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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Tin Man Responds To The Parole Board

This piece is also published in the literary magazine Neutrons Protons. Check it out here.

Will I kill again?

I don't know. A smoker quits cold turkey because his cigarettes are taken and kept for 43 years. After that long you'd think the urge to smoke would vanish. Then one day he's labeled as reformed. They toss a pack of Marlboro's in front of him and say "Be on your way friend." A week goes by. A year goes by. Hell, maybe only a day goes by. Would you be surprised if the reformed smoker unwraps the pack and lights up? He relives the ecstasy of inhaling. Pretty soon there's 20 butts singed butts in the ashtray. The cravings are back.

I was a mannequin in that forest for damn near a hundred years. Think 43 years in a maximum security penitentiary is a lifetime? A HUNDRED YEARS! My rusted body was a cell but my mind was perfectly lucid. Birds perched on my oil can hat and shat in my eyes. Squirrels burrowed through my corroded rivets and hibernated in my gut. The trees mocked me every day. They tossed apples at me like I was a dart board in a dive bar. "Why don't you chop us down," they'd mock. "Comon' tin woodsman, swing that ax." Just look at these goddamn apple dents. The best auto body repairman in the world wouldn't touch me with a ten foot butane lighter. Trust me; years of submitting to a fellow convict who had his fun on me with a can opener during laundry duty was nothing compared to being frozen in that god forsaken forest.

I begged internally that my brain would oxidize. I couldn’t be so lucky. But then the orphan came skipping down the yellow brick road, that clumsy scarecrow in tow. She rapped on my chest, the little brat. That shit hurt. Then she greased my joints. My body awakened from a coma. I could move again! She greased my mouth. The taste of fresh air was nearly recognizable. But when my fingers curled around that axe handle the urge to split every damn thing in that forest coursed through me. Just start fuckin' hackin’. But I couldn’t. The orphan’s voice was so soothing. Emotions rushed back. I wanted to hug her for saving me. I wanted to kiss her on the check for freeing me. I was so ecstatic I did a dance, and sang about an urge to love. I even banged my stomach and tooted my oil can hat. I only ever did that on holidays when the kids were around. When the orphan said I could join her and the scarecrow on a journey to a wizard who could grant me a heart, I nearly blew my bolts.

A wizard who could grant me an honest-to-goodness heart? Huh! The world would’ve been better off had I stood between two industrial junkyard magnets that day.

You know most of what happens next. The heart I was promised—the heart I risked my life for when I assaulted a guardsman and stole his wardrobe to sneak into a castle and help murder a witch—was nothing more than a clock. A fucking plastic clock on a chain! I had half the mind to cleave the wizard’s head the second he handed me that hunk of shit. Of course, I acted thankful. If I wanted to wake earlier than the flying monkey crows I’d be fine, but if wanted to love...

I did want to love.

That orphan got a ride from Oz all the way back to the states. On a fucking hot air balloon! Who travels like that? What’s more, she actually tells that blundering scarecrow that she’d miss him most of all. I was standing right fucking there! If the heart were real, it would’ve shattered. The dimwitted lion didn’t catch the subtle kick in the lug nuts.

After the wizard and orphan scrammed and all the merrymaking ceased I was on my own again. I wasn't even offered a carriage ride back to the forest, let alone on a damn balloon. By the way, the horse of a different color is bullshit brown six days a week, but I digress. I walked back to the forest, alone. I'd mention how many hours it took but the damned heart clock stopped ticking. I tossed the fucker into a ravine.

Do you know where I ended up? I walked back to the only place I recognized, where I was frozen all those years. After everything, you'd think I'd finally unleash my frustration by hacking to hell those trees that bullied me. But I didn't. I was so letdown I didn't have the motivation. When you're convinced you're getting a real heart, especially after all I went through, and then you get bamboozled…

I wanted a goddamn heart so bad.

I stood in the exact same spot, in the exact same position. And I waited. I could hear the young lovers merrily skipping down the yellow brick road. Of course, they noticed the poor immobile tin woodsman, and stopped to take a good close gander. The fella' was wearing a letterman sweatshirt. The lass smelled like a strawberry milkshake. I remember it so well. When she leaned in to knock on my chest, I lunged. "Tiiimberrr," I yelled. The next few minutes are a blur. When I came to I was standing over her body, a big fucking hole in her chest. I held her bloody heart in my hand. It was so warm and squishy. Finally, a real heart. Finally, I could love. The boyfriend had fainted. He woke up screaming like a pussy. I pried the ax from her chest and went to work on him too. Twice the heart, twice the love.

Will I kill again?

If you unlock my cell and say "Be on your way friend," my first stop will be at Home Depot to purchase an ax. I'm a woodsman. Then I'll return to the forest and hold that ax. A week will go by. A year will go by. Hell, maybe the rest of my free life will go by. But I already got stained teeth and black lungs, boys. If you release me back into this cruel world, you best pray I resist the urge to light up again.





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