Glenda had enlisted as a medic during the war, hoping that she could learn further nursing skills on the country’s dime, unaware that she would be called to the front line, expected to heal hopeless cases of physical damage. On the day that the hospital room was filled with injuries and casualties, blood pouring everywhere, Glenda had been unable to deal with the horror, and she shut down, unable to do anything but arrange the boxes of Band-Aids in the storage room. Eventually the bodies were carried out and the room was left empty. Glenda was summarily discharged, and she constantly thought back to the day when the bodies were carried out, unable to speak of it, her lips sewn shut by a thread of guilt from an empty room.
Glenda managed to regroup and found work as a School Nurse. Early on, she dealt with paper cuts, and various students who had swallowed inappropriate amounts of clay. One day, a student walked into the nurse’s office, his head bleeding. Glenda determined that the cut wasn’t too severe, and treated it with a Band-Aid. Glenda then applied more Band-Aids to the student’s head, hoping to heal any emotional wounds as well. Soon his skull was covered with Band-Aids, and he found it hard to breathe. Glenda removed a few bandages around the student’s nose so that he could inhale. “Thanks, but it’s nothing serious, I was just hit by some kid,” said the student, wrestling himself away from Glenda’s administrations. Glenda was soon fired, and she walked out the door, applying a Band-Aid to a plastic potted plant.
Glenda decided that she wanted to continue with the practice of mass Band-Aid application. Perhaps this would be a way to help heal the world of its ills. Searching the Internet, she found a cult of healers. Glenda contacted them, and was soon ringing the doorbell of a nondescript house. A woman in a grey skirt and blouse answered the door. “Hello, I’m here about the ad,” said Glenda, standing severely in her starched white nurse’s outfit.
“You must be Glenda, do come in. I am The Librarian,” said the woman in grey. “The goal of our organization is to heal the community by spreading positivity, knowledge and beautiful vibrations. At various random unexpected locations throughout the city, I leave a book, a collection of stimulating printed ideas for somebody to pick up and read.” She and Glenda entered a study lined with full bookshelves, where The Librarian removed some books from a shelf, and put them into a bag.
They walked down the hallway to the next room, where a bald man was painting abstract swirling shapes on the walls. “I am The Muralist,” said the man. “As we wander the avenues, I paint wild colorful designs on fences and walls, brightening the world around us.”
The Librarian and Glenda moved to the next room in the hall, where an energetic woman in bright yellow workout garb was pressing her fingers into the shoulders of an overweight man on a massage table. “Hello, I am The Masseuse,” said the woman, pouring oil onto the puffy flesh of the man on the table. “I wheel this portable table around the community and offer massages to citizens who are feeling physical discomfort, providing a healing service.” Glenda looked into the eyes of The Masseuse, sensing something off about her, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
“I’m interested in healing people as well,” said Glenda, launching into her theory of using Band-Aids to cure the world of its ailments.
“Excellent, you’ll fit right in with us,” said The Librarian. “We’re going on an excursion in 23 minutes, and I encourage you to join us.”
“I look forward to it!” enthused Glenda, checking her nurse’s bag for a supply of Band-Aids.
As the group of four left the house, The Librarian whispered to Glenda, “By the way, The Masseuse is a bit of a loose cannon, you’ll need to keep your eyes on her.”
They began walking through the neighborhoods, The Librarian leaving books on stairwells and in trees, The Muralist painting large psychedelic murals on fences and walls, The Masseuse welcoming people onto the rolling table where her fingers provided magical relief. Glenda joined in, applying Band-Aids to those who had incurred cuts and scrapes. As they walked through the golden sunshine, the healers felt rays of flowery love, positive support and approval from the citizenry.
Toward the end of the day, the sunshine faded behind dark storm clouds. Glenda noticed an edge start to creep into the voice of The Masseuse, whose hands were twisting into clawlike appendages, black butterflies emerging from the fingertips. “I feel the evil spirit filling my soul, it’s time to release the agents of death,” murmured The Masseuse, kneading with vile intent, rendering her massage patient into an inert and lifeless victim of lethal relaxation. More black butterflies flew out of The Masseuse’s fingertips.
Glenda approached The Masseuse with a handful of Band-Aids and a warm smile, attempting to summon all of the positive energy that she could. Singing softly, Glenda focused her bright vibrations on The Masseuse’s hands, and applied Band-Aids to each of the fingertips, suppressing the emergence of the black butterflies. A look of relief and happiness appeared on The Masseuse’s face. She hugged Glenda, saying quietly, “Thank you.” The clouds parted, and the group continued on into the warm night.
Farmer Bill walked amidst shrubs, cardboard and discarded cans, inspecting his crops. Dark flower vines twisted around old rusting Pennzoil cans, while weeds and poison ivy sprouted in the decaying frame of a rusted refrigerator. A foul creek ran through the terrain, where stray stalks of corn and small ragged tomato bushes appeared in a wasteland strewn with filth. A large cow named Mabel moved through the fetid field, chewing on clumps of dead grass.
Farmer Bill’s wife and children were long estranged, the result of a heated argument in which Mabel the Cow had whispered venomous ideas in Farmer Bill’s ear. “Get away from them, then you’ll be free to revel in fantasies of degradation and debasement!” advised Mabel. The appearance of Mabel the Cow in Farmer Bill’s thoughts had coincided with the precipitous decline of his farm business.
As Farmer Bill was kicking around discarded paper bags in the dirt, a car pulled up in a cloud of dust, and a black-suited man got out of the vehicle. “Good afternoon sir, my name is Doug Snaff, and I’m a representative of the agribusiness sector of Acme Mega Corp.,” said the man, extending a hand to Farmer Bill. “Just passing by, I noticed the growth potential of this property. Would you be interested in becoming part of the Acme Mega Corp factory farm family? We’ve already taken over a number of farms in the area.” Farmer Bill just looked at him with bleary bloodshot eyes. “Let me tell you a little bit more about what I’m proposing,” said Doug Snaff, sweating in the summer heat. “We are a multinational corporation that believes in the ideals of agrarian America: farmhouses, silos and green grass. We specialize in the cultivation of colossal corn, a genetically modified hybrid used in the production of high fructose corn syrup, utilizing high volumes of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which we also manufacture. Our cows yield hamburger that we generously cleanse with ammonia to kill the E-Coli. We manage the process of food production from seed to supermarket, and…”
As Doug Snaff continued his spiel, Farmer Bill stared off into the distance, seeing the approaching form of Mabel the Cow. Within seconds, Mabel was next to Farmer Bill’s ear, whispering, “Yes, do it! Agribusiness is the wave of the future!”
Farmer Bill stared into the dark lenses of Doug Snaff’s sunglasses, as the wind blew more detritus and garbage around his ankles. “I’d like to sell the farm outright,” said Farmer Bill.
“Excellent, I’ll have the papers drawn up,” said Doug Snaff, and Mabel mooed with approval, stomping her hooves.
Within a fairly short period of time, the deal was completed, and Farmer Bill packed up his pickup truck, heading north to a shell-shocked city where he would have an opportunity to explore his shadow side. While driving along the highway, Farmer Bill looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Mabel the Cow sitting in the back of the truck, calmly reading a magazine.
Upon arrival in the city, Farmer Bill found a room at a squalid roach-infested motel. He wandered down the sidewalk to a liquor store, and then drove the city streets. The rest of the evening was a foul blur of syringes, torn condoms, psychotic mooing cows, dross, bubbling tar, numbed gropes, haphazard gun shots, crusted blood, and diseased bodily fluids. Farmer Bill eventually passed out in a puddle of his own vomit, the mooing bovine head of Mabel the Cow spinning in his mind.
He woke up the next morning face down in an urban garden. Community volunteers were busy hoeing soil and cultivating plants. “Perhaps you’d like to help us, sir, we’re planting peas here in row 3,” said one of the volunteers, a tall woman in overalls. As he opened a packet of peas, Farmer Bill fondly remembered running through the fields of his youth, a 10-year old red-haired freckle-faced boy with his golden retriever Tim, throwing a red ball for the dog to fetch, though Tim would usually return with a dismembered limb instead.
In the community garden, Farmer Bill looked around, not seeing Mabel the Cow anywhere.
Eric Suhem can be found in the orange hallway. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Clockwise Cat, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Untoward Magazine, Mad Swirl and elsewhere.