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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Gyrus and Sulcus
A head on collision, license plates smudging together. He was smiling before the steering wheel warped his jaw, before the hubcap spun through the windshield and sliced through his neck, before his head launched out of the sun roof.
A car accident in evening traffic. A mosaic in the street, unfolded metal and rubber and skin. His head plopped on the white line and rolled over the curb onto the crippled yellow grass. The stalks brushed against his frosted lips, heavy lidded eyes, pimples, scars from larger pimples, brown hair hiding his ears and reaching past his eyebrows. A jagged bit of spinal cord hung from his neck like an icicle.
Cars slowed down then sped up. Sirens—police, ambulance—whirled through the thick August air. There was writing on the road. Low bridge no trucks. No trucks low bridge. The skin on the top of his head started to tent.
Then his whole head began to quiver. A serrated pincer broke through the skull. A second one followed, clenching and unclenching. The rest of the skull crumbled apart and the brain, clean and intact and supported on nine spotted orange crab legs, scuttled away from the wreckage.
It made it under the guardrail, down the slope into the woods, as the ambulance arrived. It moved in quick and choppy stretches from brush to tree to bush. It dipped under exposed roots and snipped leaves out of it way and left forked prints and constantly made a sound somewhere between a slurp and gargle.
A hawk cried crossing the sun. The black chipped vertebrae of a mountain reared above the gnarled trees. Some of the trunks had growths shaped like eyes and noses and lips. The brain found a shallow stream and carefully climbed down the bank. It stretched over the edge and peered at its reflection, the flaky gray grooves and ridges. Slowly it extended its leg, tested the water with a quick prick, watched the ripples extend. Then it dived in and swam doggy style to the other side and continued through the forest. Less then an hour later, when the sun disappeared behind the mountain, it laid down beside a pale ridged mushroom and fell asleep staring at the stars.
And dreamed about fireballs hanging from traffic lights, dumpsters full of balloons, rock planets with a belt of bloody molars, birds hatching out of moons, gas planets on the same orbit with the bigger one devouring the smaller like a greater than sign, the breasts of an eleventh grade calculus teacher. The flashes of a mother with make up tattooed on her face and a father wrapped in a haze and a brick house with a hula hoop around the chimney.
It woke up gasping in the hot damp morning and slinked through the bushes, towards the shade of the mountain, looking for berries or nuts or worms. Climbing a log it froze on top of the mossy bark. There was a deer sniffing the ground on the other side. Both creatures studied each other. One with eyes like marbles, the other with pincers raised and swaying.
The brain moved first leaping down and charging at the closest hoof. The deer jumped up and stomped down denting the brain but it flashed its pincer and tore into the belly, revealing pink meat, and smudges of white, incandescent white. The deer buckled and collapsed. The brain dug further into the hole it created and did not stop until it chipped the spine. The hoof shivered for a moment. The eyes bulged. The top of the head began to tent.
Anthony Cordello got a MFA from Fairfield University. He does not want to be a teacher but he will probably end up teaching.