Suture by Nigel Bird

Pony cleared the dust and looked at his reflection. It was none too pretty.

The smaller cuts might heal on their own, leaving only the biggest to deal with.

The mere idea of touching it made him feel faint. He consoled himself by reducing the number of sutures he’d insert.

A doctor, he decided, might use six to do a neat job, but even a doctor might miss a few if working alone.

Omitting alternate stitches meant he could get away with three, maybe two if things didn’t go so well.

Before starting, he needed to clean up, get rid of the blood, make sure he gave himself a chance of avoiding infection.

Having learned his first aid from Westerns, for him the first rule was that the patient needed a good slug of whisky.

All he managed to find were cases of wine.

He returned to the room upstairs.

Beside the bed was a trunk that looked like it hadn’t been opened for a while. It was the only place he hadn’t tried.

The latch was busted and the hinges were gone. He lifted the lid straight off. A moth fluttered into his face. Pony flinched. Took a swing at the insect. Missed.

The pain was sharp, like a knife cut.

If a thing that size could cause him so much hurt, he figured he’d have to take another tour of the house. Start his search over. Unless he could find a little something in the box.

Top of the pile was a photograph of a neat and clean-shaven Lars with his arm around a woman. There were other snaps too, all of the woman and a kid in various stages of development, from babe to High School.

Underneath them were dresses, skirts and more dresses. Pony considered the man downstairs. Maybe Vikings weren’t the only things he liked to get himself up as. You never knew with people.

His face was really heating up. Without booze, all he could think of was freezing it.

In the kitchen he opened the icebox.

His jaw dropped when he saw it, reopening the biggest of his cuts.

“Voila,” he yelled quietly. “Man can not live on wine alone.”

The bottle was so cold that his fingers hurt as he picked it up.

“Jagermeister. The fuck?”

Unscrewing the lid, he took a sip. Practically medicine as far as his buds could make out. His stomach went into spasm as the liquid dropped. Perfect.

Replacing the lid, he wrapped his booty in a towel before returning to the mirror.

Not even the handicap of monocular-vision hampered his threading. He looked up into the glassy eyes of the moose head on the wall above the bed.

“Rich man on a camel could pass through that.”

The moose didn’t respond, which made it the right kind of company.

Religion had never gone down well with Pony, but before he did anything he crossed himself and prayed.

“Moose. Help me out, I promise I’ll be good. A-men.”

Gulping from the bottle, he fought the urge to wretch and poured as much as he could on the wounds and the thread. An almighty sting spread across his cheek, turning into a wild burning sensation that made his knees bend and his hands grab the blanket on the bed. Gritting his teeth, he thought about returning to the icebox to stick his head where the bottle had been.

The heat cooled to a gentle glow.

He stood up and picked up the needle.

Imagining he was fixing old material, he pinched out a flap of skin and rested the point against it.

He pushed the metal through. The idea of the piece of material quickly faded.

Still, the pain didn’t turn into real agony until he pulled and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the tickle of the cotton on the inside of the new hole teased his nerves and sent them into overdrive. He butted the wall hoping a new pain might take his mind off things. It only made them worse. He let out a yell louder, even, than Edward Munch could have imagined.

If the experience hadn’t been bad enough, it was even harder to work the other side. Instead of pushing into a neat stretch of skin, he was working the needle into the wound , like a chef preparing a cheap cut of meat.

When his screams were finally done, he sat down on the bed. Looking up at the moose he finally spoke. “I guess we get what we deserve in the end, huh.”

That was how he’d to come to terms with what he was doing. He’d killed the love of his life, snuffed her out with his useless driving, left her on the beach for that policeman to smash off her foot like she were a mannequin.

His memory of the night before was coming back like an unwelcome visitor. He tried to shut it out, but it was way too strong.

An enormous sorrow overwhelmed him, left all his physical pain to dwindle into insignificance. A roar left his throat and filled the house from top to bottom. He looked into his reflection and threw his fist at the glass.

He found himself looking at six faces all staring back at him with the same tortured expression. He was getting what he deserved all right, and a little bit more for good measure.

Pony took a deep breath and gathered his senses. The needle was dangling down by his chin. He picked up the cotton from both ends, tied a simple knot, doubled it to be safe and added another to make certain.

It took a while to realise what was missing.

He turned to the moose again hoping for some direction. It was not forthcoming.

Waking his new friend might give him the answer, but he wasn’t ready to hear his voice again.

Instead, he went back through the house again, searching for a pair of scissors.

Nigel Bird is a Support For Learning teacher in a primary school near Edinburgh.  Co-Producer of the Rue Bella magazine between 1998 and 2003, he has recently had work published by ‘The Reader’ and ‘Crimespree’ and was interviewed by Spinetingler for their ‘Conversations With The Bookless’ series earlier this year.  He recently won the ‘Watery Grave Invitational’ contest over at ‘The Drowning Machine’ and will have work published in Needle and in Dark Valentine Magazine this summer.  He hopes to complete a draft of his first novel by the end of 2010.

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