Carmen Petaccio SHIPWRECKED


Carmen Petaccio

I come to.  Our rowboat’s overturned, cracked and rocking on the riverbank.  You’re in pieces.  You’re scattered all over but still breathing.  I can see your lung in a tree.  It twitches with impossible life.  Hurting, I stand.  I peel your mouth from my elbow. Your voice is as always.
What happened?
Hit a snag. Crashed.  I have bruises.
I can’t see.
But you can hear.
I can hear.
Wading through the reeds, I toss your name to the wind.  You lead me, listening and instructing as I near.  I find your ears at the foot of an anthill.  I brush away the insects, pick off the dirt, will never tell you.  On the way back I accidentally kick your pancreas.
Ouch, my pancreas.
I’m sorry.
I climb the tree and pluck down your lung.  The sun’s low. Navy infects the dusk.  I have little time.  At the edge of the wood rests your ribcage.  I use it as a basket to collect you.  The eyeballs in the bird’s nest.  Miles of intestine.  Your thin, sweet hands entwined with thumbs at war.  An assortment of organs and I can’t tell one from the next.
Once I’m back I gather your parts and try to make things fit.  Your voice is growing faint, dribbling from your mouth.  I’m frantic.
Unknot my intestine.
Like that?
Ahhhhh, just like that.
Things are missing.  It’s getting colder.  I spot your legs, on the opposite side of the river, submerged to the knees in muck.  Your feet kick futilely.
You have beautiful feet.  Have I ever told you that?
I’m sure you have.
Without thinking, I dive into the freezing river.  The water’s brash and the sea spray tickles.  I’m a weak swimmer.  I struggle on the way back, nearly lose a leg to the undertow.  You’re near completion.
What are you missing?
My brain. My head. The shoulders up.
At the horizon, the sun winks to nothing and I’m running through the afterglow.  I am desperate.  I am bruised.  I need you whole again.  I need you whole so I can sleep off all this, with you.  In full sprint I trip over your head and face-plant into a flowerbed.  White roses sway in silent laughter.  I store your head like a precious coconut in the crook of my arm and return to you.
Reconstruction begins.  I rush as your processes fail.  I align the extremities.  I pop in the eyes.  Every organ is jammed into place.  The intestines are coiled.  From the rowboat, I snag your sewing kit.  I overlay the skin and join you with Xing thread.  At last, you are back.
How do you feel?
Terrible.  I’m going to die.
What?  Why?  I did everything right.
You forgot.
…your heart.
No, you fool.  My other lung.
Of course.
Every lover needs a lung.
Once you’re gone I patch up the boat and load you in.  I kiss you off.  That night, my sheets are like metal.

Carmen Petaccio is from New Jersey.  He studied Economics and Creative Writing at New York University, and will be pursuing his MFA in Fiction at Columbia University in the fall.  Currently, he works in laser tag.

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