For Hubert, in this static state he had adopted for the past few hours there was one thing he was certain of, that the next thing he did would start a continuing series of events that would lead to an outcome which had been preordained according to this next move.
For several hours, he had stood planted on the kitchen counter where she had left him a note pinned to the new vacuum cleaner he had purchased for her birthday. It read quite simply “No thank you. Unlovingly, – Diane”. Hubert had held the note in his hand for several minutes, wondering of its intent before he turned it over. On the other side read a similar, yet more precise message: “In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m leaving you Hubert, this is your clue.”
He had discovered it at approximately 8,654 seconds ago and was beginning to lose count, or at least in the very least he had grown unsure of his accuracy in counting seconds. His thoughts were beginning to drift again.
The clock now read 10:32, and he had been awaiting her return for one hour and 16 minutes longer than he felt he should, and the longer he waited for her, the more he gained a sense that this was not some silly sort of a trick being played upon him, that she actually might not be coming back. Hubert did not like this sense, and in the 8,654 seconds he had been awaiting her return he had searched deep within his fishbowl head for some rationale for his current state of affairs. The only thing that came up was a personal groan, one intended specifically for himself, but not intentionally produced.
He began to take note of his place. Being a man of a practical nature, Hubert found it fortunate that she had chosen to leave the note in the kitchen. The kitchen had given Hubert a full view of the neighborhood performing thier activities from the point where Hubert, the vacuum cleaner, and the note had been fixed for this unfortunately long period of time. Hubert watched his peers as they went about their duties as good, useful citizens; positive influences on society to which he could look to for support and advice. Happy, content people that aliens might even select as proper specimens to start a new world.
At that moment, as had been happening for at least 14 minutes now, Charles with the curled mustache who lived across the street was mowing his lawn, as he and many others did on Saturdays. Charles had a lawnmower which he could proudly sit upon and drink lemonade as he went about his monthly lawn chores. Charleston always seemed to have managed the American dream quite well. He knew how to do things in style, and there was a certain je ne sais quoi about him that gave a particularity to kind of person he was. Even the way he could swing from Charles to Charleston made it seem as if he had a superior knowledge of matters of style and fashionable living. Old man Bob, though he was not currently mowing his lawn at this precise interval, was a man true to his period and he had a very rare machine, an old push blade lawn mower with counter rotating blades that chewed through the fiber of his lawn with the tenacity and precision of a surgeon hard at work. Zero carbon output and it seemed to do a fair job of keeping the old man in shape. Now that was a machine to be reconed with. Jarrod across the street hired a service to keep the lawn for him. On Saturdays, you could see him too, working on what appeared to be important stuff from his office as the Dave’s 17-year old son Steven passed by the window, lawn mower in tow. Even Steve, at the young age of 17 seemed quite the entrepreneur. He mowed lawns for at least a dozen others in the neighborhood and now drove a rather new truck. Just seventeen years old and he seemed to have it all together.
Hubert retracted his gaze from Steven as Steve, bareback and muscular and exchanged gazes with Jarrod’s post pubescent beauty queen daughter. She was growing into a fine creature, one who would always be far beyond his own reaches. Hubert never had and never would taste the fruits of a beautiful woman, and it was this last tidbit that forced Hubert’s gaze away from the goings on of the neighborhood in which he lived, back into the solace of his own home.
Finally having gained the clairity of thought that his next task would require, Hubert turned his gaze toward his own lawnmower. Indeed, therein lye an answer to his problems. Huberts mower had no style. As a reflection of who he was, it failed miserably. It was an orange electrical device. In past days, Hubert had run over its cord while stumbling through the lawn with the weightless machine. It now had 5 places in the cord where it had been reattached. Hubert though about those 5 times in which the machine was entangled by it’s own extensions. Those 5 times in which the overall flaw of the design brought the machine to a screeching halt and it brought him to absolute misery, misery which a great inventor cannot afford. See a problem, offer a solution; that was Hubert’s motto. And it just so happened that at this juncture, that lawn mower was creating all kinds of problems. It was time for Hubert to make his next move. The seconds were waning down and the sun was lofting higher and higher in the sky. It was important to get started before noon.
It was a simple step, laying the note back down on the counter and lifting his right foot from the ground. The simplest of actions led by an impulsive urge. Hubert followed a crack in the doorway through which light shone heavily. The door leading to his garage never opened completely. It was like a beacon light guiding him to the harbor and he followed it and across the cord that belonged to the vacuum cleaner, finally coming to rest and bringing the left foot off the ground as well. A venture had begun. The next step had been taken and what was to come after had been led by an unavoidable instinct, he had little choice, simply instinct, his wits about him and blind trust.
Before crossing the gateway to the garage Hubert stopped short and turned around. His eyes fell on the cord, that thing that threatened to trip him, for just one last laugh. He wouldn’t have it, not right now, not in this mood. His arm reached into the garage, that place of his own where things were left exactly where he planned and grabbed his shears; just to the inside of the wall beyond the light switch and set them upon the cord, cutting it off before it could get to him. Hubert rolled the cord up and went into the garage.
Inside the garage was an array of machines. Parts that he tinkered with or took from things to put to other uses. Hubert had quite the collection of things, things that spoke of him, of his own particular assets. He glanced around and took a look at his own lawnmower, not that junky electric turd that Diane had purchased for him, claiming it was “environmental”, during her do-gooder phase, but the Lawn Boy mower. Hubert purchased it several years ago from a garage sale. It was a bang for his buck at the time, a 4-clyinder internal combustion 6.5 horsepower engine with manual pull crank, 6 speed throttle control and adjustable height variation. It was a great purchase, something he could be proud to own, but soon after, the mower would reveal to him that it had suffered a bit of neglect. Neglect that Diane did not wish Hubert to pay for. Its neglect had continued on the basis that mowing a lawn had never been all that important to Hubert. He had other responsibilities. Responsibilities which now seemed far less important, and relieved by one less mouth to feed. Hubert decided it was time to take care of his own needs.
He set about to the back yard with the electrical cord in hand, returning shortly with a sheep in tow, electrical cord wrapped around its neck. The creature was so docile, such a simple creature it seemed almost domesticated, like a dog for a minute. It took guidance so well Hubert believed the task would require minimal restraint, perhaps a bit of coaxing, like trying to bed with Dianne, a task which required restraint, until the task was in process. Hubert hoisted the sheep up onto a table and untied the cord from its neck. then wrapped it around the feet so as to prevent it from getting up and walking away.
The problem with the sheep was that its mouth was too small and too slow. Perhaps not even necessary if one could perform the necessary task of mulching the feed for the animal. With the sheep on the table and restrained, Hubert set the knife to the mouth of the sheep and pressed into it. Piercing the knife into the cheek of the sheep produced thick pulse of dark red. The contrast of red to white produced a discernable line across the neck of the sheep. He thought of her lipstick, that line where the edge of the lipstick clarifies an immediate transition between membrane tissue and epidermis. The docile behavior of the sheep came to an abrupt halt as the sheep kicked in response to it. It squealed and squirmed, knocking over a can of nails and smearing blood all over the table. Splashing some across Hubert’s cheek. Hubert found the wrathing and turning of the sheep a plausible concern with the work he was about to perform. He had not expected such resistance from such a docile little creature, but it was reasonable that this would continue throughout the operation. He decided further restraint would be necessary. Perhaps if he knocked the sheep out, that alone would be restraint enough, but the question came to mind, how hard do you hit a sheep to knock it out? And with what device. He had a hammer, but it seemed plausible that the sudden impact of the hard metal might fracture the skull, or rupture it to a point which might take months to repair. Perhaps a rubber mallet might do better, but the same risks were involved. Was it even possible, do sheep get knocked out? The more Hubert thought about it, the more difficult the answer seemed to be. He didn’t want it dead, the sheep would have to remain alive. This task would require further restraint. So he went about it.
There was an old crate in the garage which seemed just about perfect for the job, perhaps a bit smaller than he would like, but that would simply mean a tighter fit. He knocked the sidewall panels out of the crate and opened the framing so as to fit the sheep inside. Legs through the bottom, head through the front and sides bulging out of the left and right. As Hubert closed the framing on the sheep, the true smallness of the framing came into play, compressing the ribcage of the sheep. There was about 3.5 inches of gap between the claming latch at the top of the frame and it’s closing device, as he pressed against the body of the sheep with the framing he though about how it might limit the lung capacity of the animal and it occured to him as a happy accident, one of those design flaws that improves the design of the thing. If the sheep couldn’t breathe quite as well, it would tire more easily and exhibit less refusal.
Reaching into an old closet for some more rope to hold the sheep’s head firmly in place, Hubert noticed the blood on his hands. When handling the crate it didn’t matter, the crate was an old dusty tool, but on the closet door, this wouldn’t do. He couldn’t have random misplaced splotches of red scattered throughout the garage. He turned to the sheep and began inspecting it for some sort of leakage pattern examining it’s fibers for absorbency, thinking perhaps they would act as another happy accident, but, as he had suspected, their absorbency factor was not great enough. Here the sheep had bled through all the absorbency its fur had to offer with a simple cut to the cheek. The fur made it difficult to see muscle composition as well. The fur would have to go, and the liquid would have to drain into a pan from a smooth surface. The hair of the animal was an obstacle if nothing else, so he set about to the bathroom to begin shaving the fur. Zero advantage to fur he thought. Again, she came to his thoughts. Diane would know what to do with it. She was a woman and she could turn the wool into a blanket or something. Maybe he would keep it just in case, in the end maybe he could fill an old pillowcase with it and offer it to the sheep so that it might have a comfortable place to rest. He left to the bathroom.
Hubert returned with an electric buzzer and a single blade safety razor. The buzzer made short work of the sheep. In a mere 486 seconds he had shaved off 99% of the wool, finding that he didn’t really need the single blade safety razor at all. The musculature of the sheep was plain as day without its fur the sheep was a veritable diagram to its own internal structures. It was so thin it appeared emaciated. This disappointed Hubert as he had sought out the biggest of the herd specifically because he wanted a strong animal. No matter, this was the best his herd had to offer, he would proceed.
Breaking the jaw of the sheep seemed like it would be resolved with a simple lever slid into the mouth and turned sideways, however the sheep turned its head with the lever. He turned the lever clockwise from a 3 o’clock position all the way to 10 before the neck would turn no more. He lurched onto the lever, turning it a bit further before achieving no results. He couldn’t tell if the neck would break first or if it would be the jaw, so he resolved to breaking the jaw with a chisel and hammer. He had avoided this as it would naturally cause the sheep to bleed to some degree and blood loss was not only messy, but it also had risks and was not cosmetically pleasing. However a broken neck just would not do.
Hubert went to his tool drawer and pulled out an old rag, a 2lb chisel with a 2” blade and an 8 lb sledge hammer. He brought them to the sheep and wrapped the rag around the sheep’s mouth. Placing the tip of the chisel to the lower right side of the sheep’s jaw, he reached for the hammer. Feeling the weight of the hammer, a sudden sense of preparedness came about him. There was something about the forceful impact of hammer to chisel through rag, skin, and bone that came into his own senses. He could feel the weight of the impact, the suddenness of it. And braced himself for it, balancing the hammer in it’s hand and performing the initial bounces that one makes prior to impact when they want to complete a task in just one swing. It is a sort of blind aiming process mixed with a bracing for impact. It’s an aiming to readiness, aiming for a relief of empathy, aiming for determination; the sort of determination that Hubert had always been lacking. He closed his eyes, thought of Diane for an instant.
The sheep squealed, producing a noise not unlike that of a bird’s squalk. Its body writhed, stressing the members of it’s tiny prison, tensing the rope that held it’s head in place. It’s face grew an expression and it’s eyes had widened, expressing a desperate kind of fear that went beyond panic. Hubert watched as the crate torque slightly and the ropes that held the sheep in place tensioned and he grew a smile of satisfaction; proud of the sturdiness of his contraption. Now that he had gone halfway, there was no turning back. He reached toward the sheep to pet it lightly on the head, but the sheep had lost all of it’s former obedience and familiarity with Hubert. Forcefully, he examined the left side of the jaw and found that the break on the right had disfigured the jaw so that he should be able to bend it out without the need for another break. Reaching into the front of the jaw he tucked his index and middle finger behind the lower front teeth and under the tongue with his thumb pressed hard under the chin. With his other hand he placed his palm over the nose and his thumbs and fingers just under the upper row of teeth. With a powerful jerk the jaw popped open entirely so that it could now be folded backwards and tied against the neck of the sheep. To fold it back entirely required two incisions, one which had been made earlier on the left cheek, and another on the opposite cheek. Using the knife again, Hubert performed the two incisions and tied the jaw up against the neck.
With the throat fully exposed, Hubert noticed that he would need to slowly widen the passage. He would need several pieces of PVC pipe to shove down the cavity to keep it open. This would make for a chute in which to feed mulch to the sheep. Over time the cavity would expand and be replaced with ever wider chutes, and as he used the sheep the size of the stomach would expand too. Hubert felt strong promise in his newest device. He had watched a video in the past which illustrated the use of fistula on a cow. He thought of how he might be able to put this to use as an overflow hole while the stomach was in the process of expanding.
The next task was to attach the motor of the lawnmower to the sheep’s back, like a saddle. This was very easily done with a few straps using the motor mounts from the lawnmower. The blade was to go underneath the neck and chest of the sheep, requiring an extension arm leading from the motor, around the body of the sheep. For this he used the sleeve and drive of a plumbing router which was plugged into a mounting bracket holding attached to the body of the dismembered lawnmower. The sheep would essentially push the body of the lawnmower in the direction it needed to go.
After about an hour of tinkering with connections, changing fluids on the motor and lubricating parts which might create friction, Hubert was ready for a test run. He brought this latest invention to his front yard; ready to test it out. He had planned it well and his expectations were great. The clock read 1:56 and although it was later than he had wanted, it wasn’t too late to involve himself in neighborhood rituals, 2 o’clock was a fine time to mow his own lawn. He opened the garage door and guided the machine to the front yard. A quick pull of the starter and device was up and running. Everything had gone as planned except for one stupid simple thing. The sheep did not know what to do or where to go. It just stood there, gazing. This was not the cooperative sheep he had expected. Hubert felt he had gone through a lot of trouble to improve upon the mower, to improve the sheep and it’s lack of cooperation served only to anger him. He nudged the sheep a few times, then he tried pulling it, pushed it, and thought to offer it food, but looking at the yard and his tall grass, the thought to himself that there was probably enough food already around it, so that wouldn’t do much good. After staring at it a while, he yelled at it, which attracted the attention of his neighbors.
From across the street Jarrod’s daughter let out a shriek. Perhaps she had become an expert window gazer in her years of enticing Steve’s gazes and staring the neighborhood down through her glass frame. The sound generated a turn in the neck of Old Man Bob who never minded turning his glance her way. His eyes traced her long skinny finger along her thin smooth arm to her shoulder and up her delicate supple neck to a wide vibrating gap of white teeth and pulpy pink membrane tissue which released from it a perceptible E minor chord. His eyes forced his head to follow her gaze, and her voice to Hubert, across the road, yelling at a sheep in his front yard. His eyes quickly returned to her lips, still vibrating, now with laughter. She had a way of doing that, of making precedence for her laughter with violent shrieks. She always found Hubert to be a laughable sort of fellow, but the sight of him yelling at a sheep in the front yard seemed to her simply hysterical.
Hubert would have lamb chops from an aged lamb that day and for weeks thereafter. Failure is a dish best kept to one’s self. Being a rather silent man, he returned to his previous state, that static stated he had released himself from earlier in the morning, and from this state, he thought of his next move.