With a pinch of Lavender

Jeff Bits | January 18, 2011

The living room was bright from the May sun, and flower petals floated by my window instead of snow. The neighbors were mowing their lawn, and the scent of freshly cut grass came in through the open window, accompanied by the engine whirr of the mower. I stepped to the couch, the pillows, canvas ones with that came with sailboats sewed on, were flat so I plumped them.

I looked at the bookshelf—something was off. I ran my fingers over the seams, checking the order of the titles. They were alphabetical by author and then by title, the way my mother taught me. The monitor for my desktop lit up and then turned off. Must have been a power surge from the summer heat. I checked the cord, on the base of the wall behind the desk, lightly bumping my head on the window sill. Just a surge, no problem.

The bookshelf was looming in the small and sunny room. I climbed on a chair to see the titles at the top—all a’s in a ro. Maybe Jeff had borrowed one, he was always borrowing my books without asking. I climbed down and counted titles, a-z. All accounted for. I decided to dust.

I pulled out the dusting spray and paper towels. Coffee table, desk, all smooth, shiny and lemon scented. I sprayed the paper towels and ran them over the bookshelf. How long had it been since I dusted? The light blue paint shone brighter in the sun. I put a hand on the shelf to reach the side. The bookshelf tipped. I let go, and it righted itself. I looked behind it, sometimes mice and objects got in back there. Nothing. Then I saw the corner of a book sticking out from under one of the little feet of the structure.

I could only see the corner, but it was gray, probably one of my old copies I didn’t read anymore. I didn’t want to pull it out and have the whole thing fall on top of me, pinning me for hours. I checked under the other supporting feet, maybe the whole thing was standing on books. When I got to the left side, I found a blue book corner, and a severed big toe, bleeding into my rug. The next door mower turned off with a sigh and the room was quiet again.

I stared at the toe that was staining my carpet. I didn’t know how long it had been there, but it was Jeff’s— the long nail and toe knuckle hairs I was so used to seeing in sandals, now detached and sitting under the corner of my bookshelf. I hoped he was okay, but I didn’t want to find the rest of him — not my bohemian boyfriend, not in pieces. He owed money for that recording studio that burned down, I knew that. Maybe it was just the toe, maybe doctors could reattach it.

I picked up the toe in two fingers, carrying it into the kitchen to find some Ice, that’s what was supposed to happen, ice on detached digits. I could save the tow, and Jeff wouldn’t be missing anything. I opened the freezer. The ice box was full, but there was his other toe, toe knuckle hair and all.

I didn’t want to find the rest of Jeff. I washed my hands in the sink until I had no more toe blood on me; it was all in my freezer with the ice and the matching set of severed digits. Under the dish towel I found a finger. I put it in the freezer. Under the kitchen chairs I found the rest of his left hand. I went through the house, like a morbid Easter egg hunt. Under the dresser, behind the television, beneath the curtains, under the table, in my slippers, in the shower, the washing machine, the laundry basket, the umbrella stand, the coat closet, all bits of Jeff. I laid out what I found in the kitchen. I started with his toes, couldn’t find the baby toe of the left foot. Then the legs, abdomen, arms, neck, head. I pieced him back together, the blood running in rivulets on my clean floor. I sat next to what I’d done, the great Jeff puzzle. I looked at him, at the long hair I knew smelled like my lavender shampoo. I sat and he lay in pieces, and we stayed like that for a while. I didn’t want to clean up the Jeff blood through my house. The sun was setting outside, and the evening air blew cool through the house. I got up and washed my hands again, no more Jeff left on me. I left him like that, on my kitchen floor, locking the door behind me. Outside, the fireflies and flower petals floated around my face as I walked down the driveway and onto the road. I went to the park and sat on a bench for a while, I don’t know how long.

*          *          *

When I came home, Jeff was still lying there; I didn’t know why I hoped he would be gone by the time I got back. But there he was, like tiles without grout.

“Hey. Where’d you go?” Jeff asked.

“To the park. It’s nice out.” I said, sitting next to him.

“It looks like it, from what I can see.” His eyes motioned towards the window.

“Do you want me to put you back together?” I touched his hair like I used to.

“That would be nice, it feels weird.”

“Okay, I’ll see what I can find.” I looked around the kitchen; the sun was all the way down now. I got up and turned on some lights and opened the drawers. I found some barbecue skewers and hemp string. “Does it hurt?” I sat down again.

“Not really, I mean, it did originally, but now it just feels apart.” Jeff looked down at his legs. I decided to start with his legs.

I inserted the skewer into his left knee, connecting his knee to his shins. I looked at his face. He was looking at the ceiling. “Does this hurt?”

“Not really, it sort of feels like when you hit your leg when it’s full of pins and needles.”

“How about this?” I put another skewer in, it stayed.

“That’s fine. Keep going.”  His skin wasn’t bleeding anymore, but he wasn’t turning blue the way I heard bodies were supposed to. I finished the left knee and moved on to the right.

“Well it’s holding, but it looks kind of awkward. What if I trimmed the skewers, and wrapped them with the hemp?”

“Are they organic? I forgot to ask earlier.”

“Um, yeah, bamboo.”

“Okay, that works then.” He smiled. I finished the knees and used the ends to do the toes and fingers. “Did I tell you what happened? I think I forgot to.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” I said, and cut the ends off the skewers in his wrists and elbows.

“Well, it’s a long story.” He flexed his fingers of his left hand.

“That studio that burned down?” I wrapped the hemp around the skewers.

“Yeah, I guess they knew I was living here, don’t go upstairs, they made a mess of the bedroom.”

“I figured, I found most of you down here.” Does this feel okay?” I finished the arms and cut the hemp.

“Yeah, it feels pretty good, thanks.” He smiled again, moving his arms a little.

“So I know that this might be the wrong time to ask this, but why aren’t you dead?” I started on his neck. Jeff thought about it for a minute.

“I don’t know. I was, I think, but then you put me back together, and I woke up on the floor,” he said. “That’s what I’ve got so far. You need to reach the back of my neck? I don’t think I can move my head much.”

“Yeah, I’ll just turn you a little; let me know if it hurts. This is the last of it.” I said, putting his head in my lap.

“That feels nice, like when you used to read to me.” Jeff said, closing his eyes.

“Yeah. Do you want me to read to you when I’m done?”

“Maybe, I don’t really care, if you want to, go ahead.”

“You’re done. How does that feel?” I snipped the last of the hemp. Jeff moved his arms and legs.

“It feels pretty good. Is it okay if I just lie here a while?” He asked, looking up at me.

“Sure, that’d be nice.” I scooted closer to him, so the floor wouldn’t be hard on his neck. He closed his eyes, and I smoothed his hair away from his forehead. We sat like that for I don’t know how long. It became very dark outside, the lights from the street showed the petals floating past. Jeff must have fallen asleep, because he was quiet after a while. “Jeff?  You asleep?”

“I was, you don’t have to stay here, you’re probably hungry or tired. It’s okay.”

“I’ll be right back. I just need something to eat.”

“I understand. That’s fine. I’ll just be here.” He grinned at his own joke. I got up, my bottom was numb from sitting so long. I put my shoes back on and got my purse.

“You need anything from the store?”

“I don’t think so, but I don’t know. Maybe. What do you think?”  He swiveled his head a little to look at me.

“I guess I’ll get you some soup. Or would that seep out the holes? Maybe something like mashed potatoes. I’ll get you something.” I put on my summer jacket.

“Okay, sounds good. Don’t forget to lock the door, you know, in case they come back.”

“Alright, I won’t forget. I’ll be right back”

Jeff was looking at the ceiling again. I locked the door behind me, and got into the car.

*          *          *

When I got back from the store, he was gone. I knew he would be. I didn’t know where he went, but I saw that he brought the hemp and extra barbecue skewers with him. I put the groceries away, microwaving my dinner. I looked at the bloodied floor where my lover used to be. I decided I’d clean tomorrow.

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1 Comment »

  1. It’s morbid and interesting. Particularly funny in the way it’s so emotionally detached, like a person with OCD trying to think of something besides neat, tidy, whole things. Overall, I like it for what it is 🙂

    Comment by Nikolaas — June 3, 2011 @ 3:02 pm


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