Had to cut it.
The Anatomy of a Chicken
There's a girl in my Anatomy class. I walk past her on the way to my seat. She's quite small for her age, scrawny in build, with a glint in her stormy gray eyes that speaks volumes of her inane curiosity. I ask around about her often, when I have the chance. She's Pandora, I hear, and they tell me she is fearless. I believe them.
She's in Lab, too, I find out the next day. The quiet girl splotched with grays and browns and blacks, sitting alone in her little corner and constantly blowing her experiments up.
I watch her the whole time, disregarding the monotonous drone of an anonymous teacher in the background. She's messing with the lab equipment--the beakers and the acids, and I recall that we're dealing with hydrochloric toda--No, wait, have I done anything wrong? Because, right now, she's walking right up to me, with a wide Cheshire grin quickly forming on her smallish face. Missed anything? Yes, apparently I had.
As comprehension rises within slowly turning cogs and gears, I am faced with this reality. "Hey, Mister over there tells me we're lab partners now." And this human enigma. "I'm sure we'll have a smashing year together." Do tell me there is a God.
I am not psyched for Lab today. This is the mantra that thunders through my insides even as I enter the front door and smile at the lab partner on the seat next to my own. She smiles back. I wonder when we'll start talking. The teacher walks in at that moment, folders in hand. The thoughts seem to quiet themselves, if only for a little while.
We're dealing with sodium today. It's supposed to be simple. Drop a sufficient--but not too large, else it will blow up on your faces--amount of solid sodium in a container filled with water and note the reaction that takes place. I tell her this, and she all but laughs.
"Where's your sense of fun? Let's drop the whole piece instead." I give off a grimace at that. "Mister won't find out. At least, not 'til the fire's up and burning."
I don't want to get into trouble.
She is persistent. "Come on! It'll be worth it. The explosions, the action, the expression on Mister's face when he finds out!"
No, I'd rather not. I've heard about this before. What happens when it ends up burning straight through the ceiling?
To that, the scalding reply: "Where's your spirit? Where's your spunk?" There are no more arguments after that.
The period ends in the same monotonous melody it had in the beginning. Our teacher, the tomcat, radiates satisfaction up front. He flashes me a smile; there are no explosions that day.
Looking away, I veer my gaze toward the board and jot down its contents--Monday, chicken bones, don't forget--in a hurried scrawl. Finishing up, I turn back to say goodbye, but stop as I catch sight of the disappointment on her face. Where's your spunk, I recall, and I can do naught but agree.
It's when the bell rings that I come to my senses. I slide my chair backward and stand up to leave. Before I get any further, though, there's a slight tug on my sleeve. It's her. She seems to have gotten that spark back. Curiosity, it implies. Mischief. I remember that glint all too well, and decide that this sudden change in her disposition wouldn't mean me any good.
Swallowing up my uncertainty, I face her. Well, what is it?
"Chicken bones are lame, don't you think?" Her words knock me out of my stupor.
Well, isn't that the most random thing anyone's said to me today. I flash her my most incredulous stare. She brushes it aside completely, the shine in her eyes growing brighter by the second. "I think we should try out something cooler."
The teacher will find out. It was my only defense against this growing nonsense.
"So? I've always thought that human metatarsals looked a lot like chicken bones."
Wait. Human bones? I couldn't even believe I was hearing this. I don't think--
"So you're a coward then, aren't you?"
Where's your spunk, I recall, and her proposition grows in appeal. My interest finally peaks. Where do we get them, then?
It's six o' clock on a Saturday, and I find myself standing outside towering gates. St. Louis' Cemetery I make out on a ruggedly chopped plank hung up beside the entrance, and begin to question my sanity. We're going grave robbing today, and the star of the show has yet to arrive.
She turns up ten minutes later, lugging a large black bag--two pairs of gloves, two shovels and a knife. It's then that I realize she isn't so scrawny after all.
"Hey," she says. "Sorry I'm late. I had to go pick up a few things."
I shrug, letting her blunder slide. Lead the way, I say. And she does.
We take a left as soon as we enter the cemetery, heading straight for the graves out back. "It's best if we go for the older ones." Her voice drowns out the frog croaks, and cricket chirps. "That way, it's less likely for people to notice that they've been messed with. Not too old though, else we'll end up with nothing to work with."
You sound like you've done this before. I try my best to look as doubtful as I possibly can. I hope she can take a hint. It doesn't work.
She turns her head around, giving it an abrupt tilt to the right. She lets out an amused laugh. "Me? Of course not! These," she gestures toward our equipment, arms splayed out and mouth upturned, "I learned from the movies." I wonder how much of her insight will help.
My watch reads a few minutes past six thirty. We finally reach the cemetery's end. The skies are dark, and the trees surrounding us look as ominous as ever. Pandora tosses me a flashlight, and I fumble for it before it falls to the ground.
"Here, we'll dig up this one." She points her torch toward a gravestone only a couple of paces away. The inscriptions are faded with age and wear, but I can make out a few words. Old Man Jack, it reads, we'll never forget. There's a shiver traveling up my spine, and for the first time since entering this graveyard I am filled with unease.
"Hey," she says. There is a slight waver in her voice. "Stop dawdling. The sooner we're finished digging, the sooner we'll be able to get out of this damn place."
She tosses me a shovel and a worn-out pair of gloves. I put them on. We're digging up a dead man's grave. The entire thing isn't supposed to be difficult. Immoral, yes, but other than that, it shouldn't be too hard. Suck it up--suck it up and dig.
We strike gold moments later as my shovel stabs through aged wood. "Finally," she says. "That's it." We put our shovels away and lift the cover up. The metatarsals, the bones of the feet. My eyes veer toward the remains of Jack's foot. Pandora pulls out her knife and hands it to me. "This is your dare," she says. "Prove yourself."
I take the knife from her and drag it across the remaining tendons somewhere below Jack's ankle. It takes a couple more tries, but the foot eventually comes free. I pass it over to Pandora. We run straight toward the exit as soon as we're done fixing the grave up.
It's approximately 8 o'clock by the time we get out of there, panting and out of breath. We break into fits of laughter. Relief.
You're crazy. The moon is out, and there's sweat on my brow. It drips to my eye, and stings.
She gives me a knowing grin, "You agreed to this, didn't you? Consider yourself crazy, too."
I watch as she walks off in the opposite direction, carrying--quite proudly--the bones of our labor, before going my own way.