Grant, Donkey 1

f. Simon Grant
14 Erskine Lane
Aiken, SC 29803
Donkey :or: The Birthday Martyr
He called him Donkey, and Donkey was covered in red, like blood -- we thought it was
blood at first, but we ultimately knew or told ourselves it was only paint, only red semblance of
blood like makeup or red mud smeared all over, only a simulation. This was all ceremony after all.
The clown could stick a three foot needle in his palm and not bleed at all, so we knew the red on
Donkey was fake red. Fake red like cartoons never die; like we children crave this cartoon death
and resurrection weekly as a part of us.
This birthday party beside the tree on a little stage, Donkey stood there, hands tied behind
his back, and red was thick all over him -- we assumed he was wearing a loincloth or something
covering his adult parts but the red, whatever it was, was caked so thick we couldn’t tell -- and
around his neck was a noose; the clown pulled him on stage by the noose like a rope on an actual
donkey. The clown’s name was Luckybrain: not a colorful clown, no red nose, only white face and
long white hair like an old man’s, make up a midnight blue around his eyes and mouth in a weird
smile but dripping like it was bleeding out of him and he was dressed in an old fashioned formal
suit, waistcoat, cravat, that sort of thing, all midnight blue, no color but that. And the boy in the
front -- his birthday, the one who would hold the bat soon -- the boy in the front pretended to smile
and he looked at his father smiling and laughing and clapping as the clown wrapped the rope over
the tree limb and started to pull -- and Luckybrain kept pulling and pulling the man he called
Donkey until Donkey was hanging and swinging there -- and the more Luckybrain pulled the rope,
the more he laughed and the more Luckybrain pulled the rope the higher Donkey rose and each
time that colorless clown pulled, Donkey let out a “Gach” and a gasp and moved his arms like he

was trying to grab at the rope but his arms were tied. And the father was laughing and clapping as
Donkey swung there by the noose. But nobody cared that Donkey was swinging there choking.
Because the clown could stick a three foot needle through his palm and not bleed. And we wanted
him to swing.
And Luckybrain could stick that needle through any part of his body with out bleeding; that
was his whole act before Donkey. For a whole half hour he stuck the needle through his hand and
arm, through his legs and through his belly: he kept doing it -- exciting at first, of course, but he
kept doing the same thing, sticking a needle through this and that part of his body. But then his
climax: he stuck the needle through the bottom of his chin and out through the top of his head and
then he opened his mouth and there was the needle: through the bottom of his mouth and through
his tongue and through the roof, no bleeding. When he’d pulled up earlier in what seemed to be a
van made of glass with a sign that said “Horner Box Birthday Specialties” we saw no equipment in
the back, only a red crumpled pile that seemed at first only like a pile of costumes.
And when he stuck that needle up through his head a few of the girls gasped and a few of
the boys laughed at the girls gasping. So when Luckybrain hung Donkey nobody dared gasp
because nobody wanted to be laughed at. And Luckybrain said, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and
girls, this here’s called a noose. This is how they used to kill bad people: stealers and rapers and
people who didn’t wash their hands before dinner and people who weren’t nice to their mommies
and daddies and women who used to commit what grown ups call adultery. That means making
babies with married people like your mommies and daddies are married. But don’t worry about
Donkey, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. In most of those olden times cases the force of
gravity would snap the neck bones in pieces and the bad man would die instantly and go straight
down to hell and be burned for eternity. This way I hung my poor red friend right now it would

take Donkey a good long time to choke to death. And believe you me, I’ve choked him a lot, I’ve
choked him many times to try to kill him, and believe you me, it’ll take a long time for this fine
fellow to die. He’s made of hearty stock like a fine American cornfed protestant, and believe you
me, can’t kill those guys easy.”
And the boy in the front, his birthday, we knew what he thought as he sat there: there was
nobody there the same age as he was, all these older and younger kids, how embarrassing, there
was nobody there who actually knew the boy very well. The boy’s father had a very big house and
a very big backyard and a pool and a poolhouse and he had a big tree in a field near the poolhouse
and everybody was gathered around the tree in the field near the poolhouse watching a clown hang
a man named Donkey.
The father was a big important man; the father owned a big important hotel chain. And
people from all over the world came to him and reminded him of his own magnanimity. He’d
given the most important people shelter. His own home looked like a hotel. The boy lived in one
of these rooms though he wasn’t an actual customer. The boy was too old for clown shows:
thirteen, close to adulthood. The clown had a big painted smile, midnight blue. The boy wished he
had that kind of grease paint. “I need a volunteer from the audience. I need Stanley Balayam to
come up to the front.” Stanley, that was the boy’s name. “I need Stanley Balayam to come
volunteer.” And in the background we heard Donkey still gasping; he was wriggling around and
struggling and trying to get out of that noose. But no response from the audience, nobody
volunteering. And the clown said again, “I need Stanley Balayam to come up to the front.” And
people started nudging the birthday boy but he didn’t move.
We wanted him to kill Donkey. We wanted him to kill Donkey for worship. But we didn’t
know this yet. We knew what he was thinking because that is the ceremony, that is close third: we

can crawl inside the boy, become equally guilty of what he was about to do, and crawl out again,
calling it all only red paint and magic tricks.
We knew what he was thinking: he was way too old for a clown; he was way too old for a
birthday like this. None of these people knew him, he thought; none of these people cared. Stanley
wasn’t popular but there were popular kids at his birthday party: popular athletes like Esau
Ambulbeth who played baseball for his middle school, and beautiful girls like Ashley-Ellen QuitisHun, people who never even said hello to him at school. But then the clown pulled out the bat: all
so obvious, we knew this sort of thing would happen. The birthday boy gave in a little to crowd
nudges and the clown said, “Stanley Balayam please come up to the front,” and Stanley Balayam
stood and looked at his father clapping and smiling. And we knew what he was thinking. And
Stanley walked up to the front and grabbed the bat reluctantly like gripping a that-size-caterpillar or
like an adult had given him wine. He’d never played baseball, except for once. We knew what he
was thinking as he stood up there with the bat, staring out at the audience: “These people don’t
even know me that well.” And he thought, “Look at Esau Ambulbeth. Everybody loves him and
he’s just eating it up, me standing up here looking like an idiot. I know exactly what he’s thinking.
And look at Ashley-Ellen Quitis-Hun, she probably thinks I’m an idiot too. Her parents let her
dress like a whore.” And he kept looking at her. We knew who she was, we saw her like he saw
her: she was a girl sitting on the first row, only a year or so older than Stanley. She was blonde and
she was wearing a white shirt and a white tennis skirt and white tennis shoes, the laces of the left
one untied. He was looking. And he wanted to crawl inside.
And the clown took Stanley and tied his eyes and spun him around a few times, Stanley
holding the bat close to him, spinning, blindfolded, and he stood there before the red and gasping
Donkey. He couldn’t see. All he heard was audience noises and the gasp of the reddened man and

rope creaking. He thought about a dozen different things swinging and gasping before him. He
thought about a dead body swinging there. He thought about an actual donkey swinging there. He
thought about a cartoon swinging there. He thought about Jesus swinging there. He thought about
a giant penis swinging there. He thought about Ashley-Ellen Quitis-Hun swinging there, her untied
shoe scraping against the ground, her dress blowing. Stanley didn’t want to swing the bat. He
heard the people screaming, he heard the people screaming and he thought about the shopping mall
at Christmas, he thought about music video with the Catholic dresses, he thought about holocaust
pictures in history books, he thought about Christ Benoit winning the Royal Rumble, and he
thought about the one time he’d tried to play baseball, how he didn’t swing and only stood there
staring at the pitcher: Esau Ambulbeth laughed, and then his father, and then everybody in the field
and the stands. His brothers were there laughing: he had six older brothers; his father always
accidentally called Stanley “Anthony,” the athlete, the success. He guessed it was a compliment.
And they kept screaming, “Swing the bat!” He could drop the bat and run away. Refuse to hit
Donkey entirely, leave this birthday forever. But then what would people think? Not only did he
have a stupid clown birthday, he ran away crying from his own stupid clown birthday. And they
kept screaming. So he cocked the bat back and stood there a minute listening -- hesitated for a long
time, he felt, little impulses in his shoulders fighting against his stasis -- then he finally swung the
bat limply at Donkey and hit what he felt was stomach flesh and felt a give and a groan and worried
for a second that he’d accidentally hit some body. But then he realized, of course, that was the
whole point.
And the clown whispered at him, “Aim for a bone, son. There’s candy inside.” And the
children started screaming, “Break him! Break him!” He didn’t want to swing again; he didn’t
want to break Donkey. He didn’t even know Donkey. But the voices kept guiding him, “Break

him! Break him!” and after a few minutes he swung the bat again, a little lower this time, and felt a
hip bone thud, then he reeled and there was a sourness in the pit of his stomach and the bat went
loose in his fingers. But we screamed, “Harder! Break him!” And his hand slowly tightened -one hand tightened, then the other hand tightened and he muttered to himself, “I didn’t hear
anything, I don’t care” -- swung again, aiming for where he heard the bone thud and felt a rib thud
like a mad xylophone and again, he kept going: rib-thud and rib-thud and he recoiled, took a breath,
heard the screaming and swung again, like noise was now his motility, and felt another rib, more
tinkle than thud now. Our crying grew in ecstasy, “Harder!” and “Harder!” we screamed, “Break
him!” we screamed: we wanted him to break, we wanted Stanley to break him, we wanted Stanley
to kill him, we wanted worship.
Stanley complied: he swung again and heard a cracking and he kept hitting and he heard
more cracking and he felt a delicate cracking that could only be a face -- like hitting a cactus and
breaking it to mush with one swing -- and the sound of gasping for air became liquid and he kept
hitting that spot as if one shot wasn’t enough to make it a complete shattered mush and he kept
smashing other places until each place was broken: the ribs and the shoulders and the hips and the
knees -- Stanley knew this body well now, knew where to hit to break a certain section of the body
-- and Stanley screamed and we screamed and the bat cracked a little, Stanley’s own hands were
bleeding. And the father screamed above us. Stanley heard the rope snap and a rumpled muffled
noise of a body collapsing and Stanley dropped the bat, collapsed to his own knees, pulled the blind
fold slowly off his eyes and he saw there on the ground: Donkey, red all over -- but he was red to
begin with -- and Stanley couldn’t figure out if Donkey...
The clown with a curved blade, like an autopsy blade...

...pointed at a vertical visceral gash from under belly button to sternum middle and the
clown pointed at the gash, the blade in his hand -- and Luckybrain held that curved now-red
autopsy blade in one hand and pointed with the other hand at a hole sombody’d made -- somebody?
-- and said, “There’s the candy. It’s inside there.” And Stanley didn’t even like candy. He crept up,
and he was on all fours now, knees and hands in the carpet of blood, he crept up and his hand was
on Donkey’s wrist but he felt no pulse. Had he killed somebody? But this could be a mannequin
bleeding, he quickly thought, this could all be like the fake needle. This could be like any magic
act. This could be like any dead cartoon. And slowly Stanley put his hand on the wet, warm-butslowly-cooling belly blood and slowly he slipped a hand inside, he slipped a hand inside the
vertical gash -- he thought about the boys at school talking about vaginas -- and he felt around
inside the belly: he fully expected to find wrapped up pieces of candy but all he felt was wet and
warm and soft and he sat there quietly with his hand inside the gash, inside of a man he’d only met
a minute ago, or a mannequin -- no candy at all -- and he stared at the red pile, a red pile that used
to have an alive animal shape. And we all got quiet, the sound was white like Ashley-Ellen’s tennis
dress. And nobody moved.
Then slurp, a lurch, sudden and violent, a sudden vision of reanimated and thrashing red and
Stanley yanking his hand free -- he vomited and half the audience vomited -- red-paint-and-bloodcovered Donkey lunged at blood-covered boy, the cracked bat too far away to reach to defend from
the wailing, red and arm-flailing Donkey: savage like Stanley had been savage. Then Luckybrain
pulled the noose taut -- caught Donkey within inches of Stanley’s face; Stanley saw Donkey’s eyes
then and Donkey’s eyes were brilliant; Stanley wanted them -- and the clown pulled and kept
pulling and pulling and he dragged the convulsing Donkey across the ground and he kept dragging

and there was a red trail and the clown quickly loaded Donkey into the back of a glass van and
drove away. Over, all of it, in minutes.
And so everybody stood there -- like the cigarette after a dirty orgasm -- we stayed there and
all the guests at the party, teens, preteens, parents stood there and Stanley stood there covered in
blood and Stanley’s father stood there and we looked at each other. Nobody remembered
screaming. The whole audience had blood flecks on their new birthday party ties and their new
shoes. Esau Ambulbeth, the important athlete, covered in more blood than he’d ever seen, had a
new kind of fear in his eyes. Ashley-Ellen Quitis-Hun’s white dress was red-less but her mouth
hung open as if wanting something. And nobody talked, nobody gave or opened presents, nobody
ate cake, nobody ate ice-cream. We dissipated slowly like water dripping away, slowly dripping

For seven days and nights he stayed in the poolhouse. Stanley’s father came to the
poolhouse and talked to Stanley through the door, brought him food and told him he was going to
throw another party, a pool party, and told Stanley he should come out and join his friends. Stop
being an embarrassment. And he did have a pool party but he didn’t tell anyone Stanley was in the
poolhouse. All of us were there, all of us were at the pool party at the Balayam house. But Stanley
was in the poolhouse all alone. And we saw him there. He was all alone and closed up inside the
poolhouse but we could see him. Ashley-Ellen Quitis-Hun was there but she couldn’t see him; she
got out of the pool, and, with her white bathing suit on, her white string bikini, went into the
poolhouse looking for something. And she saw Stanley there and said, “Oh, there you are. We
were looking for you. Nobody knew where you were. I mean nobody.” But Stanley Balayam
couldn’t say anything. Ashley-Ellen tried: “I ... your birthday was ... I’ve never seen ... but I mean

it’s cool for, like, your dad to throw another party. Your dad’s a cool guy. I mean since the last
party was ...” And she quit trying. She looked away and she said, “Hey, this is a cool place. This
is, like, the pool house or something, right? You got some cool stuff in here.” And she looked
away at the other wall.
And Stanley Balayam stood there looking at her, looking at the pale skin and the white
bathing suit and the blonde hair nearly the same color, negative spacing the black wall behind the
pale and the sun-hidden skin, the white blunted triangle too loose in places, too tight in places, roots
already unmatching, unmatching hair, and those draping strings across the hip bones and shoulder
blades -- the naked back, the naked shoulders, the naked legs -- and we felt Stanley’s hand wrap
around a kayak oar and we felt him pick it up and we felt the weight and we felt the dryness of the
wood. We accepted all this. We wanted it even. Not that we’d support it in our other lives; not that
we’d go around recommending such things; not that we wouldn’t stop it if the circumstances were
different. Now we wouldn’t stop it anymore than Peter could stop Christ’s suicide. We desired it in
the most free and horrible parts of ourselves. Now he was our priest; it would be disappointing if
he did nothing. And we felt, like a severed arm, the phantom bat-thud of the birthday party and the
phantom of crumbling bones rippling through Stanley’s arm. We felt the hand squeeze tighter on
the kayak oar as he got closer to Ashley-Ellen. And we felt the weight. And we felt the air
resistance. And we felt the wind rush.

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