The Incidents of Mr Plastique
by John C. Goodman
Mr Plastique ran for the bus on his long rabbit legs. leaping over tree stumps and hedgerows. The omnibus scooped him up with its gaping whale mouth and deposited him on a rack replete with mannequins. A swarm of elephants buzzed around their combs on one side of the bus, flapping their ears, snuffling under the seats for nectar. Their great weight caused the bus to tilt, jiggling Mr Plastique and the mannequins. He fell from the rack and landed on a porcupine; he rolled in the quills, delighting in the sensation of being pierced. At his stop he climbed through the window and danced down the concrete path, his quills rattling. Passers by stared, but he laughed and said, “If you knew contrariness like I do, you would sever your own arms with a hatchet and beg forgiveness for your existence!”
Mr Plastique walked over the landscape, the hills around him changing colour from brown to red to luminous gold. His brain burned with a fever; he wanted to absorb all those colours, to be a rainbow of terrain. He searched for the source of the vibrant hues and began to eat the sand beside the road. It was delicious! Juicy as raw octopus. He was infused with colour, beaming greens and blues and the deep shadows beneath trees. A shining halo of silver policemen came and beat him with truncheons of dried hagfish. Forgotten books poured from his body like corn from a split seed bag. Drained of influence, Mr Plastique stood up and found at his feet the crown, sceptre and robes of the ancient kings of Mercia. Donning the royal raiment, he strode off, blustered by a quixotic wind, while the policemen unloaded the chocolate bullets from their guns and knelt in supplication, chanting “Hail Gloria!”, their heads filled with creeping thoughts of dysentery and boiled cod with rice.
Mr Plastique stood on the cliff. The pneumatic ocean gushed and surged below him. How he wanted to jump! But his sinews tightened until he could not move, bound by his own knots. The rocks taunted him for his cowardice, but he turned away in disgust, saying, “You are nothing but mud hardened by time into sharp spires of vindictiveness. You have the morality of priests, the ethics of politicians. Do not mock me until you yourself have been transformed into an instrument of heaven!” Picking his way through the dying salt grasses, Mr Plastique headed for the nearest desert, as far from the sea as a man could walk. There he rolled in the dust and kissed the parched earth. “At least,” he said to the Gila Monster hiding beneath a stone, “you are honest.”
Mr Plastique found a door in the trunk of a tree. Opening the hidden portal, he descended a spiral of roots into complete blackness. He felt snakes curling around his ankles, beetles foraging in his hair. Mr Plastique felt a slithering joy as the snakes twined around his body, sinking their venomous fangs into his thighs. The poison heightened his thoughts, sending his imagination into epiphanies of other dimensions. Feeling his way around, he grapsed the body of an infant, which he knew to be his stillborn twin. “You have lived the burden of two lives, yours and mine,” said the twin, “now I will free you.” The ground opened and Mr Plastique stepped into the daylight. The snakes and beetles retreated from the sun, slinking into the fetid darkness beneath the tree roots. Mr Plastique bought his twin a new dress and took her to lunch before passing out from snake-bite fever. When he awoke, his twin was gone, but there were teeth marks on his arm where she had bitten him goodbye.
Mr Plastique lay in the sun in his undershorts. A wind through the June leaves picked him up like a newspaper and whirled him away into the sky. He came to rest by a wall that smelled of urine and whose base was littered with old food containers. Picking himself up and ineffectually brushing at the smears of ketchup and mustard, Mr Plastique walked down a road with one side in shadow and the other in full sun. The edge of the shadow was so sharp it cut Mr Plastique in two and he walked beside himself with grief. Reaching home, he tried to join his halves together, but they didn’t like each other anymore. One half moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta and opened a surf shop. The other half became a securities trader on Wall Street, a job that needed only half a mind.
Mr Plastique stripped slices of skin from his body and hung them around his room, some on the lampshade, some draped over the chair, some laid on the bed. There was a knock on the door and his mother entered. “What are you doing?” she cried, holding her face in shock and dismay. “How can I be the source of all light if I am weighed down with mortal flesh?” Mr Plastique asked. “I must strip myself of all encumbrances to reveal my true immortal luminosity.” His mother wailed, “Stop that at once!” and tried to restore the stripped skin to his body, but it simply slipped off again, much to Mr Plastique’s delight. Fetching her sewing kit, his mother began to sew the strips together and soon had Mr Plastique looking like an Amish quilt. “There,” she said, “you’re a whole man again.” In a blinding flash of radiance, a golden-winged angel appeared from a cracked vase on the bookcase. “You are a cliché,” said the angel, stabbing Mr Plastique through the heart with a sword of flame. In an instant, all his wounds were healed, his skin as smooth as an oiled olive. “Look mother,” Mr Plastique exclaimed, “I am impaled with the agony of angels!” His mother shook her head. “I don’t know how we will get all that blood out of the carpet,” she said.