As the title suggests, yes, your skeleton is in fact, wet. Something none of us really consider, unless anatomy fascinates you, or you’re undertaking a medical degree of some type or a serial killer.
I have just finished reading David Sedaris’ novel, ‘When You’re Engulfed in Flames‘ (2008) which is a collection of short stories on various happenings in his life. Brilliant and extremely funny, too! I highly recommend it if you want to see how a great comedy writer does it.
There is one short story about a time his boyfriend, Hugh, wanted a medical skeleton for a Christmas present, and David does eventually find him one when they’re living in Paris. The skeleton ends up being hung up in their bedroom where it stares accusingly at David and whispering to him, ‘You’re going to die.’ This was one of my favourite stories from the book.
However, it reminded me of my eighth grade science class. Showing my age here, but that was in 1983. In our science room we actually had a medical skeleton. For the kids in the room, before full plastic use became a thing, real freaking skeletons were ‘donated’ for medical and educational purposes. Fully stripped of flesh, bereft and emptied of organs and soul, and bleached. Then pieced together with wire and pins since tendons or muscle were no longer in place.
After reading David’s story it reminded me of how I was fascinated by this skeleton which stood in the corner at the front of the class, staring with its hollow eye sockets and grinning its skeletal grin. One disturbing fact that has stuck with me to this day, is the fact my science teacher, Mr Parry, I easily recall him because he looked like John Cleese in the role of Basil Fawlty, from the BBC series, ‘Fawlty Towers.’ Just as lanky. Even his natural walk was like that from the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ made famous by Cleese in a ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ sketch.
Anyway, Mr Parry informed us that this skeleton had come from a bloke in India. Mr Parry even went as far to point out that this poor chap must have suffered from malnutrition as the shoulder blades were very opaque. According to him.
Being thirteen I had not heard of bodies being donated to science. I used to sit, perplexed, each science class, thinking to myself, ‘What does this man’s ghost think about this? Is he here with us? Did he ask to be donated to science in the first place and have his skeletal remains in an eighth grade science class? Is his ghost balled up inside the ribcage and pining for the Ganges?’
According to Mr Parry, the “poor” didn’t get a say in it. Mind you, this is also a Catholic high school. Imagine that! One day, you’re down at the Ganges taking a dip and the next minute you family is floating you down on it up upon a funeral pyre, thing…whatever they’re called. This terrified me. The mere thought that in each science class in every high school around Australia there was the skeletal remains of some poor soul from South-East Asia, skinned, bleached and hung together on a frame like a morbid marionette.
Naturally being thirteen year old’s some used to make him wave, unclip the skull cap and clap it like two halves of a coconut shell, and chatter his jaw up and down for the giggles. But I would sit there and think to myself, ‘This. Was. Once. A human. And now it is a schoolboy’s plaything.’
But now as an adult reminiscing on this morbid highlight of my youth. I find myself wondering, ‘Where have all of those medical skeletons gone? Did they get destroyed, or sold, or buried respectfully?’ What it also highlighted, to me, is the fact that the poor are still mistreated some 38 years later. What happens in the next 38 years?
Good thing for plastics, eh? Oh, right. Plastic is getting phased out as well.