Three Ways of the Saw by Matt Mullins
Matt Mullins is a writer, musician, experimental filmmaker and multimedia artist. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Harpur Palate, Descant, Hobart, and a number of other print and online literary journals. He is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Ball State University (BSU) where he is a faculty fellow with BSU’s Emerging Media Initiative. His recent works of interactive/digital literature can be found at lit-digital.com.
Three Ways of the Saw was released by Atticus Books in February 2012.
The Way I See It
The door was unlocked at his apartment when I showed up earlier tonight; I came in on him fresh out of the shower and offered him a beer. When he grabbed for the can, his towel came loose, and the stubbed right arm started moving to gather it up like there was still an elbow, a forearm, a hand attached.
“Goddammit, you could’ve at least opened it,” he yelled, and he threw the beer to the floor and bent to snatch the towel over his crotch again.
“It’s not like I never seen you naked before,” I said, and I set another unopened can down on the sink as I walked out and went to the kitchen to fridge the rest of the twelve pack. That hospital psychologist told me he had to learn to cope.
Zane was on morphine pills for what they call residual limb pain, and after a few beers and some weed he was higher than I’d seen him in a while—my little bro who used to go shot for shot with the hard-core crowd at Jumbo’s back when he was still in high school. Now he was teenage blasted again from the mix of beer and pills and weed, sloppy drunk out of control like he’d get at fourteen when I started letting him tag along for keg parties and cruising Gratiot in the Camaro.
“I know what this is, Les,” he said. “Feel-good mission. Make the gimp forget his bummer. Well, fuck you. I don’t want it.”
He lurched up from the couch and stood, unsteady, staggering a little as he tore loose the straps that held on the arm, which he then grabbed by the wrist and yanked off. I was still waiting on the one-liner, the funny face, any of the things he used to do to cut up a bad vibe—something to show me he was still my prankster little brother Zane. But he just stared at me, looking ready to pitch over like that printing press had taken his balance along with his arm. “This is me now,” he finally said.
“Bullshit,” I said. I got out of my chair, put on some Zeppelin, and that flicked his switch.
“Did I say I wanted to hear any music?” he screamed, “NO FUCKING MUSIC,” and by the time I turned away from the stereo to tell him to lighten up, he was already on me, prosthetic arm coming down on my head. I fell back against the stereo, knocked over his milk crate full of records.
Standing over me, he pulled off his shirt. “See it,” he shouted, waving the red, scarred nub of his arm in my face, “Look at it! This is who I am. Look, fucker!”
I lashed out, shoved him away hard, too hard, and the coffee table took his legs from under him, sending him flopping onto the couch.
“You’re still my brother,” I said as I stood, “Nothing’s changed.”
“Don’t you get it? I’m never playing bass again. There’s no more music. NO. MORE. MUSIC.” And behind me I could hear Zeppelin skipping, stuck on one note like the band was going to vamp it forever. I slapped the needle off the record and skidded the room into silence.
“That’s up to you,” I said.
“You think you know what it means to lose something,” he mumbled, his anger fading as he searched the floor with his eyes, looking among the fast food wrappers and newspapers and empties for the reason why this had happened to him. “But you don’t. You don’t know shit.”
Only I did know, I knew too well, and what I should’ve done was grab him by the hair and shove a picture of his nephew into his face, but I didn’t.
“I know this girl,” I said. “She digs the band. I can bring her by.”
“You bring some fucking whore over here and I’ll kill her,” he said, and he pushed himself up from the couch with his one arm, wobbled down the hall and slammed the door to his room.