Abridged Version
Bradley Sands


I often dream of an antique clock. Triggering a mechanical reenactment of a man's life at the top of each hour, it annihilates the moments of tedium by cramming his cycle into a minute. The price of observation may or may not have been twenty minutes from my childhood while the body heat of impatient spectators in a Boston Museum suffocated me from all sides.

Its left panel opens to expel a pregnant woman arranged spread-eagle on an operating tablecloth. Her gastroenterologist follows from the right. The doctor makes preparations for the childbirth — writing himself a prescription for an anti-nausea tablet and popping off to the pharmacy — leaving the expectant mother to discharge her lump of joy without the validity of a medical license. The pain lulls her into unconsciousness, and a chainsaw revs up and peeks out of her stomach like a periscope. The chainsaw sashays across its runway, creating an emergency exit. Tiny hands reach out and swing the power tool triumphantly. It's a boy!

The automatons shift back into the belly of the clock. They exchange themselves for an infantile incarnation of the newborn and his chisel-chinned dad. The child leads his father through a hedge maze. The father uses his son's adorableness to attract shrubs of the opposite sex so he can secure the directions out of his predicament and dinner dates ending in non-committal couplings. But each time he yanks his son's leash towards an exaggerated representation of the female form, she squeals with joy at his offspring and fails to initiate conversation. After seven interchanges between the sun and the moon, the father looks up towards the clouds and guffaws in defeat. His son watches as he floats into the sky like a balloon.

Having reached the legal age of consent for running through the sprinklers in a state of undress, the boy snares his predecessor in a peanutbutterfly net. Swallowing him in one chug, the elder absorbs his vitality and naïve experiences.

Mrs. Sugarbush blows her top to signal the end of recess. The boy swears that she will get her comeuppance. After herding him and his classmates back into their earlobe restraints, she makes the mistake of calling on him for the solution to all her calamities. Dodging the question with the agility of someone who gets shot at at all hours of the night, he divulges his secret: the schoolhouse does not exist. It is a hoax. He designed the building plans, supervised its construction, hired the staff, authored the textbooks, masterminded the curriculum ... all for the occasional laugh, which he must execute at a low volume to avoid the sting of Mrs. Sugarbush's wet towel of discipline. Overcome by the fumes of persuasion, the students gnaw off their earlobes and make a break for truancy, leaving their teacher with twelve months of summer vacation. The boy places a watermelon on her desk.

Blink and you'll miss the clockworks substituting the boy for a young man with peach fuzz above his lip and juicy pustules carved into his cheeks. He and his unsavory peer group are hanging out in the parking lot of a Humperdumper Yogurtarium and Toilet Paper Boutique, waiting for the clock to fulfill its obligations as an entertainer. They kill time by conducting surgical strikes on the little hand and doing impersonations with their gelatinous trench coats. The teen jiggles into his posthumously-acclaimed goldfish in a humidifier routine. Trevor and Nickname stare at him vacantly, unable to digest the subtleties of his buffoonery. Despondent over his audience's reaction, he is incapable of seeing the behemothic woman through his tears ... the woman who has just crashed through the store's exit, squawking at her unruly child. Mouth filled with exasperation, he can't warn them of her creeping hands, intent on snatching their coat hangers. And as they fall towards the earth, the woman spanks her son with the cruel plastic and modifies his behavior so it doesn't include the urge to wrap himself in toilet paper and proclaim that undead pharaohs are entitled to free low-fat desserts.

The teen hangs. He watches the parking lot's heavy gravity take his mangled friends on a journey to the center of the Earth's molten core. He can do nothing.

A balloon surrounds the parking lot — not the sort of floating object that's often found in the hospital rooms of the terminally-ill, but a pillowy white blob that usually contains words and levitates above an oblivious person, excreting dots onto their scalp. Today's target is an older stand-in for the teen, who is being interviewed for an entry-level position at a witty retort factory. Whitewater rafting through the memory of his passivity, he doesn't respond to the interviewer's inane questions. The man's sensible tie is so impressed that someone finally had the viscera to stand up to its oppressor. The tie tightens him into unconsciousness and hires the young man on the spot. The brain chemistry of the newly employed swoosh about and try to determine whether or not they are pleased with this decision.

The young man does a dance of uncertainty.

The moon rises. He glares at it, annoyed. It has reached the phase of the lunar cycle when the man in the moon waxes his chest hair. The young man shrieks. His body vibrates like a caffeinated poodle humping its favorite chew toy. His skull slurps down the front of his hair. His belly peeks over his thrift store suit pants. When the transformation is complete, he looks like somebody who has made a decade's worth of blood sacrifices to a witty retort machine. He sits on the floor of his bedroom, trying to balance his budget so he can afford a mattress. The window opens and a woman in a scat burglar suit ski-do-be-bops through it. Lost in the realm of her impeccable scatting abilities, she doesn't notice that someone in the room is hyperventilating. She steals the floor and is halfway to the pawnshop before she discovers she's committed a kidnapping. Their eyes meet, go out for dinner and a movie, and REALLY hit it off. One thing leads to another and the burglar's eyes gets a passing grade on a pregnancy test. The two strangers decide to do what's right ... and a rabbi parachutes down from the heavens to conduct the ceremony. Afterwards the man sticks out his tongue and bonks noses with his new bride.

The four walls of a washing machine ambush him from all sides. It completes a wash cycle, rendering him as pruny as an archetypal witch after spending a relaxing afternoon in her cauldron.

On a bungee jumping excursion with his grandson, he becomes the first senior citizen to involuntarily urinate off the top of the World's Largest Ball of the World's Largest Balls. Then he executes a perfect Triple Lindy dive, which is followed by an important safety message: "When bungee jumping, always use a sturdy cord rather than a jungle vine ... or this can happen to you."

The vine snaps. A pickup truck transporting bowling trophies breaks his fall. The driver never gets the chance to enjoy the spectacular view from the incoming cliff. There's a sternum-shattering crash, and the cliff cruises down the highway looking for its next victim.

A bird lands next to the man's broken yet still ticking body, clutching his severed thumb in its beak ... along with a needle and sutures. But the man is too busy with his heart attack to comprehend that Dr. Tweety is trying to siphon funds from his health insurance provider. And the grim reaper annihilates him in a game of tetherball.

Fifty-nine minutes pass and it begins again. But this time it's different. This time, I watch from a different seat as my impatient hands run the chainsaw through my mother's stomach.


Bradley Sands lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he edits absurdist journal Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. He is the author of the novel, It Came from Below the Belt, which is published by Afterbirth Books. He shares a birthday with Stan Lee. Until he stopped writing comics, he was convinced that there was a great cosmic significance considering the fact that he was born twenty-two years before the end of the twentieth century while Mr. Lee was born twenty-two years after its beginning. He experienced enlightenment after walking into a bookstore and being shocked to see his picture on the cover of Your Four-Year Old: Wild and Wonderful. See more of Sands and his work at www.bradleysands.com.