{ A Small Sign of Respect }
Benjamin Davies

let it goDr. Geoffrey Bond, a lithe and ebullient Australian pediatric surgeon, paused before he cut into the dead child's belly. It was a brief pause. I had never seen him hesitate before. But there it was, his hand hovering above the child's velvet skin—faltering. A scalpel quelled from its journey. It was a prayer from the surgeon. A small sign of respect before we removed this young child's liver and kidneys.
   We met this dead kid in the operating room. It is considered bad form for the operating team to meet the parents of the deceased. Grieving families seldom want to shake hands with surgeons who will stop the heart of their child and then rip their organs out. No matter. I did not want to meet them.
   The baby boy rolled into the operating room with a halo of dolls surrounding his head. Barnie was there, so was the gay teletubby, and even my personal favorite, Elmo, propped up the patient's head. Pictures of the boy—when he was alive—were taped to the sides of the bed. Dead kid playing baseball. Dead boy swimming. Dead child in mommy's arms. The life of the boy hastily plastered on bed frames, pleading and begging, in a effort to stave off death. We hid our eyes.
   Though Dr. Bond paused it was not long before we were elbow deep in the kid's various cavities. I handled the saw, the bone saw, the saw that opened the chest cavity. In adults, I have to lean into the saw, applying some muscle to get through the meaty ribs. With this meatless little boy I ran through the ribs with frictionless motion, passing the buzzing machine swiftly down the breastplate. The pink coliform shape of the lungs popped out and the heart, bathed in a colorless liquid, throbbed away. Lungs and heart, Barnie and Elmo, swimming and Mommy, all there splayed open by a three-pound bone saw.
   Dr. Bond, unfettered from his brief spell of emotion, filleted the abdomen open with zeal. Like an artist in a panic before the gallery opening, Dr. Bond teemed with anxiety. One false cut, one mismanaged knot, or imprecise scissor would ruin the organs. In the end it was quite easy—at least for me. He told me were to cut. I did. Maneuver this piece of bowel. No problem. The sum of our actions—a small liver and two kidneys—was deposited neatly in a plain cooler. A small sticker on its side read "$10". No one had removed the price tag.
   We had flown in a leer jet to this South Carolina hick hospital, the people as plain as the building. Boarding the plane home our fly boys had rustled up some dinner. To our joy we feasted on fried chicken and fresh, cinnamon-infused, apple pie for our supersonic journey home. The apple pie pooled in our mouths. I forced the honeyed broth through my teeth as a baby does with its mushy peas, playfully teasing Dr. Bond with views of half-masticated apples. We were in fits. God, it was a good journey home.
   In one hand I held the cooler. In the other, I had the remnants of my apple pie neatly folded in a napkin. I handed the cooler off to a rested surgeon. I wandered around and gave my last piece of pie to a friend. She enjoyed it. I watched as she nimbly selected the choice hunks of apple to eat first. I was not actually watching, it was more like staring, peering, gawking at her carefully constructed face, the soft bend of her neck, the slow turns of her shoulders, the golden hue of her well sunned cheeks, and the studied countenance of a women eating. I spoke of this Herculean pause, of dead kids, of family pictures, of fluffy animals, of price tags, of this amazing apple pie. She suggested I rest some.
   I rushed these words at her pressing and forcing. I do feel you know. Feeling good about watching a woman eat is easy—deglutition is funny. Feeling good about cutting and chopping, hacking and sewing, sawing and tying a little boy is a different story. It felt good to feel. My pie gaze was an act of reanimation and she understood. She let me stare at her that afternoon for hours. At the same time one child received a new liver, two others had new kidneys. We were all happy, except, that is, the tired, mangled corpse and his family in South Carolina.
   No matter. Gaze into the eyes of a friend, taste the pie, and let it go.

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