Tuesday, April 17, 2007

That You Do So Well

You do somethin' to me,

Somethin' that simply mystifies me,

Tell me, why should it be?

You have the power to hypnotize me . . .
Let me live 'neath your spell,

Do do that 'voodoo' that you do so well!

For you do somethin' to me,

That nobody else could do!
- Cole Porter

Once upon a time I had a little Mexican Day of the Dead figure, purchased at a folk art resale store; a little skeleton figure carved of wood who represented Death. I had the bright idea of initiating a little ritual in which I stuck nails into the little figure every Saturday night, midnight, which technically is neither Saturday or Sunday.

I wanted to kill Death.

As I practiced my routine week after week, I grew more intent on actually causing Death injury by my machinations. I felt anger and hate, and nurtured these emotions, directing my enmity with an ever increasing focus on the figurine and what he stood for. I would prepare for my ritual by allowing my rage at Death to grow. My heart pounded and my jaws would clench and I breathed deeply. I filed the nails sharper than they were originally manufactured. I didn't use a hammer, I slammed the nails in with an adjustable wrench. Into its head, its belly, its back; into its eyes and ears.

Impassive, blank, its painted-on toothy grimace remained unchanged, neither threatening nor amused.

Death would not die.

The dirty little figurine began to fray and splinter. The dowels holding on its arms and legs began to crack from my angry blows. The nails would remain until I yanked them out, twisting them savagely to remove them only for me to drive a new one in another spot. Finally the little Death doll seemed ready to crack in two.

By now, almost a year had passed; I had not neglected my ritual a single Saturday (or was it Sunday?), and what had begun as an inspired act of experimental folly had become my own secret religion. I knew I would have to continue, but how? I devised a plan. I walked into a fetid swamp, into a grove of frightened, haunted, twisted oak trees, dying at their roots, and found one, and sawed off a limb as big as my leg, and carried it home, where I chiseled and shaped new legs for the figurine. I painted them to match the originals, and replaced the cracked parts with the new. Slowly, over a course of months, I replaced bits of the little object with new parts, and continued my abuse of the doll.

I am no fool, and I watched and read the news, and paid attention to the obituaries and kept my ears alert to rumors from hospitals. It was not working.

Death would not die.

Increasingly alone, I meditated often during the week, and allowed my rage against Death to grow, filling greater and greater parts of my week, culminating in my weekend's midnight ritual. Sunday afternoons I rested.

I would not be denied. The man at the hardware store told me there was no reason for him to even stock 11-penny nails, but he did anyway, and he sold me a few of them. He was unfriendly.
At midnight Saturday, (or is it Sunday?), with a scream and a curse, in the candlelit gloom of my shrine, I wield my sledgehammer, smashing the nail into Death's chest and splitting the nasty little figurine right through its center, knocking off its limbs in the process and dislodging a knot from its painted skeleton head, and that's when my heart explodes and it feels like God's personal lightning bolt has just gone through my chest, and I fall forwards, and as my mind's eye goes dark under the light of the still burning candles the last thing I see in front of me on the carpet is the little mannequin Death, and his painted-on teeth, and its smile was neither threatening nor amused.

1 comment:

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