The Sum of Our Parts
By Catherine Clyne
A red and white bucket of fragrant fried chicken:
wings, drumsticks, thighs, breastmeat. Yummy finger-lickin’ goodness.
The all-American family food.
I blink and re-focus and I see a container of pieces of someones,
the dismembered bodies of multiple individuals. Is that a right leg?
left wing? I think how precious my arms and legs are to me, and the bile involuntarily
rises in the back of my throat.
Arms and Legs
Over a decade ago, soon after the wall was dismantled, I took a brief train
ride to Oranienburg, a residential suburb of Berlin. I walked past the row
nestled across from the walls of Sachsenhausen, a World War II era concentration
camp. Despite having spent much of my childhood in West Germany, I had never
actually visited any of the Nazi camps, and I braced myself as I walked through
the iron gate, adorned with the cheerful “Arbeit Machet Frei” slogan
(roughly translated as “work will make you free”).
The compound had numerous squat concrete buildings. I took a deep breath and
entered the pathology laboratory, an unimpressive little clinic. It took a
moment for my eyes to adjust to the light; longer still, for my brain to adjust
I was seeing: a large room covered in white tiles—walls, floor—with
two tiled dissection tables in the center of the room. I swallowed the rising
I looked up and saw two large mounted black and white photographs. They were
of—it took a moment for it to compute. One was of a large metal surgical
tray with legs arranged neatly—human legs—left and right, several
The other photograph was of a similar tray holding…arms. Also neatly
arranged into left and right. There were display cases with medical instruments
the walls as well.
I gagged and groped my way out into the sunlight.
How many people were in each tray, dissected individuals, their pieces neatly
arranged? There were probably at least six souls represented in each. I honestly
can’t remember—I try not to.
Who’s in There?
When I look at a bucket of chicken I see multiple individuals cut into pieces
and neatly presented as food. I often wonder, how many souls are in there?
When I asked a helpful KFC customer service representative about the buckets,
he said they come in different sizes and you can special order whatever kinds
of pieces you prefer. Generally, there are four body parts evenly represented:
wings, legs, thighs and breasts. So if you have a family-size bucket of roughly
16 pieces, for instance, you’d have four of each. If an assembled chicken
has two wings, two legs, two thighs and two halves of one torso, you’d
have roughly two whole chickens in one bucket.
Buffalo, New York’s Anchor Bar boasts itself as the original home of
the famous, tangy bar food favorite: Buffalo Wings. Their recommended serving
12-16 wings, neatly broken at the joint so as to make for more convenient finger
food. Smothered in their famous spicy sauce and served with creamy bleu cheese
and cut celery sticks is the traditional way.
Twelve to 16 wings. That’s six to eight souls. A fun night out watching
sports games, drinking beer, and chowing down multiple orders of Buffalo wings,
the body count adds up—a casual holocaust.
More Than the Sum of Our Parts
It’s the banality that makes it so horrific. One moment, they’re
people, with arms, legs; wings and thighs. The next, they’re reduced to
parts, used for science, food, whatever. Intuitively, my body tells me that it’s
all the same. My stomach churns and the bile rises, my body and mind unable
to differentiate all the lost souls. The one thing I am sure of is they are
more than the sum of their body parts. We all are.