Where the Voice Takes Me: Guest Post by Robert Pobi, author of Bloodman
When most guys walk into the office, the biggest decision of the day is where to have lunch. Me? Right now I am trying to decide the best way to take a body apart with a hunting knife. I don’t think that this is the ideal piece of cutlery for the job. I would like to start off with a skinning knife. Then move on to a thin-bladed boning knife. When I get to the grunt work I think a cleaver is needed, especially for getting through the joints and big bones. I’ve tried other things, other ways to pay the bills, but it always comes back to stuff like this.
A lot of my friends are writers. It’s just the way things have worked out. I’d like to think that it has something to do with arguing about semicolons or deciding whose turn it is to wear the tweed jacket when we go out, but it’s not. We hang out together because the only people who will hang out with us is us. Literary agents don’t count because we buy them drinks.
People ask me why I choose to write the kinds of novels I do. It has nothing to do with choice. I start the day out with the best of intentions. I picture a house with an attached garage, a turtle-shaped resin pool in the front yard, and some guy on a ride-on mower with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the cup holder circling the flowerbed. I want it to go a certain way – maybe even need it to go a certain way – because I have some sort of a preconceived notion that I am creating this. Five minutes later we’ll be standing in his garage with a body and a hunting knife. And when that voice starts up, I’ve learned to buckle my seatbelt and sit back. Because I never know what’s coming.
Which brings me back to the problem at hand – disassembling a body with a heavy knife. If I am going to ask others to go along on this ride with me, I better know what I am talking about. I have to figure this out. The only people who know about these things are better left alone in their cells. This doesn’t help me at all. I still have a job to do. Chopping up a body. Telling you about it. My day at the office.
I’ve assisted in autopsies in the name of work. But I did not get to do much – they have laws against guys with my qualifications handling important medical evidence. I weighed lungs. Did some baseball stitches. Nothing fancy.
I end up calling a friend who has a restaurant. Some pork quarters have to be taken apart and I spend the afternoon separating legs from shoulders, hocks from legs. I try it the traditional way – with a chain mail bib and a shelf full of German steel. It is gentlemanly. Elegant even. I don’t break a sweat. After about an hour I have the hang of it so I decide to try it with the big stag handled hunting knife I’ve been taking fishing for 20 years. I have used it as an improvised tent peg and a shovel. It has chopped kindling and pried open tins of anchovies. It’s always been clumsy with food. But it doesn’t take me long to find my groove. And you know what? The knife is a lot more frightening than the cleaver was. There’s more cause and effect. I need commitment to get through cartilage and bone, to believe in what I am doing. It is a tool of determination. I have my answer.
But I’m not the guy who tells you about it. That part is up to him. It always is.
Robert Pobi has fished for great whites off Montauk, chased coyotes with a dune buggy in the Mojave, and spelunked caves in the former Yugoslavia. He is a renowned expert in English period furniture and makes a mean coq au vin. He spends most of his time in Montreal, Canada.