Hyperbaton (hy-per’-ba-ton): 1. An inversion of normal word order. A generic term for a variety of figures involving transposition, it is sometimes synonymous with anastrophe. 2. Adding a word or thought to a sentence that is already semantically complete, thus drawing emphasis to the addition.

I went looking for trouble, everywhere. I was always off, a little. I found a handgun in the park when I was 15. It went off accidentally and killed a woodpecker, who was minding his own business pecking on the old wooden flagpole on the village green, blowing off its head. I tossed the handgun into the bushes and picked up the dead woodpecker, still warm. This is where my career as a mortician began—with amateur taxidermy on the accidentally shot bird.

I brought the bird home and laid it on a piece of waxed paper on the desk in my room. As I opened the bird’s chest cavity with my X-acto knife, I felt jubilant as the woodpecker’s insides fell out in a shiny red lump. I picked them up and looked closely at them, holding them in the palm of my hand. After a good look, I threw them out my window. I didn’t know what to do next, so I put the bird in a shoebox and slid it under my bed.

When my grandmother died two weeks later, we went to see her remains at the Burns Brothers funeral parlor. The place was like a church! Grandma looked amazing. She had on a nice dress, her hair was stylishly done, her cheeks looked like blood was pulsing through them. I wondered how big grandma’s guts were, but blocked the thought for fear of becoming a psychopath.

I met Mr. Burns at the funeral parlor door as we were leaving. I asked him what it took to be a good mortician. He said, “Steady hands and a kind heart.” On that note, I knew I would be a mortician someday. As I became a practicing mortician, I learned, in addition to the steady hand and the kind heart, you have to feel no guilt at profiting from loved ones’ deaths. Eventually, I learned to bury my guilt by drinking expensive vodka and buying things I don’t want or need on Amazon.

I still have the dead woodpecker in the cardboard box. When I take it out and view it’s headless remains and still shiny feathers, I smile.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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