My Exquisite Corpse
I hadn't been feeling well for weeks when I went to see Dr. Breton, the
surrealist surgeon. He'd graduated with top honors from the same
Parisian university that had given us Salvador Dali, the famous brain
specialist. Since both practiced the same Paranoid-Critical method of
healing, which relied more on chance processes and instinct than on
a lot of flashy "medical" training, I felt in good hands.
We began with a quick exam. Dr. Breton dispensed with traditional, dead
methods of medicine and went his own bold way. Instead of anatomy
charts, his walls contained maps of Kathmandu and the Cleveland sewer
system, along with a glossy poster of Anna Kournikova, complete with
his handwritten astrological and I Ching annotations, including her
favorite color and food (baby blue and Buffalo Wings). The first words
Dr. Breton said to me were, "Beauty must be convulsive, or it will not be. Now, turn your head and cough."
The good doctor pronounced me as fit as "a teacup of chicken fat,
glistening in the flames of the burning Hindenburg." Healthy as I was, he recommended immediate surgery, since I was already there and the table was free.
We began with quickie séance, in which Dr. Breton requested surgical advice from the late, great Harry Houdini. The doctor seemed to be paying inordinate attention to his pretty blonde nurse, who giggled when he'd grab her thighs under the table. This, he explained to me was standard procedure in an "irrational anatomy" exam. Besides, given the choice between my spotty, larva-colored thighs and his tanned nurse's,
which would I examine? At once, I was reminded of the doctor's
brilliance and didn't question his technique again.
Dr. Breton was a psychic surgeon, and dispensed with the use of crude "instruments" and "those sharp, scary thingies." After fortifying
himself with a couple of shots of Jagermeister, and sterilizing his
bare hand in a warm bottle of Mr. Pibb, Dr. Breton plunged his left
hand deep into my abdomen. Seconds later, he pulled out a set of
playing cards (a good poker hand: aces and eights), a string of paper
flowers, the recipe for Kishka his wife had been looking for, a large
liver tumor, and three live pigeons.
Leaving Dr. Breton's office, I felt like a new man. That I had a
seizure on the bus home and died a few hours later should, in no way,
be seen to reflect on the doctor's healing prowess. His last
observation says it all: "Death is the ultimate side effect of life,"
he told me, followed by, "No cash refunds."
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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.