Nov 23, 2009

The detective's son

Look, the old man said.

The boy looked and the body on the slab was slightly green, somewhat wet and goosebumped, like the skin was moisturized like for an ad except instead of being a woman's long leg in warm water and light this was the flabby, fat and bat-winged arm of a greenish man in a morgue.

The old man asked the boy if he saw.

The old man was wearing a suit, with a long jacket over the suit jacket. They were both brown but their patterns didn't match. He was holding the boy by the shoulder. The old man was wearing a badge on a loop around his neck and the boy came up about that high. The boy looked, aware that his face was being examined by both the old man and the coroner too, the coroner an even older man who was all white with a condescending half smile, and the boy made sure his face showed nothing. He looked at the body, which was all laid out on the metal tray, and he said okay with his tone and face just flat.

The man on the slab had been stabbed, and the boy could see the wounds where they puckered, the black and purple oozing up and forming volcanic-looking ruptures on his chest. The coroner pulled back the sheet, plucking it away so the man was naked except for hairs, and then the coroner cut the man with a new knife, slicing down the center of the chest until the body belched open and the cavity yawned wet and gassy, rancid like sweet retch. The stabbed man's eyes were still closed even then, though his mouth was open like this was in fact a surprise. Then the coroner -- who still seemed to be smiling -- reached in with what looked like hedge clippers and there the bones in the chest went crack, slowly, crack, metered, crack.

Outside the old man lit a cigarette. It was fall and the leaves hustled after each other in half circles in the parking lot. The man had a mustache then, which he'd shave off about the time the boy turned 12, and when he smoked the boy could see how the hair around his mouth was brown just from the nicotine. You see, said the old man, I don't want you to grow up to be like me.