I do triage on everything that comes through the door, and if it's not something we need (now, for real-not maybe someday) or something that deserves to be saved for posterity, it's discarded. I stop before I let myself drop something into a drawer or set it down on the piano. 'Where does it belong?' I think. If I don't have a place for it, I make a place.
The last time I saw Collin was in 1917, at the foot of Mort-Homme. Before the great slaughter, Collin'd been an avid angler. On that day, he was standing at the hole, watching maggots swarm among blow flies on two boys that we couldn't retrieve for burial without putting our own lives at risk. And there, at the loop hole, he thought of his bamboo rods, his flies and the new reel he hadn't even tried out yet. Collin was imaging himself on the riverbank, wine cooling in the current his stash of worms in a little metal box and a maggot on his hook, writhing like... Holy shit. Were the corpses getting to him? Collin. The poor guy didn't even have time to sort out his thoughts. In that split second, he was turned into a slab of bloody meat. A white hot hook drilled right through him and churned through his guts, which spilled out of a hole in his belly. He was cleared out of the first aid station. The major did triage. Stomach wounds weren't worth the trouble. There were all going to die anyway, and besides, he wasn't equipped to deal with them. Behind the aid station, next to a pile of wood crosses, there was a heap of body parts and shapeless, oozing human debris laid out on stretchers, stirred only be passing rats and clusters of large white maggots. But on their last run, the stretcher bearers carried him out after all... Old Collin was still alive. From the aid station to the ambulance and from the ambulance to the hospital, all he could remember was his fall into that pit, with maggots swarming over the open wound he had become from head to toe... Come to think of it, where was his head? And what about his feet? In the ambulance, the bumps were so awful and the pain so intense that it would have been a relief to pass out. But he didn't. He was still alive, writhing on his hook. They carved up old Collin good. They fixed him as best they could, but his hands and legs were gone. So much for fishing. Later, they pinned a medal on him, right there in that putrid recovery room. And later still, they explained to him about gangrene and bandages packed with larvae that feed on death tissue. He owed them his life. From one amputation and operation to the next - thirty-eight in all - the docs finally got him 'back on his feet'. But by then, the war was long over.