FICTION January 7, 2011

What They Did with the Body

The citizens of Floyd disposed of the body in their own ways and in their own time. People did not ask each other what they had done with their shares, though sometimes the information was volunteered, or so public as to be inescapable. Joanna Dillard stomped her quarter of his right lung on the pavement of the outdoor basketball court in front of several other teens, including her sister. She stomped and stomped until the lung was pulped, and then she stomped until it was only a gray stain on the cement. Some felt that this was too far, while others did not. This was the virtue of each person acting on his or her conscience – they could all judge for themselves where the line of decency fell.

Joanna came home to a message from Fat Steve. She thought he should have used her cell phone's voicemail – it would have been more discreet. He said he enjoyed their evening together. He hoped Paula wasn't worrying about what she did in his bathroom. He had cleaned it all up and everything was fine now. He hoped they would be able to get together again some time soon. He wanted to hear all about her university applications.

Joanna poured herself a tall glass of milk. Her parents wouldn't be home from work for several hours, which meant her sister was down stairs with Ross Reed. There was $75 in dog-eared cash on the kitchen counter, left by Ross for her father to discover. She pocketed the money. This was the third time she stole his rent. As far as she could tell, no one really cared, which was typical of her family. Probably her sister was sucking Ross Reed off right now. Or maybe – and this was worse, way worse – Ross was eating Joanna's sister out, working his tongue and lips on her like she was made of cotton candy, which was just about how her pubes looked ever since she gave up shaving (against Joanna's advice).

Joanna wondered when Floyd would meet again. At the meeting where it was decided that Mr. Reed would have to die, he hadn't been invited. He stayed home to watch television. Of course Mr. Reed must have known there was a meeting coming, and no one had asked him not to come. He stayed home anyway. It was possible he didn't know what Floyd would say, or how they would come to vote on his life.  She thought it was more likely that he had some idea about all this – his last words to John Taylor seemed to suggest as much – and had concluded there was nothing to say in his defense. Joanna knew what that was like. She had felt, for as long as she could remember, very much the same.

Joanna decided she wanted to tell her sister all about her day. She went downstairs and into the basement without giving any warning beyond the sounds of her bare feet on the wood steps. Ross Reed and Joanna's sister, Diana, were watching television by the time she could see them, which was all they ever did when Joanna was around. Ross was rolling his father's eye around in his hand. The colored ring around its pupil was blue like a beer can. Earlier that day, he had stripped the nerves with his pocket knife, leaving only the glassy sphere, and the grime that accrued on its surface.