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Pancakes In Yuma by James M McCullock
“I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick — not wounded — dead.”
– Woody Allen
I skinned him. I tried to be as delicate as possible with my slices to cut down on the fat and whatever else that tissue is. I don’t fucking know, the anatomy book bored me remember? I wasn’t very good at it, so I had all of these little patches of skin sitting next to me on the floor. I had placed his head on the bathroom sink, so while I worked away on his body, I had a one way conversation with his head.
I found his arm to be the most interesting. The way the muscles looked in real life as opposed to a picture. It was strange to touch them. Since he was a football player, he was in great shape, so his muscles were super firm, and pretty big. It was impressive. I touched each one, observing how it was connected to the other muscles. I tried to figure out what the function of each muscle was. Trying to see how each muscle controlled what aspect of the arms. I began to cut each of the individual muscles off, one at a time. I placed them in a line as I removed them. Once I had most of them off, I could see the bones of his arm.
It was a very surreal feeling to be looking at real human bones. I was so completely detached from the situation in my bathroom. Here was this dead body sitting in my tub, a severed head on my bathroom sink, bits of skin and muscle on my bathroom floor, and the bones of a dead man in my very hand. I hadn’t even cut his arm off.
I looked at my watch and was shocked by how long this had taken. So far I had only cut off his head, and sliced up his arm. There was still the rest of his body to go. It had finally gone from fun, to work. I’d have to come up with a different way to do this, because I was getting tired and extremely bored.
I ended up cutting him into pieces in the bathtub. I used a hacksaw for the rest of the job; seemed less brutal to me. I rigged the tension poll that held up my shower curtain so that I could hang the limbs from it and let the remaining blood drain out. I wasn’t happy with the size of the hack job, so I cut everything down to much smaller bits. I ended up calling in sick, it was taking me way too long to finish. I wrapped up all of the pieces in aluminum foil, and then in saran wrap. Placed all of the pieces into several suitcases and bags, and then carried them out to the van. On my way to the van, I was spotted carrying the bags by Mrs. Kolchak; my downstairs neighbor. She asked if I was taking a trip. I told her I was getting some new furniture, and had decided to go through some old things that had bad memories attached to them. I told her I was taking everything to the local Salvation Army to donate it all. She told me I was a very thoughtful young man to do something so generous. I said, “Thank you.”
Once I had everything packed up in the van, I was all of a sudden really tired. The lack of sleep, and all that lifting and cutting, had finally caught up to me. I wasn’t sure if I should try to dispose of the body now, or go upstairs and sleep for a while. I should have waited to take the bags out to the van until later. I was afraid of the smell that might come from the van if it got too hot. I was so tired I couldn’t think straight. It was still early morning, so I may be able to get away with dumping the bags. But, it was also daylight, and I could easily be seen.
I decided I would drive to the desert. I headed out east on the 8, and figured I would drive to Yuma. Great choice considering how fucking tired I was. On the way to Yuma the desert becomes massive sand dunes. During the day people ride their dirt bikes and ATV’s out there. However, at night, it becomes a cold quiet place; Perfect for burying bags full of body parts.
I made sure my shovel was still in the van, and headed east. I got as far as the lookout point near Alpine, and stopped to take a nap. I figured it’d be safe. It gets pretty windy up there, and it was far enough away from the city that it wouldn’t seem odd for someone to be sleeping in their vehicle. I pulled into a parking spot, leaned my chair back, and I remember nothing else. I fell asleep so fast I can’t help but wonder if I was already asleep before I was done parking. It was so stupid of me to even try and drive. But, my luck had been good so far. Why not go for it?
In my dream, I was gliding on a cloud. Below me, a huge crowd of people was calling my name. I could tell by the sound of their cries that they loved me. I was a superstar, and they all wanted a part of me. Suddenly, my mother was by my side and the cloud disappeared. We were standing in a huge closet that was attached to a store of some sort. My mother was saying something, but I couldn’t understand what it was she was saying. I was suddenly joined by several other people who were saying something about trouble, and then they broke into song.
“With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool!”
I couldn’t move. I seemed frozen to the spot I where was standing. The same crowd of people who were under my cloud stood before me. They picked me up and carried me high above them towards a pile of wood. One of the boards in the pile read, “Grendel.” I was a devil to these people; A demon. I was thrown onto the pile of wood and covered in jelly.
A man named Folder walked towards me and stabbed me in the side. Then he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. He carried me to a forest where we sat on a log and looked at a cinnamon stick.
When I woke up, it was afternoon. I felt worse now than I did before my nap. I needed food and lots of water. I looked behind me at the bags in my van. I didn’t notice any smell, so I felt a little less anxious. I started up the van and continued east.
I stopped at a gas station and filled up the van. Went into the convenience store and bought three huge things of Aqua Fina and a 5 Hour Energy drink. They taste like shit, but they really work. I also bought a few Tigers Milk bars. I wasn’t quite hungry yet, but I definitely needed a blood sugar boost.
Once the van was filled with gas, I was on my way. It was actually a nice drive. It wasn’t too hot, and the sky was crystal clear. All I needed was a cartoon blue bird on my shoulder and the picture would have been complete. I was feeling much better, now that I had eaten a little something and drank some water. I went ahead and drank the energy drink, and then chased it with a 7 gulp drink of water. I was downing water like I hadn’t had anything so delicious in my life. Killing someone and dismembering their body can really dehydrate you.
Just over two hours later I had reached El Centro. I exited off the Interstate 8, and made my way through El Centro trying to find the 78. One word sums up El Centro: Boring. After driving for about half an hour, I had finally reached my destination. I wasn’t sure, however, how to get out to where I wanted to be. I came across Gecko Road, and decided to take a chance. Sure enough, I was in the middle of the dunes I had journeyed so far to find. It was mid-afternoon by the time I got there, so quite a few bikers were still out playing around. It was fun watching them riding around in the dirt, jumping dunes. These people had their own little subculture, and watching them was just like watching a family. I thought about looking into buying a bike and getting into riding the dunes. I know myself too well though. I’d never stick with it. Especially if I had to drive three hours just to get to the fun. Magic Mountain is one thing, but this? Not so much.
As the light faded, so did the riding. Eventually, people started to leave. Under the cover of night, I carried the bags in the opposite direction of the riders and left them on a dune far enough away for the three trips I had to take to get each bag to be annoying. I am going to have to change the way I do things. This just isn’t working for me.
The night was so clear I felt as though I had a light shining right on me. The lights of El Centro were far enough away for the stars to come out in droves. I swear to you, I could make out the Milky Way. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the universe; I had let an entire hour pass before I got to work. I dug for God knows how long. Sand sucks. As soon as you dig a hole, it fills itself right back up. I was becoming more and more irritated with each drop of the shovel.
I stopped and looked around, wiping the sweat from my eyes. I noticed the way the dunes were shaped; Bent by the wind. I had a brainstorm in that moment that made me sigh and growl at the same time. I could place each piece in the curve of the dune, and let the sand fall onto each piece covering them by gravity instead of with a shovel. Over time, as the wind blew against the dunes, they would become even more covered. Eventually they would be a part of the Earth itself. The desert wind and the blazing sun should help dry out the blood, skins and bones.
I had buried every bit of my friend, but had saved the head for last. He was special. He was my first, and you never forget your first. I just wanted a moment to say goodbye. He was, after all, the one and only person I would dispose of in this manner. I placed his head in the sand and began to spin and sing My Wild Love, like they did the movie The Doors.
“My wild love went riding,
She rode all the day,
She wrote to the Devil,
And asked him to pay.
The Devil was wiser,
It’s time to repent.
He asked her to give back
The money she spent.”
I fell to the ground laughing so hard I began to cough. I was so tired I was getting punchy. I finally got around to burying my friends head in the sand, but left his face uncovered. I wanted him to be able to look at the night sky, poor bastard.
Instead of going home to San Diego, I continued east to Yuma. There’s a Denny’s just off of the highway in Yuma, and I was craving pancakes in a major way. I pulled the van off of the highway and made my way to the parking lot of the golden lights of the Denny’s sign. With a sigh of relief I parked my van, walked into the restaurant, and headed straight for the restroom. Once in the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror, and couldn’t believe what I saw. I was covered in dirt, and the sweat from my head and face made me look like I was wearing some sort of twisted camouflage. My clothes were wrecked, and I just plain looked like shit. With a giggle, I cleaned myself up as best as I could and was ready for some fucking pancakes.
I decided to sit at the counter close the bathroom. For some strange reason it seemed like a good idea. The waitress, a woman who looked exactly like the kind of woman you’d expect to work in a Denny’s in Yuma, walked up to me.
“You look like hell, honey.”
I answered with a little laugh of agreement, “Yeah, I had a little trouble a few miles back. Found myself roaming around in the desert with no idea where to go, with a terrible hankering for pancakes.”
She laughed. I was grateful.
“Can I get you some coffee, honey?”
“No, thank you,” I said, “I would love an iced tea. And I am ready to order if I may?”
“Sure honey. What would you like?”
I looked at her with my most charming smile, “Pancakes.”
Funny thing about pancakes; you can eat three of them and feel stuffed to the point of pain. An hour later, you feel as though you never ate a thing.