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eXile Classic / February 20, 1997

I’ll write stories that will make them come from the ends of the earth to kill me… then at last it will be over, and that’ll be fine with me.
- Celine

I have a contract out on me. Not an employment contract with all kinds of expat benefits and a $3000 apartment-but the other kind of contract. The bad kind of contract.

At first I was told that “they,” or rather a “she” and a “he,” wanted to have me killed. Then my sentence was reduced to having my legs broken. Not as in, “Break a leg, Mark! Good luck with your new ‘paper.” But as in, “I’m a-gonna break yo’ fuckin legs!” She can have it arranged, as she let one too many persons know. See, she’s in the real estate business, which in Moscow means, flat-head central.

The threat is so serious, that two well-known journalists have even placed a ghoul-pool bet on my legs. They each put fifty bucks on the line over whether my hairy drumsticks will be snapped sometime in the next four weeks.

Only fifty?! Jesus Christ, do you know how much pain I’d have to endure for a lousy fifty bucks, guys! Fifty dollars barely gets you a couple of Provencal pizzas at Jack’s! I’d be screaming like a newborn baboon as the IMC doctors drill stainless steel rods into my shins, and all that’s on the line is a goddamn pizza?!

Breaking someone’s legs isn’t an easy job, and for that reason alone, I deserve a higher wager. The femur, or thigh bone, is an especially large, Fred Flintstone soup bone protected by layers of muscular padding. A six foot three, one hundred and ninety-pound target such as myself would require more than the average thrashing just to produce a slight hairline fracture. You’d need to get things like pulleys, ropes and heavy cement blocks to really snap my thigh bone. In Peter the Great’s time, they would have tied me to a rack and pulled on my leg until the hip joint snapped; then, they would have cut deep incisions into my dislocated joint, and poured in molten lead, while taking heavy mallets to my thighs. A horse and a pair of heavy logs would have been employed to snap the femur-marrow and blood would spurt out of the compound fracture, and I’d likely pass out sometime around the twenty-minute mark.

Times have changed, and so have the methods. I’ve been spending my free moments trying to imagine how a pack of flat-heads will break my legs, and here’s a partial list of what I’ve come up with: pinning me down to the asphalt and slowly driving over my thighs with a Volvo; tying me down to a table and taking a pair of baseball bats to the top of my thighs until the repetition of blows causes the bone to crack; dragging me to a sports gym, isolating a leg, then dropping 20kg bench-pressing plates edge-wise, to concentrate the force on the femur-but the truth is, my methods would probably take too much time, and too much energy.

If my assailants are in a rush, and they’re obliged as per the contract to “break any said bone in that area between the pelvis and the ankle, commonly known as ‘the leg,’” then they’ll probably go for my tibia-the “shin bone”-or else its even-thinner neighbor on the outer part of the lower leg, the fibula. As leg bones go, these two are far more vulnerable than the femur. I’ve heard a fibula crack during football practice in high school. It actually sounded like a dry twig snapping, which was scary, considering that the wounded guy was a nose guard nick-named “Fireplug.” Fireplug fell down on his back screaming and grasping at the air; then he started doing the wiggly bacon dance, while the rest of us stared in horror, thinking, “Thank god it was him and not me.”

The sickest thing ever shown on American television was when Joe Theisman, the former Washington Redskins quarterback, had his tibia snapped completely in half by a rolling, 300 pound defensive end. One lineman had fallen down on Theisman’s foot, trapping his leg in an awkward, vulnerable position; then a defensive end came hurtling out of nowhere, slamming into Theisman’s isolated shin. The laws of physics just didn’t work in the quarterback’s favor. When Bubba tumbled onto Joe’s leg, the center of his shin whipped around like a well-greased hinge; it was as though the quarterback had suddenly grown a joint where no joint had ever existed on man-a joint that allowed the lower half of his shin to bend ninety degrees forward, and not just backwards, like its more primitive cousin to the north, the knee. Thankfully for American sports fans (and me), ABC Sports had just introduced its Super-Slow-Mo Cam, so that you could actually watch Theisman’s tibia bursting out of his grass-stained sock like the bloodied snake-thing in Alien… over, and over, and over, and over, and over. Until even people like me began to get nauseous. “Let’s get another shot of that career-ending injury, Frank. Oo, gosh! That’s gotta hurt, huh?” “Yep, that’ll do it, Dan. Hey, can we get a rewind on that, I want to show our viewers out there just one more time…”

Still, the award for the most savage way to fuck up someone’s legs for life has got to go to the Hell’s Angels. Like a lot of things the Angels do, their method is crude and audacious-and highly effective for those very reasons. The Angels seat their victim in a chair, then secure his heel onto a second chair placed in front of him, so that his leg is suspended and perpendicular to the floor. The entire area between the hip and the heel hangs high over the floor like a creaky old bridge just waiting for King Kong to smash it apart. Which he does. An Olympic team of 220-pound grease bags get up on a table, and jump onto the victim’s knees, thighs and shins, one after the other. Over, and over, and over, and over, and over. Four or five beer-bellied, graying goons in steel-toed boots jack-knifing feet-first onto the victim’s legs. Until the ligaments and cartilage and tendons pop out of the joints like springs in a cheap mattress, and the bones snap and splinter, and the hip cracks, leaving the leg so mangled that even Peter the Great would be impressed.

…The most horrible thing about this contract hanging over me is how cool everyone thinks it is. Which makes me realize that I’ve missed out on the best pick-up line going in this town. You wouldn’t even have to have a real death threat hanging over you. You could just fake it. People are so desperate to be part of the drama here that they’ll eagerly employ the old fiction reader’s “suspension of disbelief” and buy anything you say. So that they can claim some of the drama from you, head to the next party, and go, “Yeah, a friend of mine, some guy I know? He like, he has a contract out on him. I feel so awful…” That one always gets a sympathetic ear from the opposite sex. I keep forgetting what a brilliant strategy faking it is. As usual, I’m too slow and too late to pick up on that fact. Instead, I had to do the Ames thing and wait until a real contract was put out on me before I realized I could’ve just faked it. Story of my life.

I can see the ending to all this even now. Once my legs are hammered into pretzels, my friends will have a great story to tell… and they’ll walk off with all the female leads, while I’ll become the Christopher Reeves of Moscow, curled into my wheelchair, groping for my nurse’s skirt. She wipes the drool from my mouth, slaps my hand away, then calls her expat boyfriend to tell him how sad she is that it all had to turn out this way.

This article first appeared in Issue #1 of The eXile.

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4 Comments

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