Adulterate

When Howard first made the incision his purpose was not clear.

Remembering for Howard is a different process than it used to be. It is different from how you or I remember, because it involves different parts of his body. Parts you and I do not have.

Remembering for Howard is a different process than it used to be. If he tried, he might remember why he first picked up the knife, and where he was. He believes he was in his kitchen and that it was late at night, after his shift in the station. It could have been in the breakroom at the station, before he ended his shift. Howard believes that however it happened he is much more content now than when he first made the incision in his hand, in his palm. A vertical slice. Howard believes, for he does not truly know anything, anymore.

The incision was deep. Howard left it open and untended for several days, until the redness and pain had spread across his palm. To numb the pain, Howard rubbed dirt into the wound.

This should have made it worse, or so he thought. But Howard enjoyed the idea of replacing the dirt he felt inside with dirt he found outside. After the pain ebbed, Howard made another incision, this one on the back of his hand. He had to make room for more dirt.

The officers at the station did not notice the change at first. Howard kept his hand busy, away from prying eyes. The work once took him several weeks, but after the first few months he was able to replace the bones from his left arm and wrist in a single evening. He kept the bones in a bag in his basement.

Howard was vaguely worried that someone would comment on the stitches that ran the length of his chest and arms, but by the time he had replaced his heart and stomach with the soft soil from his garden he had become so agreeable that few gave him a second glance. The next year, after he’d spooned out his brain, his worries were several shades less than vague.

When he blinks, Howard rains soft sand. His eyes do not shine and he does not smile, except when a worm may wriggle near where muscles used to stretch his cheeks. He had begun his work wondering if he could go on as an adulterated man, as if the soft earth could somehow taint him. He ended his work feeling fulfilled for the first time in his life. So Howard believes.

Remembering for Howard is a different process than it used to be.

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