Fiction from Web del Sol

Job Eats Them Raw, with the Dogs

Brian Evenson


Part I.

Breaking Ground

      Bone Job clawed his way through the smooth wood of the coffin lid, wearing his finger bones to stubs. He wormed his way up slowly through the loamy soil, pulling himself skyward by the roots of trees.
      He walked down the dusty cemetery road, bones clicking, shards of sack fluttering, skull fixed in a grin.
      "What a glorious day to search for God!" proclaimed Job.
      He stared at the slight knobs of finger left above his knuckles, worried that when he met God he would be unable to shake God's hand.


      The sun beat down. He walked through forest and field.
      "My only fault," Job revealed to the stinkbug crawling along his radius, "was that I was Job." He stopped, gave a fleshless smile, flicked the stinkbug weedward. "God's only fault was that God was God," said Job.
      "What does Job declare?" Job cried aloud, in distress. "_is_ God still!"


      He walked ashen paths, his bones growing grey with dust. He wiped his bones clean, but the dust of the earth continued to trouble him. It trickled between his bare joints, stopped them up. His steps went jerky. He lamented onward.
      "My joints--they bind, they petrify!" he cried. "Yet shall I curse the dust which, serving God, heaps this affliction upon me? What is Job, but bones? And dust, but the will of God? What is man but dust, and dust but the son of man? What is man's soul but dust, and man's body but dustbin?"
      Job stopped, listened for Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz to babble their response from deep in their rocky plots. Nothing but insects and birds.

Rigor Mortis Genuflectus

      Job Saint-Vitused down the path, his left knee joint packed tight with dust. The leg had turned straight and stiff, unbending. He heaved it along spastically.
      "_Rigor mortis genuflectus_ has joined itself to my afflictions. Lord have pity!" prayed Job.
      He pitched forward into the dirt. Striking the kneecap with a fleshless fist, he managed to crack his metacarpals.
      "Affliction!" cried Job.
      He pounded on his patella, attemped to unscrew it. After hours without success, he agonized himself to standing. The knee, he found, had regained suppleness of its own accord.
      "Salvation!" he proclaimed, and continued on in pursuit of his way.

Heart of Affliction

      Striding toward him was a man wearing a red-and-black plaid shirt and suspenders. The man carried, slung over his shoulder, a double-edged Redline axe.
      Job quickened his pace.
      "God, I presume?" said Job, extending the ruins of a hand.
      "Not quite," said the lumberjack. "But put her there."
      They shook hands warmly.
      "I could have sworn..." said Job, shaking his skull. "Uncanny resemblance."
      The lumberjack shook his head. "God don't have no axe like this," he said.
      "I must admit," said Job, reaching out to stroke the axe. "Without doubt a precision instrument of fine quality."
      Swinging the axe off his shoulder, beckoning for Job to follow, the lumberjack left the path. The pair walked through young aspen and birch, Job trailing behind. The lumberjack wrapped his arms around trees, moving from tree to tree until he found one he could not reach around.
      "Here's an eyeful for you," said the lumberjack.
      He held the axe handle between his knees, spitting into the cups of his palms. He lifted the axe and, with a single blow, cut the tree through.
      "Affliction!" cried Job. "What sin have I sinned, Lord, that I too have not received an axe of this caliber? Wherefore hath God forborne to reward me openly? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
      "Affliction?" said the lumberjack. "You want affliction? You don't even know what affliction is!"

The Holy City, Afar

      The trees thinned out, disappeared entirely. At the base of the distant hills, they discerned a walled city, a smooth lake before it. They slept on the edge of the woods, in the early morning continuing toward the city.
      "The holy city?" said Job. "Beside the cloudless sea?"
      "You got it," said the lumberjack.
      "The light of God upon its face? The gates thrown open wide?"
      "None other," said the lumberjack. "By day, that is."

Behold, the Sharpness of the Blade.

      In a field of trampled wheat on the edge of the city, they came across a woman. Her hands were tied behind her back. A dirty, frayed rope led away from her waist to a thick stake in the ground.
      "You must help me," she said, seeing them.
      "She is our sister in affliction," exhorted Job. "We should render her service."
      The lumberjack approached the woman, axe held high. He halved her, quartered her. He kept chopping her finer and finer until all trace of her had vanished.
      "Now that's affliction!" cried the lumberjack.
      He turned, ran back toward the trees.
      Job looked at the holy city, then at the receding figure of the lumberjack, then back at the holy city. Bowing low to the gates thrown open wide, he turned from them, ran shouting his pursuit.

Much Supplication

      "Lord, I move forward but thou art not there; and backward but I cannot perceive thy presence. I turn to my left hand and find thee not at all; I turn to my right hand and thou art absent. How long must they servant attend before he may hold the blessed weapon of thy mercy in his hands?
                Thy will be mine,

P.S. Speaking directly to the matter of the weapon of mercy, I would prefer a Redline axe. If _I_ had one to give, Lord, I would give it forthwith."

Vale of Tears

      Spring rains washed the dust from Job's bones. Soft tendrils of mold sprouted from his spine. Water poured through his empty spaces. Chipmunks mistook him for a tree. Birds pilfered his bones for their nests. In summer, the sun bleached him. In autumn, red leaves, paper-thin scrolls of birch bark, lodged behind his ribs. In winter, his parts fled him. He curled up in a snowbank, awaited a thaw.


      He ate rot and tree mold, shat grubs and maggots. He swabbed the insides of his ribs clean with handfuls of salt grass. Masticated mint leaves worked miracles for his breath.

Standing on the Edge

      He tore stiff whips from the willows, weaving them together for shelter. With the thaw, the beavers pilfered his hut strand by strand. He awoke to find the hut gone, a beaver gnawing on the tip of his coccyx.
      "Affliction!" cried Job.
      The beaver scuttled back, watched from a distance, fled.
      "What are bones but sticks and stones? And what God if not the master builder? And what Job if not scrap lumber? Use me roughly, Lord, to fill the gaps, but discard me not.
      "And provide the axe," Job prayed. "Amen."
      He wandered on the edge of the forest, scaling the trees at night to sleep skewered in their branches. He gathered grubs and fungi from under rocks. He swallowed handfuls of poisonous berries, watched them drop through his jaws, rattle off his ribs. From the edge of the forest, he saw the holy city, distant, floating in a mist. Birds built nests in his pelvic girdle. Hatchlings skittered within him, demanding food. He spent hours eating, but was never satisfied.


      Fungus consumed his feet, crept up his legs. Termites dug into his bones, consuming the pithy marrow which the maggots had passed over. He was aswarm with insects.
      He climbed a large rock, looked out at the distant city. He stood atop the rock. He stopped moving. He felt things moving through him. He watched the sun slide down into the water by the city--as much as he could see of it through the trees. He did not move a muscle, having no muscles. He did not move anything that he had, not even a bone.
      But in thought, he lamented.

Click on the right arrow below and go to next page