Tuesday, 5 May 2009

From "Job's Skin Game"

By Alasdair Gray.

[...] All but the works supervisor at once cheered up, congratulated me on my wise decision, said I would gain rather than lose financially because blah blah blah blah blah. So the paperish arm left me with nothing to enjoy but my skin game.

The nature of other crusts (Lace, Fishscale, Snakeskin, Shell, Biscuit, Straw and Pads) I leave to the imagination of my readers, but some cannot be classified by a simple name. From the shallow valley above the caudal vertebrae I have removed three discs of the same size but different textures: beewing, parchment and paper, joined at the point where they overlapped by a little dark purple oval cake. I have also detached something like a tiny withered leaf, intricately mottled with black and grey, glossily smooth on the underside but with a knap like Lilliputian velvet on the upper. Anything often thought about enters our dreams and I sometimes dream of more extravagant growths. One is like a thin slab of soft, colourless cheese, slightly wrinkled: it peels off with no physical sensation at all. Another lies under it and another under that. At last I uncover what I know is the lowest layer which I fear to remove, knowing that underneath lies nothing but bone wrapped in a network of naked veins, arteries, tendons and nerves, yet intense curiosity is driving me to expose what I dread to see when I fortunately awaken.

I reduced the bouts of wild scratching to once a week and between them carefully removed the crusts I have listed and the others I have not. The pleasure of this harvesting is twofold: sensual because the raw skin beneath feels briefly relieved, perhaps because it can perspire and breathe more freely; emotional because I like separating the dead from the quick, removing what is not the living me from what is. After each session I apply ointment then sweep up the dust, flakes and crusts with a hand-held vacuum cleaner of the sort used on car upholstery. Yet I do so with a kind of regret, feeling these former growths of mine should be used for something. I considered gathering the biggest in a porcelain jar as Victorian ladies gathered flower petals [...]

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