Power Love

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17 February 2012


The Medical Examiner wheels the body in. Body: covered with a white sheet, lying on a silver tray with wheels. It's a long tray. It's an adult body. The Medical Examiner says, "Adult female, brain and limbs intact; heart, liver, and kidneys stable. Requests cremation, ashes scattered over her father's grave." The Medical Examiner's voice catches on this last part. He's new. He doesn't yet know how to turn off the emotion that flares up when hearing about another human's Last Wishes.

The Committee Members laugh. The Medical Examiner isn't sure if they're laughing at the catch in his voice or at the Last Wishes. The Medical Examiner was told to be professional when talking to The Committee Members. The Committee Members make the rules. They do not ask for opinions. They do not welcome questions.

They are lined up, The Committee Members, shoulder to shoulder, at one end of the examination room. Each wears a long black coat and a black, wide-brimmed hat. The only way The Medical Examiner can tell the differences among them is by their name tags: The Representative from the House Ways and Means Committee, The Representative from the Senate Armed Services Committee, The Representative from the Office of Budgetary Concerns, The Representative from the Office of Moral High Ground.

The Committee Members nod at the body in unison. The Medical Examiner thinks of the Rockettes, kicking in unison. He misses the Rockettes and the world they used to be a part of.

"He's new," Ways and Means says.
"I don't give a shit," Armed Services says.
"Give him a break," Budgetary Concerns says.
"Fuck that," Moral High Ground says, then glares at The Medical Examiner. "Where's Igor?" He asks.

Igor is my predecessor, The Medical Examiner tells himself. Igor is no longer here. "He retired," The Medical Examiner tells The Committee Members. He misses when retirement meant a move to a warm place and time to whittle wood statues of squirrels. Like the Rockettes, retirement lives in a world they used to be a part of.

Moral High Ground steps forward and snaps at the body. Then he waits. The Medical Examiner takes a deep breath and removes the white sheet from the body on the tray.

The body is a perfect female body. Every graceful curve in place, every part in perfect proportion to the rest of the parts. She looks perfectly healthy. Except, of course, she's dead.

The Committee Members gather around the tray. Ways and Means stands at the body's left side with Armed Services. Budgetary Concerns stands at the body's right side with Moral High Ground. The Medical Examiner stands at the head. He clears his throat, looks at the chart. "I remind you, gentlemen, the deceased has requested cremation, and that--"
"That's not her decision," Ways and Means says.
"What she wants to do with her body isn't her decision?" The Medical Examiner blurts out.
"Wanted. Past tense," Armed Services says.
"You think she's gonna say something about it now?" Budgetary Concerns laughs.
"You believe in that shit?" Moral High Ground asks The Medical Examiner. "You believe they come back from the dead?"
"You believe in the Devil?"
"Is that what you are? A Devil Worshiper?"
"There are laws against that."
"We enforce the laws."

The Medical Examiner runs his left thumb up the inside of his palm, finds the cool metal of his wedding ring, rubs it. He says nothing.

Ways and Means looks at the body. "I'll take the arms," he says.
"I want the fingers," Armed Services says.
"What are you gonna use the fingers for?"
"What are you gonna use the arms for?"
"We always take the arms. We have a collection. We don't need to use them."
"Enough!" Budgetary Concerns says. "You--take the arms. You--take the fingers."
"Fuck you, Stan. We have a collection, do you not get that?"
"OK, then. You take the toes," Budgetary Concerns tells Armed Services.
"The toes? Are you kidding? We want the fingers."
"Toes. Fingers. What's the difference?" Budgetary Concerns is exasperated.
"OPPOSABLE THUMBS," Armed Services yells.
"Hey, no," Moral High Ground interrupts. "I get the legs and the toes come with me."
Armed Services says, "OK. Fine. But we get the internal organs. Kidney, heart, and liver."
"Fine," Ways and Means says.
"Fine," Armed Services says, louder.
"I'll take the brain," Budgetary Concerns says.
"Who's gonna take the reproductive organs?" Moral High Ground asks.
"They're not worth anything after she's dead," Ways and Means says.
"No longer a threat," Armed Services says.
"We got no use for 'em."
"Who got 'em last time?"
"I did."
"OK, then, it's your turn."
"Ew, no. I don't want them. They're gross."
"Right. But we have to do something with them. You have dogs, right?"
"Well, yeah, but we only serve them high-quality food."
"Right. Purebreds. Forgot."

The Committee Members look at The Medical Examiner. He's pulled up his operating mask, tied it tightly around his head. He was told before he came in not to make any facial expressions. He hopes his eyes aren't giving him away.

"You take them," Moral High Ground says to him.
"Me? What am I gonna do with them?"
"Follow the human's Last Wishes."

The Committee Members chuckle the same chuckle. Armed Services snaps to attention, "But film it," he says. "And write up a press release."
"Show the ones still living that we follow Last Wishes."
"Let 'em see how respectful we are."

The Medical Examiner is quiet.

Ways and Means says, "You'll take care of that today."
"You'll have it on the news tomorrow," Armed Services says.
"Right?" Budgetary Concerns says.

The Committee Members are looking at The Medical Examiner. Armed Services raises an eyebrow. Ways and Means says, "You live in that yellow house by the park. Right?" Budgetary Concerns raises an eyebrow. The Medical Examiner's heart is beating so loudly he can barely hear them. Moral High Ground says, "So. You'll have a press release in tomorrow's news."

The Medical Examiner looks down. At his hands. At his veins. At the blood pumping through his veins. "Of course," he says. "Of course."