Friday, August 7, 2009

Short Story: Masterpieces

By: CS DeWildt

All my life I wanted to do something. I wanted to be someone special. I wanted people to worship me. I looked around at boring people and their boring lives and I’d think, “I’m better than them.” I was better than the stuck up cashier at Dunkin Donuts who was clearly a lesbian. I was better than my failure professors who quit giving me the extensions I needed.

“You can’t put a deadline on creativity!”

“I can. It was last week.”

I was better than the rest of the film school kids and their cliques: The Noirs, The Kubricks, The Coens, The Ramies, The pseudo-intellectuals who summered in Prague and came back with a 37 minute shot of a girl dancing in a kitchen and called it a film. The whole of the department knew nothing about the cinema, they had no heart and their work had no passion. My work was pure passion, pure heart. It was real.

“I don’t get it.”

“There was nothing to get.”

“The framing, was that on purpose?”


It was a plague that followed me everywhere. Never understood, always alone. I couldn’t work with anyone because no one had the depth of sight to realize my vision. Was it the geologist’s fault the rock couldn’t comprehend the universe? I was forever observing the world from a distance, a world frightened by the truths I expressed too adroitly.

But I accepted it, like an Artist, yes, capital A. If I had to lose an ear, so be it. I’d lose everything to be remembered honestly and truly.

I meditated on what it was to be an artist. I drifted within the black void of my mind’s eye where the dark waves rose and fell and crashed and calmed. Upon the surface there was the single word: sacrifice. An artist is his art. An artist must suffer to create anything real. Did my peers suffer as they churned out carbon copy action film rip-offs or wrote screenplays for the next lowest common denominator, paint by numbers, big budget, raunchy, tragic, family-friendly, teen-comedy sex romp? An artist must sacrifice part of himself to scratch the surface of any truth. He must suffer to maim that pristine exterior. Art was sacrifice. To create was to utilize limitation, turn it to strength, use it to create something uniquely beautiful despite any surface ugliness. An Artist who spent their entire life in a stark white room would create red.

After a horrible screening of my latest film, Vagina Vomit, I took up a mission. Sitting in the lecture hall long after the rest had gone I pondered how to make them understand sacrifice. I was alone. I would do it alone. They would see, but more importantly, they would remember me.

The idea itself came in a flash like the divine gift of a horrible muse. It was organic. It was raw. It would be unlike any artists’ work in any medium.

I gathered what I needed, the minimum of tools and supplies. The inventory included an old VHS camcorder I purchased from a thrift store, a very sharp utility knife, propane-burning hot plate, a frying pan, a meat cleaver, a blowtorch, a hacksaw, a dinner plate, and a bottle of codeine pills I’d bought from fat, pill popping Caleb in the department. He wanted to work a camera for MTV.

The double dose of codeine came on much faster than I’d anticipated and my head returned to the black waters. I set up the motel room as carefully as I could. I moved everything from the space and stuffed it into the bathroom. I used the utility knife to cut a hole in the wall-to-wall carpeting and tore it all out. I wanted nothing in the room to distract from the project. I ripped the bolted amateur Sunset at the Boathouse panting from the wall with a series of mighty numb-handed yanks, taking chunks of sheet rock with it.

I set up the camera in the corner and composed a wide shot that captured most of the pale room. I set the hotplate and pan in the center of the shot. I set out the blowtorch next to the hot plate and carefully prepared a plate, knife, cleaver, and hacksaw place setting. I stripped of my clothes and added them to the collection of unnecessaries in the bathroom. I took my place in the makeshift kitchen I’d created. I looked once into the camera.


I could work bottom to top or left to right. I opted for the former and in a smooth deliberate motion my right hand, as of its own volition, floated before my eyes and then sank slowly to the cleaver. I lifted the simple tool and admired its shine and its heaviness. I threw the sharp extension of my body toward the floor and chopped off all five toes on my left foot. I felt a tingle, a kind of burn. I watched the blood spill and pool. I tossed the dismembered morsel into the frying pan and it sizzled like bacon. I lit the blowtorch and cauterized the wound. I repeated these steps for the right foot.

I dragged my index finger through a wet puddle and tasted the blood. I continued, smashing the cleaver into that round knobby bone that juts out both sides of the ankle. The first strike only went part of the way through the limb and I chopped again. Blood sprayed into my eyes like a salted mist as I chopped and chopped and finally ripped the last of the connective tissue with my hands and threw the foot into the pan. I switched to the hacksaw and the right ankle was much easier to cut through. I stopped the bleeding with the torch and the smell of my burning flesh emanated from my nubs and the meat in the pan. I removed a piece of myself from the pan and bit hard into the hot, fleshy arch of my foot. I tasted like chicken.

I cut and bled and burned as the exercise continued on for hours or days or minutes. I was feeling light headed from blood loss and the codeine. I turned off the hot plate when I could eat no more, around the time I was sawing into my left thigh just below my pelvis, but I continued to deconstruct myself. I was a torso, a head and a right arm. My stomach was stuffed with the rest of me.

My mind was not part of the process. A primal control that had overtaken me, carried me beyond the pain and the taboo. I was aware of a dark place in the back of my skull where the word sacrifice continued to drift atop the waves of my thought. The word invigorated my resolve and became the dam that held my fears at bay. I knew what I was doing was important. I was the truth, the epitome of working within one’s limitations. I was the sacrifice.

These pure thoughts guided me through the removal of my facial features. I sliced my buttery skin with the utility knife and heard the steady, crackling tear of my skin. I flung my bloody ear across the room. It stuck to the wall with the thick smack and I hoped it was in frame. I took off my lips and my eyelids. I cut out my tongue. I burned my face with the blowtorch to stop the bleeding, to let me finish.

I tipped over and tried to catch myself with the phantom limbs my brain still believed in. I writhed in the blood. My dry eyeballs were useless as I slapped the wet floor in search of the saw. My wounds began to split open and the flowing warmth saved me from the cold concrete. I rolled on the floor hoping I was nearing the camera. I looked to where I thought it would be.

“Ah cahn nah oo ih. Ah cahn nah cuh ma ahm aww wih ow hep.”

At first it was a statement and nothing more. Then it was a sobering moment of enlightenment. Beyond my biases I saw the purpose in each person. In that moment I was invited inside. I rejected nothing of the world. I was a remote island, but I was inextricably linked to the vast ocean floor and beyond, becoming the highest frigid peak, the driest desert, the most lush of forests. I spun myself in silly joyous circles with my single limb. All of my wounds opened and I let them pour freely with each pump of my happy heart.

Then as crystal clear as the newly lit waters of my mind, I realized something important.

I had never pushed the record button.

Epilogue: They didn’t get it.


No part of this work may be reproduced or republished by any means without the prior written permission of the author.


Anonymous said...

Loved The Ending lol

SUE said...


Evelyn said...

Cool story. Everyone liked the twist.

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