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Kowtowing to Lord of the Knives
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                    The desecration of our
        dead—worst, a close family member—comes
                at so high a cost, no
            end to the price
              that must be paid . . . Milly
    gave her mother's just-defunct body to doctors for autopsy,
            against her mama's oft-
          muttered dying wish.
        Please, oh please, don't let them be breaking
          and entering my private
            belly or brain parts
              with their meddlesome

knives. Do not violate my chilled skin
    or bones, once I've crept away to my final resting
      place . . . But chief of the rare-disease center kept working Milly
        over: no one knew what
          killed dear Liza, it might be the start of a plague
or epidemic, many hundreds—oh thousands maybe—could die. If they found
        the root cause of a new,
    obscure virus, those thousands could yet be saved. Well,

                    loyal Milly refused
    to sign release papers for the cadaver
                until they'd upped
          the bribe four times—
                she hinted, from the start,
that she was a woman of honor, an idealist—but just maybe
            she had a price. She'd
          never sold herself

        before, for blood or money, but the Advancement
            of Science and sleuthing
          out a dormant plague
                bacillus to stop

the killer outbreak were mortal stakes,
    so she pocketed the three hundred dollars and signed.
      No mystery bug turned up, for all their ruthless scavenging.
        The last word: she died
            of occult natural causes, a befuddlement
to all tools of diagnosis. The body, bought and paid for, would be turned
        over to the rookie
    medical students at the new school in the neighbor

                isle for dissection
        exercises, down to the innermost uterine
            tubes and cervical
          pipelets . . . Two days
            after they'd exhumed Liza's
corpse from fresh-dug grave, Milly up and vanished, leaving no
            clue of her whereabouts.
          All her close kin
        and friends were at a loss. They sought the aid
            of magnetists and augurers,
        but the best advice
          they got were denials,

negatives: she wasn't dead, she hadn't
    drifted far away—never left the island. One child
    clairvoyant guessed that she was raised high above the town.
        She could look upon us,
        but not we up to her hideaway. Another
veteran soothsayer deemed her to be cast down far below, but not drowned
        in the sea or buried
    alive . . . Weeks passed. Mostly, her dearest next of kin had

                    given up on her, all
        supposing she might have done violence
                to herself—for shame
            over betrayal
                of her mother's disinterred
carrion. But one day, a devout foreign gentleman—visiting from
            faraway Bolivia—idled
            on the flat hilltop
        nearest the Catholic church, and had a fierce
            premonition that shook him
          so hard where he stood
            he needed to grasp

a tree limb to keep his balance. He sniffed
    the flow of wind currents northeast to south, and pointed
    thus: A woman sat directly below the distant cliff! She was trapped,
        stranded in a cave. Who
        was she? He knew her not, but gave a fair account
of her features. They showed him a random sampling of photos—all young women
        from the town. He picked
Milly. She was the one he'd seen in his hilltop vision,

                down to the small oval
    scar on her left cheek, where she'd been
            kicked by a pony
        as a small child,
            his findings soon reported
to the chief's council. Thereupon he left for his home country.
            Flyers were posted at all
        diners and watering
    holes, offering a reward to any man willing
          to risk his neck to rescue
        Milly from the remote,
            all-but-impassable

crevasse in the cliff that impended over
    the sunken cave. One brave man came forward, and pledged
    to try his luck. A rock-climber and gorge-plunger of some repute,
        he bid the chief's office
            to supply him with cables and pulleys, wheels
and cranks, plus an assist staff to operate the mobile platform. They worked
        fast, day and night,
racing against the clock to save the stranded lady

                before she might starve
    to death. When they lowered him to a level
            from which he caught
          sight of the cavern
            mouth wherein reclining lass—
still alive and waving a flag for...



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