Three weeks before his fatal heart attack, Gavin’s body began to send him intimations of its faulty inner workings, never enough to cause him any pain or even to make him alarmed – only extremely aware that there were things he couldn’t see in there, inside his body.
Gavin would lie awake nights, the taste of tobacco on his tongue, contemplating the air moving in and out of his lungs, spongy bronchial sacs inflating and deflating. When Estelle overpeppered his dinner, Gavin would imagine each spicy mouthful moved by peristalsis down his esophagus, which in his mind appeared like the turkey necks his mother used to singe in a pan, a little fleshy tube inflamed in spots by the passing pepper.
One night in front of the TV, Gavin sat absently running his fingers along the subtle architecture of veins criss-crossing like blue highways beneath the skin of his forearms when Estelle lowered her knitting and said, “Oh my God!”
On TV, a program about Egyptian mummies showed an animated rendering of the preservation process, of hooking the brain and removing it through the nose before placing it in an alabaster jar next to the hollowed and embalmed corpse. The narrator spoke of a portal to the eternal voyage into the afterlife aboard a golden barge.
“Savages,” Estelle said and returned to her knitting. Gavin gazed at the TV, at all the Canopic jars lined up along the tomb’s wall. A heart. A liver. All the proper entrails. He thought of the mummy drying through the ages, freed of all those wet and clumsy impediments.