FICTION January 7, 2011

What They Did with the Body

The next day Ross Reed took the eye to a concrete bridge that stood over the highway that split Floyd in half. The bridge was covered with graffiti and fliers for basement bands. He waited until a sixteen-wheeler came. He dropped the eye so it hit the windshield, which made the truck swerve. All the way to the gas station he thought about what it would be like to see an eye burst on your windshield. Maybe like the sky was looking back.

At the gas station Ross bought a pack of cigarettes. He flashed a homemade ID so the clerk could say it wasn't his fault if the sheriff took an interest. He spent the rest of the afternoon leaning against the back wall, smoking his pack, and remembering his father for the last time. At 3:30, when school was getting out three blocks away, he went back into the gas station and bought a dozen eggs. He cracked four of the eggs in his hands and let the yolks fall to the tar, where they sizzled and fried. They were yellow like congealed snot or thick sleep in your eyes.

The gas station was on the north side of the latex factory, near the highway. Ross could not see the smoke, but felt it behind him, just over his shoulders like a scrutinizing giant. He could feel the factory workers making condoms, latex gloves,  and balloons, stretching the material over metal molds shaped like long dildos and large, featureless hands, which stood out from rotating half-spheres in wild clusters. There were people that said the town smelled wrong. If this was so, or had ever been, he couldn't find the scent anymore.

There were and always had been little white squares of paper on all of the pumps, over the credit card slots, with notes that said they were temporarily out of order, and the customer would have to go inside, with cash.

Some of the other kids came to smoke and talk about themselves. Not Diana, who was, apart from her association with Ross, one of the good kids. She was planning to go to college, probably with her sister, and Ross was supposed to come along and live with them. Of course that would mean leaving Floyd. Now that Hal was dead, this was easy to imagine, and it seemed very simple.

His uncle Warren drove by and waved through his window. His face had a certain kind of glow that Ross thought he recognized.

When he was at the gas station Ross Reed liked to be called Double-R. He pulled wild moustache hairs from his lip and twisted them between his fingers. Everything smelled like gas and rotten egg.

The other teenagers talked about school work they hadn't done, or had done poorly. Hal Reed was not explicitly mentioned, and already Floyd's youths found it easy to discuss other things, sometimes including who they thought should be killed next. There were no explicit criteria, though there must have been some shared understanding about who deserved to live, as conversation quickly coalesced around certain people, though none were specifically named.

Then it was dark. The air went sweet and sticky like it was all laced with soda syrup. Ross bought himself another pack of cigarettes. He couldn't smoke through this one so fast – he was nearly out of cash, and he was thinking of seeing a movie with Diana. He rounded up three other people, some of whom he might have called friends, and they went to egg Fat Steve's house with what was left of his dozen.

While they egged his house, which happened sometimes, Fat Steve dug a hole in his back yard. He laid a shoe box down inside. It was like he was burying his penis. He felt numb and weird between his legs. If this was a seed, he wondered, what kind of plant would it grow.