It is Monday morning. I stop at the usual place to buy a fried egg sandwich and find that the two women who run the kiosk are talking about organ donation.
“Morning, Rod,” the first woman begins, “What’s going to happen to all of your organs after you die?”
They think I am called Rod but I do not mind. They must speak to a hundred people every morning, so that they manage to attribute any one name to my face is pretty impressive. For five minutes of a morning, I am happy to be Rod for them.
What’s going to happen to my organs after I die? It’s a fair question and perfectly reasonable banter for 8:30 on a Monday morning over the spitting fats of the griddle. My priority, however, is breakfast. Breakfast before discussion of post-mortem requirements. It’s a personal policy.
“A fried egg sandwich please,” I say, all business. But then: “I’m an atheist so I don’t mind what happens to my body after I die. Do you want it?”
“See,” she says philosophically, “I couldn’t give up my organs to just anyone. I mean, maybe if it was my daughter or something and she really needed them, but I can’t have a stranger walking around with my liver inside them. Soft yolk?
She’s talking about the fried egg sandwich now.
“I mean, it might go to someone I don’t even like. I don’t want my ex-husband to get his hands on my bone marrow. He got the car and the weekend access to the kids and dog, he’s sure tae fuck not getting my bone marrow as well. Are you having salt and pepper?”
“Just pepper, thanks”.
The second woman makes a contribution: “I don’t mind giving my body away after I’m gone. But not above the shoulders. They can have anything they need except for my eyes and brain.”
A grim image of the second woman’s head preserved in brine swims up in my imagination. Suddenly its eyes open, revealing milky whites: “You want sauce with that, Rod?”
“I don’t think they can take the brain anyway,” says the first woman, “They don’t have the science for that yet.”
“No,” says the second woman, “not for a full transplant but they might be able to use it for tests.”
The first woman says she had never thought of that possibility and would I prefer a soft or crusty roll? I tell her I would like a crusty roll.
I ask the second woman why she’s so attached to her eyes if she’s happy to let everything else go. Apparently she just finds it icky. At 8:30 in the morning, I can’t argue with that.
Somehow my egg flies off the griddle and onto the kiosk floor with all the dust and hairs. After some laughter, the first woman gets to frying a second egg.
“Just like what happened to Walt Whitman’s brain,” I say, trying to appeal to their grim curiosity. “He was an American poet. Scientists wanted to get a good look at his brain after he died to see what made him tick. But a lab assistant bungled the job and the brain splattered all over the floor.”
They enjoy this story tremendously, the breakfast-cooking ghouls.
Bob Marley’s “Iron, Lion, Zion” starts up on the portable radio. The first of the kiosk women objects to it, “Och, no wonder his band are called the wailers.”
“I wonder what happened to his organs after he died?” asks the second kiosk woman.
“Oh, is he dead?” asked the first.
“Aye, drugs, I think,” said the second, “Hunnerds of drugs. I don’t know if his organs would have been worth much after all the drugs.”
As I begin to leave, the second woman is asking the first if she would ever accept a monkey’s liver as a donor organ if she needed a new one.
Another office worker approaches the kiosk. They greet him with, “Morning, Rod”.