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Wednesday morning I pulled the garbage bins out into the street for collection. When I went back for the second one I discovered a lizard had been sleeping under the first. In dragging out the bin, I’d chopped off its tail.

The lizard wasn’t moving, it was cold, and being woken up like that must have been a bit of a shock. The tail on the other hand – a couple of inches in front of its face – was thrashing like a beached fish.

I wondered what it must feel like, waking up to find your tail in front of you like that and not being able to look away? I bent over staring at it for a while, until I realized the neighbors might think I was acting strangely. I pulled out the other bins then went back for a final look. The tail was still as energetic. The lizard was still watching it.

It’ll grow back I thought, lizards are designed that way. Getting their tails chopped off is such a common occurrence that the good Lord has written in a charitable DNA clause. But how common I thought? More often say, than human beings having their hands chopped off – by other human beings? I doubt it. So why doesn’t the good Lord – who devised this appalling human propensity – not recompense the victims with the same kind of charity? It hurt having them chopped off and a lot of the victims were children. Isn’t that good enough?

What makes lizard tails so special? Lizards don’t eat with their tails, don’t defend themselves with them, or earn their livelihood, or dress themselves, or clean themselves or hold one another with them. They certainly don’t to go to church and fucking pray with them. So what’s the deal?

“It’s cruel and unusual punishment (Joe) that’s what it is.”

“This is prison (Terry), it’s supposed to be cruel and unusual. That’s the whole idea.”

(Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis in Bandits.)

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Malcolm Mc Neill’s first project out of art school was a seven-year collaboration with writer William S. Burroughs. His two books about the experience were published at the end of last year.


His most recent exhibition of paintings was in August 2013 in New York.


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