a price, such objects can be had. Or, vacationing in Colorado, I stumbled on it hiking; subsequently had it discreetly authenticated. Forget the issue of provenance. I’m going to confess to enough as it stands.

For months after I first obtained it, the curio simply lay on my dresser. A joke. An extravagance – a thirty-inch long coprolite. A graybrown fossilized dinosaur excrement. A conversation piece. To get me started talking to myself; no one else enters my bedroom. I’m between boyfriends. In fact, haven’t had a date in a decade.

But one evening, after a hard day pounding grammar into the skulls of nitwits, its use came to me. I once, like all high school English instructors, wrote poetry; still am capable of the feat. Thus the morning after my revelation, I etched with a nail file along the surface of the relic:

  “A hundred fifty million years ago
  Some brontosaurus felt the need to go.
  Then time did bake to stone unleavened dough.
  Till now, tonight, won’t you be my dildo?”

Best way is – as they say on the street – up the butt. Sheathing the monolith in the more conventional orifice yields not only less pleasure, but the fantasies lack in intensity.

Sucking the specimen also revs the idea motor. Until you have tasted in technicolor the dung of an extinct thunder lizard, or felt one defecate into your own bottom, you have not truly escaped, not even for an instant, the crushing hallucination that is daily life.

Oddly, after about a month of constant use, the coprolite suddenly conceived. Nothing showed. The wrinkled rock didn’t one day begin to bulge. But I felt something kick. Could sense it inside me. Prod it with my tongue.

One night, when I held the cylinder jammed past my tonsils, the kicking triggered a coughing fit. Fortunately the initial spasm expelled the fossil, else I might have choked to death.

I fretted over this development for days. My brow knitted tighter than usual, as I lectured Freshmen on the oubliette of dangling participles, the rack of parallel construction, the thumbscrews of punctuation, double negative hell, circumlocution torture.

I pathologically fear pregnancy. Got my tubes tied at eighteen. My mother, giving birth to me, had died in agony. Doctors warned I was genetically predisposed to the identical fate. Another reason I favor masturbation over intercourse – to make doubly sure. And here now my dildo was preggers?   

But – I finally realized by the end of the week – no use crying over spilled milk. Friday night I ascended to my penthouse apartment. Turned down the lights. Treated myself to a shot of Lavoris. Kicked off the pumps. Found on the radio some soft Beethoven. Sprawled in my favorite easy chair. Waited for the answer to come.

(I never drink. But do secretly sometimes imbibe mouthwash. So in case anyone should smell my breath, I’d merely reek of the chemistry that passes in our society for cleanliness.)

The wait not at all long. I was hardly through with my third shot when into my brain – as the gargantuan vacuum cleaner of a jetliner roared overhead – the solution spurted: Subincision.

I’d need a hammer and chisel to do the job right. But maybe I could improvise… I’d had another lousy day. Was at any rate looking forward to a lengthy session with Dino the Terrible.

Rose to my stocking feet. Wandered into the kitchen. Set the oven on low. Padded into the bedroom. Pulled Dino off the dresser. Carried him back through the parlor. Tossed him into the wall model Hotpoint. I always make it a point to warm the rock a good half-hour, before getting down to brass tacks.

First I settled on a pair of scissors; to do for a chisel. Hammer? Hit upon the dictionary. Then couldn’t wait. Yanked twenty minutes premature the prehistoric novelty. Layed it on a potholder at the edge of the counter top. Positioned the point of the scissors where I had discerned the kicking – about two inches below the fat end.

I pounded with the Webster’s – smacked repeatedly the scissors clutched in my left fist. Bit my tongue raw, concentrating all my might into gouging a shallow, inch-long gully into the sandstone.

I tasted copper, salt. Suspicion of auto-cannibalism materialized.

I worked the blade at an angle. Steadied the coprolite against my elbow. Tapped rapidly with 50,000 words of English, slowly deepening the groove.

The harder I worked, the more cannibalism nagged. Just couldn’t bring myself to swallow the leakage from my selfbit tongue. Hence found myself spitting blood into the subincision.

Not much – half a teaspoon. But sufficient to pool nicely. Which meant an end to gouging, as I did not wish to spray the counter with blood.

I replaced the dictionary on the book shelf beside the easy chair out in the parlor. Returned the scissors to my dresser drawer. Shuffled back into the kitch to figure what to do with the makeover dildo. By now it was far too cool to insert; but I worried the blood might scald or curdle if oven treatment recommenced. Gazing down at the inch by quarter-inch puddle… that’s when I saw it wiggle.

I knew I’d felt life! Now it was rising to the surface. I used a fingernail to lift the mystery from the blood.

Switched on the fluorescent over the sink. Settled the creature on a shred of waxpaper. Rolled it gently, to clear off the blood. Examined the tiny cylindrical body through the magnifying glass on a Swiss army knife I had a few years back confiscated from a rowdy Sophomore.

A maggot. Flesh the pallor of a nonagenarian; hue identical to the mother rock. Even wrinkled somewhat like the coprolite, which bore the imprint of Mesozoic bowel.

The larva wriggled – with the heartwrenching urgency of a newborn – back toward the blood. I could almost hear the satisfied suckle, as it fastened onto the nourishment. I named the miracle, on the spot, Dative.

I’d been teaching the dative to my Seniors. The extinct inflection that only vestigially clings to our beloved English. As when the British say, “Give it me.” The me here acts like the dative case; not at all the accusative, as we usually categorize me. 

Our language now admits but two cases: nominative and accusative. Even these tend toward one single all-inclusive case, as witness the who/whom controversy; whom swirling down the commode, as English forgets its own accusative.

I sighed, squinting through the dimesized lens at little Dative. Language is so alive – itself ever wriggling, swallowing mother’s blood, straining blindly toward metamorphosis. Small wonder mathematicians find it impossible to pin this instar to their formulae.

That night I stayed up till two, observing hungry Dative feed. When I awoke late Saturday morning, I hurried into the kitchen for a look. The larva, sure enough, had exhausted the supply of blood. I heard him, in my imagination, whimper and wail, as he writhed vertically from the waxpaper.

I sat down to coffee and Pop Tarts to ponder the crisis. The first sip of Taster’s Choice no sooner trickled down my throat than the idea materialized.

I jumped up. Greased the coprolite with Crisco. Gingerly repositioned Dative in the birth groove. Removed my pyjama bottoms. Lay back flat on the floor. Raised knees. Introduced rock into rectum.

I waited several minutes, to make sure Dative would have time to wriggle off the cool, unsensual sandstone. Then carefully withdrew the coprolite. Looked to make sure the maggot no longer on it.

Stepped into the bathroom. Washed rock in sink; left it atop toilet tank to dry. Returned to my breakfast with a pleasant little smile.

I ate a second, even a third helping. I was now a surrogate mom. I wanted myself completely full of dung – to assure the babe a well-stocked larder.

About six weeks later, around eleven in the morning of a Tuesday, I sat on the edge of my desk lecturing Class on pronoun agreement. I admonished they eschew use of a plural possessive when the antecedent is singular. I asked for anyone who understood to raise their hand.

One poor dear did. When called upon to explain my position in his own words, he parroted, “A pronoun must agree with its antecedent.”

I reiterated my trick question. This time, however, in the midst of enunciating I shifted position (due to an itch in the region of my anus); albeit without altering facial expression.

My deadpan elicited from the Sophomores puzzled looks, two huh?’s, one what? one you just said that! (The recrossing of my legs did little to deter the itch).   

“What I’m getting at,” I hopped off the desk, paced around the room, “is the misusage exhibited in the typical statement: Everyone needs to put on their coat. My question: Will anyone who understands please raise their hand? employs this very solecism.”

Albert the bulky football player spoke up, “Last week my dad hadda replace the solecism in his pickup!”

While Class guffawed at this idiocy, I surreptitiously scratched the back of my skirt. “Very good, Albert,” I muttered. “Perhaps someday you’ll be smart enough to write for the newspapers.”

The hubbub subsided. Eventually my prize student Mabel raised a hand. She is the only African-American among my Sophomores. A fluke. The average in other classes is three-point-nine. I gave her the floor.

Mabel stated she saw what I meant, that we should say his hand, or put on his coat. “But can’t you see, Ms. Atkins? – it’s sexist. While the use of their is only fair. Because their doesn’t have sex.”

I consider Mabel my Great White Hope; even though she’s Black. She’s sharp. Clear headed. How pleasant to have a female the brain of the class! I was about to accuse her – teasingly – of lethargy – too slothful to utter the correct her or his

When I plopped back onto the desk. Hiked skirt to hips. Convulsively spread legs wide…

“Their does too!” Albert scoffed, obviously not yet having remarked my predicament. “How can you be sure their doesn’t have sex? Everybody does it somehow.”

“Sure!” another male voice sneered. “I bet their gets lots!”

I struggled to brace myself. Something awful was about to exit my body. I knocked off the desk two texts, a stack of graded papers, my pen... now everyone’s attention was caught.

The entire class drew a breath.

“You’re right, Mabel!” I gasped. “The language… our tongue… before our eyes morphs!”

“Miss Atkins!” Maria screamed from the front row. “What’s that coming out of your panties?”

I couldn’t see – fighting for air, eyes bulged at the ceiling. It felt as though my anus were passing a hubbard squash. I lay within a hair of coma. Kept myself conscious concentrating on the extrusion ripping off my knickers.

The room filled with screams. One of them probably mine. On the pop of passing out, glimpsing light (at the end of the tunnel) fail, the thought surfaced: how do I know the sex of Dative? Is this perhaps Dativa? Better: Genetiva?

My colon heaved one last behemoth contraction… and I knew the thing was out. Light eked back into consciousness. I felt my sphincter shut slow as an unoiled elevator door.

I wheezed, gasped. Gathered my wits, my strength. Propped self up on elbows to assess situation; see how best to act professionally in the midst of this mess.

Dative, Genetiva – whatever their name – had perched on little Maria Trujillo’s desk. Maria was nowhere in sight. Perhaps crushed against the wall by the bodies of all thirty students, who had fled in an instant to the back of the room; where they now stood pressed against each other like shrink-wrapped sardines.

The nine-pound fly licked her obsidian legs (I had decided on Genetiva), scrubbed behind golfball-sized ruby eyes. I contemplated – entranced – her glory. A scientific Act of God!

The slow baking, then the basting in my sundry orifices, must have awakened a hundred-fifty-million year old maggot – somehow preserved inside the brontosaurus dung. And now behold a fly worthy to share the air with pterodactyl!

Dactylic hexameter flashed – the prosody I would employ to commemorate her birth. For an instant I dreamed of eternity – a lost species reborn.

What followed yet hangs in dispute. The record shows that Albert Hogan stepped forward. Drew a smut magazine from his pocket. Then swatted to death on Maria’s desktop an impressively large horsefly.

In actuality, Albert – wielding the coprolite – approached Genetiva, busied with cleansing her afterbirth. How he came into possession of the colacal bludgeon is difficult to apprehend. Were I a mystic, I would suggest bilocation; that it reposed at once on my dresser and in the assassin’s fist. Likelier is it that Albert burgled my apartment that morning; stole the treasure, planning to sell it on the black market, or perhaps use it illegally to his advantage on the playing field. Or Albert owned his own coprolite. Just how widespread are dinosaur cruts? They did, lest we forget, have well over 100 million years in which to poop.

His first blows clipped her wings – transparent pennants fluttered to the floor. Then, as she lowered legs in preparation for flight now impossible, he brought the coprolite down on the exposed velvet of her black thorax.

The exoskeleton ruptured. Again and again he smashed the flesh of this diachronic traveler who had awakened for less than a minute to the mercies of Humanity. Her battered corpse obscured the desk. Scarlet insect ichor spattered the floor, the walls, the ceiling.

Eighteen syllables I emitted: DAH-dih-dit – effigy of a dactyl. DAH-dih-dit – D in Morse. DAH-dih-dit – a hex of feet. DAH-dih-dit – meter hung on a finger. DAH-dih-dit – my index stabbed at Albert the Hun, the hungry Master of Hallucination to whom language subjects us all. DAH-dih-dit – since which instant I have stood mute.

The brats – even my fair Mabel – betrayed me. Perjured themselves. Claimed to have witnessed buzz into the room a horsefly, that at once flew up my skirt.

They swore I myself had snatched off the undergarment in question. That I’d stunk of feces for weeks, and it was a miracle no fly had earlier discovered the banquet.

On the basis of evidence evidently planted in my apartment, the court labeled me a chronic coprophiliac subject to episodes of acute encopresis. The coprolite itself they seem never to have found. Further indication Albert did indeed purloin the Jurassic Tickler.

I have been given this typewriter, this stack of blank paper; even an eraser. Locked inside this cubicle. I know what is expected. Since I will not talk (struck dumb by the slaughter of my babe)… OK, there they are. The events. The truth. The facts. How everyone came to put on their coat.

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