Michael Grant Zimmer
We found Sanders II on a bench in the courtyard, shirtless, upright and nearly passed out. A sheen of sweat on his face dispersed the thin crawl of blood from his left nostril. His head bobbed, jerked back level with a start, then drifted down again to his chest.
Sanders was a prick, so we didn’t feel sorry for him that Sanders II had once again gained possession of Sanders’ body. It would have happened seven or eight drinks in, as usual, and once completed, it was easy to detect the changeover.
Sanders the Original was a blowhard who loved nothing more than to pontificate on any subject you thought you knew better than he did: Greek naval history, the Romantic poets, the New York Giants’ offensive line. He was a talker, and combined with his pretty boy jock’s physique, he surprised people who didn’t know him into thinking he was charming. Thus had he tried and succeeded in fucking many girls, including some of our girlfriends, both former and current. The prick.
Sanders II, to the contrary, was a sub-verbal dervish. He could grunt and moan, but he could not speak. At least not in words recognizable to humans. Still, his lidded, rambunctious eyes and wide childlike smile spoke for him. He smiled when he threw beer on our walls or spiked our lamps on the floor or snuck off to piss in our closets. Always smiling, eyes sparkling with unadulterated glee.
As he sat on the bench, we didn’t know from where he’d come, how he had lost his shirt or why he was bleeding. Sanders wouldn’t know either. Once Sanders II emerged, the memories of the chaos he wrought were consigned to the black hole in Sanders where Sanders II normally resided. Pieces of his actions would trickle back to us in due time, embellished and mythologized, but Sanders would wake up without knowing what his counterpart had done in his stead. At least, that’s what he claimed.
We did our best to muffle the sound of the duct tape being pulled off the roll. Once we had several three or four foot lengths, we rolled them together into a cord. Sneaking behind Sanders II, we fastened one end of the cord to the bench. Then, delicately, we reached for the back belt loop of his shorts. He stirred, and we held our breath. But the rustling and snickering didn’t rouse him.
We stood five or six feet in front of Sanders II with the bucket of cold water. The liquid arced beautifully in the moonlight and doused Sanders II with a slap. He groaned with surprise and rage and tried to stagger to his feet, then snapped back down to the bench because of the unforgiving cord tied to his shorts.
Our laughter bounced across the courtyard, as did his groans. Those of us behind him took the dining hall trays we’d found and hit him flat across the back, the smack of hard plastic against flesh raising cheers as Sanders II’s arms flailed drunkenly in front of him and again he attempted to stand, only to reach the end of his cord and plop helplessly back down to his seat.
At this point the story diverges according to the teller.
The canonical version involves the same bucket, and this time urine, and a Sanders II so enraged that he breaks free of his bonds, tackles Jeff Ramirez and pins him to the ground. Then, smiling gleefully, Sanders II urinates and defecates in his own shorts, taking great care to rub himself all over the braying Ramirez. It’s a triumphalist telling, which is a tone not unfamiliar to the Sanders II mythology.
But some of us will tell you another version. It indeed involves the bucket, being readied for another toss. The urine, however, comes from Sanders II, simply too far gone to hold it any longer. A torrent cascades from his bladder, down his shorts and down his legs.
And then Sanders II begins to cry.
Not a small child’s tentative tears; Sanders II begins to wail, his anguish so deep and full-throated, so penetratingly loud and unguarded that we are frightened and none of us know what to do.
Someone suggests cutting the cord and getting the fuck out of there. His bawling grows louder, even more raw, caroming out across the flagstones. Maybe we cut the cord, maybe we let him go and we don’t simply run; that is the story we tell ourselves.
The next morning the bench is empty: no duct tape, no puddles, no evidence of the truth we have seen. We move on to our breakfasts, the mythology grows, and it won’t be for years that we admit concern.
Michael Grant Zimmer is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He directed the award-winning feature documentary The Entertainers, about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. His fiction has appeared recently in Akashic Books’ Mondays are Murder and in Spelk.