A Periodic Table of the Elements
by Gustav Hasford

--Longview, Wash., October 31, 1971--At precisely 3:31 a.m. on the 3rd of August, 1975, a man eats his wristwatch.
    "I'm handcuffed to time," he says.
    It is simple.  Remove the leather band and swallow the fat metal tablet, careful not to gag.  Swallow it with the crystal down so that metal will not be cold on your tongue.
    While making love to a woman, he asks: "What time is it?"
    The woman wears a wristwatch around her breasts.  The wristwatches look like leg-irons on her breasts.  She is silent.  She pulls up a sheet to conceal her nipples.
    The man goes downstairs, eats a grandfather clock, eats the black wood and the brass, eats toothed wheels and pinions, eats weights and springs and pendulums.
    All over town, people go crazy and bite clocks and timepieces.  They hacksaw bronze sundials into bite-size chunks and eat them like fudge.  They eat water clocks and Mickey Mouse watches and the shadows of trees.  When they find out that the Chinese read the time in the eyes of cats, they eat some cats.
    The woman with the leg-irons on her breasts snatches a pink clock from the table by her bed, takes a bite.
    Eating.
    Eating pocket watches like golden cookies.
    Eating atomic clocks.
    Eating cuckoo birds that came all the way from Switzerland.
    Meanwhile, the mechanical movement of the stars gives structure to silence, protects everyone from the black sinking horror of unstructured time.

 

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