photo of hotel exterior

Them Bones by Alex S. Johnson

Johnny Scapular was very young, only about three or four years old, when he discovered something unique about his body. With a little vigorous tugging and peeling he found he could unwrap the flesh from his bones and run around au naturel. The flesh came off in three big strips that could be neatly folded and put away for later use.

Johnny’s parents ran a hotel, and a good number of the staff came from small villages in Central and South America. These simple people harbored deep superstitions, and cried in fear when the boy romped flesh-free through the hotel. Johnny’s mother, a long-time Grateful Dead fan, couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. She was proud of her son’s comfort level with his body. Her husband held more conservative views on the subject.

When Johnny’s tenth birthday arrived and his habit of going boney-ass naked showed no signs of abating, Frank Scapular held a family conference. Joyce Scapular reluctantly rushed home from a hash brownie bakeout. Johnny was just confused. Despite their differences, his parents always found common ground. Now the living room rang with yells and sobs.

“Johnny, get your butt in here,” his father shouted. His flesh wrap was halfway on.

“This minute!”

He quickly folded up the wrap and placed it in the dresser drawer marked “My Body.” When he entered the room, his mother’s face was streaked with tears and his father’s was flushed red.

“Son, your mother and I have been talking, and we think it’s time for some changes around here. You may have noticed by now that nobody else…bares themselves in public the way you do. It’s not decent. There are certain freedoms that society restricts for the common good. For example, spitting on the sidewalk, exhibitionism, sodomy with barn animals…but enough about that until you’re a little older. From now on, I want you to behave with a little dignity and pride. And that means tucking your headpiece into your torso piece and strapping yourself into some hips and legs. Do I make myself clear?”

After this traumatic conversation, Johnny wasn’t the same.

Outwardly conforming to his father’s strictures, he obsessed over anatomy and physiology, skipped past the nude images in Natural Geographic in search of mummies, and felt a curious arousal thinking of female classmates in the altogether, as he pressed his lips to their gleaming craniums and poured himself into their pelvic girdles. He would later derive an unusual and secret satisfaction from his jobs as an X-ray technician, police photographer and, ultimately, mortician.

Alex S. Johnson is the author of the Bizarro Western novel Bad Sunset (Chupa Cabra House 2013); The Death Jazz, a collection of short fiction and poetry (The Shwibly Press 2012), plus many chapbooks, including Doctor Flesh and Satanic Rites of the Nuns of St. Sophia (Dynatox Ministries 2013) and Matador of Mirrors (Lucid Play Publishing 2013). His bizarro, horror, science fiction and just-plain weird stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and publications including Flash Me and Cut-Up! Johnson resides in Sacramento, California.

Lead image“prudhomme hotel” (via Flickr user Christina Weese)