Grafts
Scott Rogers

On the melamine side table there is a 50’s paperback re-print of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. The book is divided evenly in two pieces lengthwise along the spine. The table is located between the Burn Unit and the Eating Disorders Counselling Rooms. There are some chairs with grey upholstering and magenta arms and legs, sitting on the creamy lino floor. A drop ceiling and fluoros run throughout. Less than ten, but more than five girls and a boy are congregated down the hall. They’re talking shyly to one another in a close circle. Ratty wooden doors, lockers, and obsolete equipment are their background. Hung to the wall behind the table is an enormous martial-looking wall plaque. It is dedicated to a stratified hierarchy of corporate donors, all of whom have given, more or less generously, to the Fire Fighters’ Recovery Centre.

I haven’t read the book on the table, but I’d like to. Its halving reminds me of something we used to do during storm days in the outdoors. If we were stuck in the tent somebody would bring out their novel and we would tear it equally in pieces so that everyone could read. It didn’t matter that much whether you had the beginning, middle, or end of a book. Narrative cohesion was less important than shared diversion. Reading was functionally a way of apportioning time; something to fill the empty monotony between the clammy silicon impregnated nylon, your brain, and the gale. The process was an iteration of isolation and solidarity simultaneously.

*

The pieces of timber were stacked under the low overhang on the side of the house. Brown crisp leaves from last fall or the fall before curled around some of the damp wood with its cracked paint and blasted rusty nails. The nails looked like used up matchsticks or trees after wildfire. The boards were part of the old perimeter fence; torn apart with hammer and pry bar, cut down to size with a circular saw, and then reconfigured here. Snow had swirled in around them, lodged itself in the many crevices. And the mice as well scuttled in. Little rodents had made nests out of the lint and crumbly organic stuff between the wall and the former fence.

Mice were the ostensible problem according to Mrl-e’s father. The mice must be directed away from the doors and vents of their shelter. The vermin were always a nuisance species, but now more than ever they tried to invade the indoors. So, the wood needed to be moved and restructured; unbuilt and built again near to the new fence at the rear of the property. The large spruces shadowed this ground. Their toxins kept any grasses from growing in and around the tangling, selfish root systems. Under the conifers, a cerulean and cream faux antique bench cracked and peeled its paint. No one had sat on it for a while. But the spot was a bit gloomy after all and the mass-produced arbour near to it held no vines. Mrl-e thought the seat’s aging had started to become it, since now its falseness was eroding over time.

Dense and decomposing cone harvests lay for native squirrels to rummage through. Pursuits for sex or territory traced them round and round the branches and undergrowth; followed by the squeaking chattering pattern of their hoarse vocalizing. A group of jays pried meticulously above while Mrl-e watched. They used to squawk and make sounds that the inhabitants likened to a rusty water pump. Now instead they used stealthy titters and whistles. The birds were like the loaded stillness in films. The lack of wind could account for this. It was warm, with a clear blue sky, and all the smells of outside oozed lazy and thick.

Mrl-e liked to help her father. She was strong and capable, could fix cars, and would carry the servers and cabling into the bunkers when her father was away at the mine. Since her brother had died she had taken the brunt of the necessary work. It was an easing remedy, for her and for Dad. She put on gloves, positioned the wheelbarrow and loaded it with the wood pieces. When full, the load was levered up and brought near to the site of relocation. She chose a site behind the two old electrical boxes where the spruce boughs intruded all around. There was no even ground, the earth sloping down toward the new fence, but this was the most open place. It was the only convenient place at all. The decaying form of an ancient wheelbarrow was laid here, red rusted, and dented. It was like an old laughing face looking up at Mrl-e’s newer, yellow handcart. Some weird skull, she thought.

To get to where she wanted to make the pile Mrl-e had to climb up over the electrical boxes, with her left arm and shoulder exposed to the irritation of the spruce’s needles. The boxes, an anachronism from the grid times, were just hollow shells now. With the power over, their cables had been stripped out for reuse elsewhere. They were a kind of green that defies easy description, but is known as ‘institutional’. The colour was mostly gone. Rust emerged on their abraded surfaces and the sands and wretched sun burned the pigment away to nearly nothing. The secure locks broken, the empty casings revealed by crudely bent corners. Still, in their muteness, Mrl-e enjoyed these boxes. She had grown up with them, watched them decay in the sterile trees. They were always just here in the shadows. Mrl-e’s arm got red and itchy from the spruce.

As she worked she focused specifically on the order and arrangement of the pile. It was very important. Not that anything was gained or lost. This was only a transition, and the real decay would go on and on, no matter where the wood was laid. But, at this moment there was a chance for her to make a difference with the lumber. She was bringing it a new order, a new place, and position; some clarity. In this action every detail, crude, but neat, could be controlled. She placed the pieces flat on top of one another. The awkward angled bits with nails sticking out had to be positioned in such a way so they would not wobble as the wood pile grew. She put the nails between the spaces of the lower level planks, staggering the arrangement.

Each of the boards was a conveniently similar length. The longest bits went at the bottom to provide a steady wide base, while the shorter pieces were stacked above. Instead of building her wood pile up against the fence Mrl-e allowed a gap of about 40 cm, so that the wood was free standing. As it grew over a meter in height the pile took on a sculptural quality, a collection of disparate pieces, held together by weight, balance, gravity. The material unity gave her a calm feeling. The fence that split the yard from the outlands, once firm and even spaced, got cut up. It got cut up and put in a heap where the mice lived. But it was tight and compact again, and the mice could still live there.

She finished with the pile, leaving the seclusion of the spruce to go out in the bare yard. With the handcart, Mrl-e leaned it up against the concrete wall of the house, the handles facing up and inward so that no rain could gather. For a while she stood in the shadow as the light twisted round behind and out of sight.

*

The thyroid gland or simply, the thyroid /ˈθaɪərɔɪd/, in vertebrate anatomy, is one of the largest endocrine glands and consists of two connected lobes. The thyroid gland is found in the neck, below the thyroid cartilage (which forms the laryngeal prominence, or "Adam's apple"). The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (sometimes referred to as tetraiodothyronine (T4)). These hormones regulate the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3 and T4 are synthesized from iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.

The thyroid gland is made up of unique cells within the body. These cells are almost singularly found in the thyroid, but can occasionally travel to other regions of the organism. When the thyroid becomes cancerous it is very often removed surgically and the area around it subjected to high intensity blasts of radiation. For those cells that may have migrated, a different radiation treatment is used. In this case, the sufferer must partake of a “low iodine diet”. Ingredients containing large quantities of iodine such as table salt, ocean fish, and seaweed must be eliminated from all food consumed by the sufferer. The diet must be followed strictly for a period of at least two weeks. Because of this process, any remaining thyroid cells in the body begin to ‘crave’ iodine. After the diet is two weeks old a dose of radioactive iodine is swallowed by the patient. Any remaining thyroid cells immediately absorb this iodine and are destroyed along with the cancer they may carry.

Radioactive iodine has a half-life of 8.02 days, during which time the sufferer must remain secluded from other people. The element is so strongly radioactive that it can cause serious harm to anyone in near contact with the sufferer. Most notably, exposure to radioactive iodine contributes to the emergence of thyroid cancer.