Little Skulls

By Dan Morey

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Eight old men are dying behind a curtain in Brendan’s hospital ward.  What they’re dying of I can’t say.  But they’re dying.  You can smell it.  Sometimes I go over and talk to them, but they never say anything back.  I go anyway, because I can’t just sit here and stare at Brendan all day.  It’s too boring.

Right now I’m on Brendan’s side of the curtain.  Like the song that says whose suicide are you on?  I’m on Brendan’s.  And he is a suicide.  Well, almost a suicide.  The doctor told us he took a very bad beating and drank a lot of Drano and that he’s going to be comatose for a while.  He doesn’t know if Brendan got beat up and then drank the Drano, or if he drank the Drano and then got beat up.  I’m pretty sure I know the guy who did the beating, and I wouldn’t put it past him to wail on a suicided body.  But there’s no proof, and Brendan isn’t likely to tell us, since the only noise he can make is a fart.

Brendan really does look like hell, with his bruised face and purple eye sockets and breathing tubes and IVs.  The nurse shaved off his mohawk so they could drill a hole in his head and relieve the brain swelling, and now you can see all these old tattoos where his hair used to be.  They look like a five-year-old drew them—little skulls and stars and a heart that’s cracked in half.

Brendan is laid out with his arms and legs tucked in close like a mummy, and when the machine pushes air into his lungs his whole body heaves up.  What’s really gross is that they don’t even have a blanket over him, just one of those short paper gowns.  If you stand at the foot of the bed you can see his junk.  And believe me, we’ve all seen enough of Brendan’s junk.  When his band CU Puke plays he is usually pants-free by the third song.  Then he takes a pliers to his cock, or ties a six-pack to it, or lights it on fire.  At parties, he likes to walk up to you and put it in your hand.  Even in the hospital, we can’t escape from Brendan’s cock.  Daisy Mae thinks maybe he requested the gown himself, but he couldn’t have, because he was unconscious when they brought him in.

I’m here with Daisy Mae and the Black Dahlia, but Daisy Mae isn’t around right now because she used to be a nurse’s aid and she says she knows where they keep the Vicodin.  I’m hoping she finds it, because a handful of Vicodin would make being stuck in the hospital with Brendan and the Black Dahlia a lot less boring.  The Black Dahlia is one of those Goth chicks who mope around all day and dress like they’re going to a funeral, so right now she’s in her glory.  She has a pale hand on Brendan’s cheek and is droning on about the terrible beauty of a dying young man.  The funny part is she never even liked Brendan.  It was only after he tried to kill himself that he became an interesting, tragic, misunderstood person.

Last week Brendan’s parents came down from Cleveland and they wouldn’t let us in the room.  The nurse said Mr. and Mrs. Burke didn’t want any lowlifes hanging around their son during the critical recovery period.  The Burkes said it was because of people like us that Brendan keeps ending up in hospitals, which is hilarious—us being a bad influence on Brendan.  You don’t see us lighting our dicks on fire or sticking glass up our ass, do you, Mrs. Burke?  So anyway, when they wouldn’t let us in, Daisy Mae got in the nurse’s face and started telling her she had no right.  Then she pushed the door open and yelled fuck you bitch at Mrs. Burke.  She was halfway to Brendan’s bed when this big orderly grabbed her.  He jerked her back so hard her T-shirt tore, and her left boob came out.  Daisy Mae screamed you rapist you fucking rapist get your fucking hands off me I’m going to sue you.  The orderly just lifted her up, put her over his shoulder, and lugged her away.

Now Brendan’s parents are back in Cleveland, and we can sit around the room all day if we want.  The trick is to fill up your jacket with lots of beers and chug them in the restroom when you get bored.  After the beer is gone, I go around the curtain to see the dying geezers—eight wrinkled heads in beds, all of them hooked up to some kind of machine, and none of them ever talking.  Sometimes they moan a little, but they never talk.  I figure if somebody arranged them so they could see each other better that maybe they’d get to chatting.

So today I pull their beds off the walls and wheel them into a circle.  Some of them look at me all mucous-eyed and confused, but most of them just try to go back to sleep.   I say, look here fellas, now you can talk amongst yourselves.  But they won’t do it.  So I shift the beds around some more until they’re in a figure-eight pattern, which I think is funny because there are eight of them.  Now they’re all riled up, and this one smelly, saggy-faced coot motions me over.  Son, he says, please snuff me.  Snuff you? I say.  Yes, he says, put the pillow over my face and hold it there.  Oh no, not me, I say.  Snuff yourself, buddy.  I’m outta here.

Back on the other side of the curtain the Black Dahlia is in the corner curled up like a burnt fetus, and Daisy Mae is leaning over Brendan drawing a cock on his forehead with her marker.  She’s laughing and having trouble standing up.  Brendan would like it, she says, handing me the marker.  I think for a minute, and then draw a vagina around his little skull tattoo.

The Black Dahlia finds this amusing and decides to join in.  She takes her blood-red lipstick and smears it all over Brendan’s face.  Daisy Mae says for the eightieth time I wonder if we can put some whisky in his IV.  She pulls a flask out of her coat and goes over to the IV bag and starts fooling with it.  A nurse comes in and says good God what is going on in here and what is the matter with you people, and right after she says it Brendan lets go with a massive fart.  We all laugh and the nurse shakes her head and says bodily functions will never cease to amuse you, will they.  I say, no, lady, they won’t, and just wait till you find the amusing functions we left you in the X-Ray room.

While the nurse is lecturing me, Daisy Mae crawls under the curtain.  Five seconds later we hear the old croakers fussing and yelling get that thing away from me.  The nurse pulls the curtain aside, and there’s Daisy Mae running around drawing cocks all over the eight bald heads.  The nurse says stop it you horrible girl stop it.  Then the snuff me guy calls Daisy Mae over and she puts her ear right next to his slobbery mouth.  When he’s done talking she snatches up a pillow and shoves it into his face.  The nurse runs over all hysterical and pulls Daisy Mae off.  She tries to take the pillow away, but the old goat is biting down on it and won’t give it up.  When she finally gets it off, he spits at her, and says if he had his goddamn teeth it’d be a different story you bitch.  Then a doctor called Doctor Guth comes into the room and takes my marker away and says to the nurse that this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if there were a Republican in the White House.  But I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

 Dan Morey