In for Repair.Sep 17, 2015
“Broken leg, slight rip on the inner thigh, dents around the… wait hold on, could you turn her, yeah, good, she’s off…
“…dents around the neck area, burns, left eyebrow missing, grazed cheek, new hair nee… No. Hold on. Leave her over there with the others, no not that way up, stop pissing about.
“Where was I? New hair needed, yeah, no, darker, slightly, that’ll do. OK to patch her up Chris? And can we have some music in here?”
Jazz funk bursts out of the speakers and the lights come on to reveal a workshop stacked high with dozens of mostly inanimate female bodies of all shapes, colours and sizes, some separated from one, two or sometimes several mostly inanimate body parts. Three men grace the scene. A first brings in one new body after another, usually over his shoulder but some heavier ones in a slow jolty drag along the floor, another sits by a bench examining them and a third is tucked, face away, working in a corner decorated by an array of pliers and soldering irons.
A stray foot rolls across the floor and the engineer reaches back to grab it without even turning his head. He continues his work, fastening a black wig onto a stunned balded head. The carrier stops for breath in the doorway subconsciously running his fingers back and forth over his own hand.
A melodic but broken-up hum starts up from the corner and the examiner bursts into laughter. He looks around to get the attention of his colleagues with a cheeky smile and points to a woman slumped in the corner. Her loose curls of blonde hair drape over a tight-fitting t-shirt depicting strawberries, as a single remaining eye looks around the room blinking erratically in its socket. Her head is tilted to the side and her right foot taps to the music at an unnatural angle. The engineer keeps looking forward at his work as if unaware but the carrier shuffles over to her with arched shoulders. He bends down and reaches towards her back.
“Nah, you might as well leave her on. Cheers this place up a bit. Come on love, show us what you’ve got.
“Shame she can’t dance with her feet screwed up like that.”
The three men continue to work as the tapping woman keeps impressively on beat. Occasional other splutters, shakes and sighs break out from the bodies in the corners but they’re mostly drowned out by slap bass and a steady stream of chisel scrapes and saw cuts.
“This one’s a bit like your Henrietta! Look at that smile! What a smile! Look at that! Are you sure it isn’t her Chris?” He holds up the bruised but in pretty good condition body on the bench in front of him like a ventriloquist’s doll, clamping his hands between the top of her head and her chin to move it around.
The engineer remains in the corner and doesn’t even turn his head.
The examiner slumps her back down, rolls his eyes, looks behind her ears and scribbles a few notes on a sheet of paper. The woman is lifeless but smiling. He pushes her over to a pile in the corner with the notes stuck to her forehead.
Another is dumped on the bench, front down, her blank smiling face staring out to the side. A red trickle of liquid pours down from her leg.
“Get us some bandages, this one’s leaking. Christ. They could have at least made it smell better. Yeah, that’ll do.”
The carrier hands him what looks like nothing more than quilted toilet roll and goes back through the doorway to continue carrying.
The examiner cleans up the mess, swipes the woman with something like a supermarket barcode scanner and scribbles another set of notes.
He wipes his face with a clean bit of the tissue, passes the body on to the engineer and looks for the carrier and his next job.
There’s a long pause. The carrier doesn’t re-enter.
“You OK out there?”
“Chris, can you turn the music off for a bit?”
The music fades out to be replaced by the sound of the carrier sobbing and hyperventilating around the corner outside the room.
“Hold on a minute.”
The examiner stretches his neck and back and reluctantly moves out from behind the desk. He walks around the corner. The engineer freezes his position.
In a few seconds a shout of disgust is heard from around the corner.
“What the hell! Where’s the skin gone? Christ. What. Yeah, I know, it is. Just take the rest of the day off. Thanks for… yeah. See you tomorrow. Yeah, it’s fine. Yeah. Bloody hell.”
A sound of footsteps shuffling off into the distance and the handling of fabric is heard and after a minute the examiner slowly comes back into the room with one hand in his hair, the other dragging a large grey bag behind him.
“I told them flipping feelings around like that was a dumb idea. They should have left it numb like it was. This just gives people an incentive to…” He looks down at the bag.
“Christ. She’s smiling.”
He breaths in sharply through his teeth, walks over to the engineer, mumbles something and walks away trying not to look at any of the bodies in the room.
As the examiner leaves, the engineer slowly empties the contents of the bag out of sight. He shakes his head, reaches for some tools above him and speaks out in a gentle, calming voice:
“Don’t worry. It’ll be OK.”