Harp & Altar
Richard Kostelanetz

Lawrence Mark Lane

Charles Newman
from In Partial Disgrace

Leslie Patron
from The SeaMaids
Boy Scientist / [bisection sty]

Rob Stephenson

Boy Scientist / [bisection sty]
Leslie Patron

The boy scientist hounds them, hunkering, approaching as one nears a stray. He guesses the sea has unpinned their hair. In his head his mother’s voice chides: silly boy full of mistakes. But he proceeds; he wants to be unguided. Our lives, he knows, are sufficiently terminal. A clipper is strewn in Dad’s shed. He experiments there. He knows a last flinch. He has done a small thing in. A small specimen screams in murder.


His girls are not small things. He knows they have parts that will weep.



The boy scientist sees death as a chamber—thick- and metal-walled, reeking of astringent. There are shrieks in a closed-off chamber. There are well-cleaned instruments.



“Remember, the utmost limit of howling or excessive violent screaming [. . .] is only two minutes and the utmost limit of screaming of any kind is only five.”



A scientist sees or not sees. A scientist hears or not hears.


No tears can undo a slipped instrument.







He is startled to see them up close. From far off they shimmer—a lit tray of silvery instruments. Here they are scuff-marked.


He extends his hand into the shrunk distance.


They are withdrawn.


The heart of a boy is in him








They have scuff-marked eyes. Glassy. They have scuff-marked eyes like eyes in a porcelain head, the head weighted and pressed downward in a chest on a sea-floor. They’ve been left for dead by whom. Drifting. Their casted eyes. A faint underwater light. It is a mobile catatonia. A moveable eye under sea light.







The roses forsake their cheeks. The sand flocks on their backsides like a skin disease.


On feet they appear as an upright crab. Their legs and arms: a skeletal fringe. On their backs they are crabs overturned. The bone between them is calcified, crustaceous. Their movements strobe: mechanical; theirs is a crab-like gait, a crab-like musculature.


The boy scientist thinks: Dear fellow scientists, I have found a specimen. I have found a specimen and despite my qualifications, despite my accolades I am startled. You will be startled too. I cannot withdraw.







The boy scientist spots a man for a moment—tattered overcoat, fingerless gloves. He is already gone from the tall grass. The boy scientist pictures him worming. Foraging. Trailing the fresh girls.


The man was an emanation. Apparition. His trousers were specked with flesh particles, blood platelets. The bloodstains were drawn out by whom. He casts himself into a night. He captures and recaptures. He captures. He withholds his half-knit fingers.


The boy-scientist posits:


He’s coming for them.







The boy scientist holds the left head’s hand. The synced bodies follow—trance-like—his lopsided tumor of parts. He leads the tumor through tall weeds on grounds.


He slides back the doors of his father’s shed and shuts them but for a crack.


He lowers his heads to the tarpaulin floor and binds the wrists and ankles in pairs.



He spreads the center legs with no vulva between them.



He blindfolds. They never let out a sound. There they lay in a rumor of light, a synced body never trembling. Somehow they know to be civil.


Light shines against the clippers. He could tailor their limbs for anything: lace-trimmed anklets, surgical gloves.


His brown eyes hold on his darlings’ head. He thought he saw their brown eyes loosen, a tacit please bisect. He smiles. His own eyes loosen like stool.


He readies the heads, daubing their parts with wet rags from a pail and moist towelettes pilfered from the glove box.


The seam along them zig-zags like a fault.


He lines the tools up: readying.







The girls lay on the concrete floor. Their eyes do not unlock. They’ve an awful lot of extra parts between them. In eaves there are webs: abandoned, released from spinnerets. Dust lifts and falls in eaves. The light retracts in corners twisting.


The boy scientist parts then shuts the aluminum. In the dark he can make out a deep sea glow. A current set seaward, it drags and submerges. Trawling a seafloor. More is known of the moon.


Their fault is aglow and their eyes like creature’s eyes, but the green light becalms him. He skins them of sheets. Denudes them. These girls are not hand shy.


He finds that girls do not urinate, do not pass gas. There’s no fecal stench between them, no wetness.


From his knapsack he pulls a grocery bag. He has saved a half of everything. For now he must eat in girl portions: no growth spurts. He opens one mouth and inserts a torn sandwich. The girls are toothed inside and peeling: a red or pinkish margin of the lips. They have partly cut teeth.


He works the slack jaws with his hand. They will not take him in.




To peel off in scales is to desquamate.







He parts the doors again and next he parts their sheets. The girls—still—give off green light.


Have you used the powder room?


[. . .]


He wants to brush back their hair. He wants to make one his girl. He’d never have to take her by force.


The boy scientist squints and parts their legs. They leak salt air. There’s fish rot in ringlets. A slant of green leaks through their lips and lights the concrete. He writes dryness in the log. How long until they pass and when?


The boy scientist knows what test comes next. The phrase that comes to mind is meat curtains. He wants to puncture them, to make a clearing in their meat curtains. He puts on dish gloves and begins to fumble in the right one with care. So these are meat curtains. He’d thought of marbled sirloin, but these were not that. He parts them, bathing his lean arm in light. He notes a sucking sound. He inserts his fingertips and thinks suckling then mammal. He is unsure. The curtains have latched on, have sucked his finger to the second knuckle.



this birth is all backwards



A lapping sound comes in his ears. The curtains lick out his vision. A blackness. Suckling. Cropping in.


He falls into a swoon. He falls into a series of swoons. He falls backwards through darkness again and again. The bottom goes black from under.







The boy scientist shakes himself awake. The darkness did not stop; no, he stopped.


Their eyes blinded his eyes.


He withdraws, cuffing the glove to his wrist so as not to lose it in the girl. The finger is covered in a kelp green liquid. It strings between the glove and the girl. He notes a word he’s never heard aloud: viscous. A green clot escapes the girl and lands on the concrete. It is fish-bodied, the finnage overlapping like a rose.


He pulls a pair of tampons from his seat pocket, pilfered from his mother’s washroom. Pink doves flock towards a false horizon. He tears in. He tears in and parts their limbs. It occurs to the boy scientist: they might not be girls at all. For all he knows they are an anomaly, a near extinction. For all he knows there are no men. The liquid he’s corking within them may be another liquid—inhuman.


But the girls resemble girls. Their boobs are taut across their breastbones. Their bathing-suit area resembles the bathing-suit area as pictured on a page of a medical book.


In the green light, the girls take on contours.







He thinks of what a man would do. He rolls up his pant leg. He takes out his mother’s razor and clears a patch of thigh skin. Using the tampon’s tip, he takes a mucus culture. He expects burning and winces. He spreads warm mucus—slick and green—against the patch as with a butter knife. Skin undulates for a second or two. Then the suckling sound. His leg is being suckled by unseen mouths.



The patch goes still in a last twitch.



This was it.


The ratio of filled space to empty space.


Plumes of green-tinged light.







They are scabrous. Their scabrous clitoral hood. He can see their spines with his eyes, but he cannot feel them through the gloves. He is afraid to breathe the air via nostrils. He thinks of his own genitals, the care he takes to hide them. They are a flesh cocoon, a pouch of spider’s eggs in the mouth of some dumb swine.


He hangs above their weird body. He is not a bisector, he is a scientist. He holds “forceps” in his hands.


He knew the number of steps to the shore. The number of steps to his home.


He takes care to avoid their eyes. He hides behind their genitals and it is like hiding his own genitals. He clenches his own fists and his knuckles drain white.


Their hands are under sedation, submerged with the rest of them.


Their eyes hold a tragic near drowning. He’d survived that drowning event, that deepwater blackout. It was in that blackout an event happened in his body. The eyes on every newborn unhinged at once within him. The buds on all the trees erupted on a single clock stroke. The eyelids still latch and unlatch. The buds will lift against the wind.







Imagine his shock when he finds them, the 10 smudges silt-spaced on the window pane. Remnants of ink pens and sea muck. Traces. Scoundrel prints.


The boy scientist moves behind the shed. He follows the footprints until they trail into the brush.


The scientist finds himself eying the window. He practices being undetectable; his eyes dart and do not pierce. He expects gloved hands and ragged nail beds, mustachios under the screen. He swabs for hairs, fibers, meal crumbs. He uncovers another detritus. A hunch which is suspect.


He does as his hunch instructed. He wipes the prints away.







There are things less visible in darkness. The violence steadies in him like a drip. He’s seen a sportsman bleed a pelt. He’s seen his own cut flesh beneath a tap: blood and then clear. Meat can catch on barbs. A bramble. Fingers in the wringer washer. A spiked fencepost tipped in blood.







In weak times he splays on the shed floor beside them. He thinks of what it means to be a boy—his own maze of entrails: organs and pulses and hazardous thoughts. Some other detritus. He erases a phrase from his mind. A scientist is not permitted hazardous thoughts, nor is he permitted weakness.


Eyes in the eaves and on the panes, it is then that he notices a recurrence: the ten prints on the glass. Remnants of old haunts. The scoundrel in the background in the distance. He stops a shudder in progress. He wipes the prints away.



Weakness is the fine print on a boy. It has no quarrel with him. It has a quarrel with a scientist.



Days pass and the boy spies for them. He tabulates clean days in logs. He thinks he misses the prints but he does not miss them. They are visitants. Vapors on window glass.







He notes it is he and not they who spiral out. They cannot react to his touch. He checks them for pulses and breaths. He monitors them on deathwatch, lifting their frames and sweeping their underside with his eyes. They are anchored by bodyweight with no signs of death and few signs of life.