Any Body in Akron

by Paula Schonauer

It was a cloudy day, damp. The smell of sulfur hung in the air, like rotten eggs everywhere, but Dad drove with the window down. He took a deep breath, inhaling through his nose.

“That, my boy, is the smell of industry.”

I buried my face in my jacket.

“You don’t like it? Well, if that smell ever goes away, you’ll have to get used to not eating. No industry, no jobs. No jobs, no food. Get it?”

I nodded at him, uncovering my face, trying to stand the onslaught.

“That’s what drives the economy. We build things. It’s called manufacturing.”

Dad drove by a pale gray building, big as a city block. He pointed at a sign.

“That’s where I work, the body shop.”

Dad jabbed my left arm with his big fist. He winked at me, grinning.

“It’s where I made you. Get it? The body shop, where bodies get made.”

I imagined carpenters carving bones, seamstresses sewing skin suits, sculptors sculpting faces: chins, noses, eyebrows, smiles. I saw weavers spinning hair, jewelry makers cutting teeth, drill pressers stamping finger nails and toe nails, chefs stirring noodles for brains, mechanics jump-starting hearts.

I wondered if there was a store somewhere with heads stacked in pyramids, torsos lying in open coolers, arms hanging from suspended baskets. They’d have legs arranged in pairs, packed in crates like sardines, hands and feet nestled in shoe boxes, bins of hair: silky, smooth, frizzy, brawny and brillo, sorted by shade. Sheets of skin, bellies, breasts and butts hanging on the wall. Giant jars of eyes: brown, blue, green, gray, hazel, and one labeled “pot luck.” I saw a sign on a curtained doorway, “Privates.”

It seemed likely. Great Aunt Rose got a new hip. Uncle Frank had a new eye that never moved. Cousin Bill lost a leg in a car accident, but after awhile, he got rid of his wheel chair, started walking again. Once, I saw someone on TV who’d had a sex change operation.

Dad patted me on my head.

“Breathe it in.”

 My eyes watered. I choked, the thick air getting caught in my throat.

“That’s the great thing about this country. You can be any body you want to be.”


Paula Sophia Schonauer is a nineteen year veteran with the Oklahoma City Police Department, the agency’s first openly transgender police officer. Yes, she went to the Body Shop.
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