Thursday, September 14, 2006

Did you mean exercise?-- part, uh, two

In case you have yet to read Tedd's explanation, Tedd, Paul and I had a writing exercise where we had an albums worth of time (approximately 45 minutes) to write a short story-- or as complete a one as possible-- using the following rules: a conversation between a female apparition and a main male character must be had, you must use the name "Alex" in the story, and there must be a truck/moving van and one fruit somewhere in the story. Tedd's is hilarious and, not surprisingly, mine is grotesque and depressing. Enjoy!


Decay

The body was lying on my lawn when I went out to get the paper. I don’t think anyone else had seen it. Mainly, I wanted to see what the body looked like; how it died.

It was a woman’s corpse. She was nude and corpulent, lying on her side with the left arm and breast tucked underneath her own weight. White liquid (or maybe skin?) seemed to be melting off of her eyes in the heat. It was hot, even by August standards. Her eyes were leaking, not melting—leaking formaldehyde, probably. They were gray. Not like the gray of a threatening sky, but like the gray of a fluorescently lit room. Like tablature, only filmy and thin.

I was crying. Not bawling or emotional, but watering from the semen-like smell of the body. I tried to cover my nose, but how respectful is that? It was not her fault she smelled so bad. It seemed irreverent to cover my nose. Unnatural—like when a child acts indignant about cooking smells before devouring the finished product.

As I approached, the body seemed to get smaller. She couldn’t have been any more than 20 and about 5’6”. Her hands were thin and long—the one un-tucked arm pointed toward me with fingers gracefully splayed out to show her delicacy. It was as if she wanted to dance. My porch light was on. I noticed that when I walked out. Perhaps she was notifying me.

Other than the body and the light, there was a delightful appearance to the house. The neighbors often commented on it. It was easy to take pride in—simple color schemes on a white house, well kept grass and a crabapple tree adorning the middle of the front lawn. The corpse bordered the shade of said tree. Fallen crabapples lay around her—a couple of rotten ones lying about like unwanted memories.

I was over top of her. The stench, unbearable, had my eyes leaking as much as hers—was she crying too? Nothing but pride held my hands at my sides. Funny thing, my pride didn’t take me inside to call the police or investigate in pants. I remained in my burgundy terrycloth robe.

The woman’s neck had long cut marks along its midsection, and deep cuts in the back and right shoulder. Perhaps she fell from a truck when she died. Or maybe she was dragged behind a pick-up. I couldn’t tell.

When I decided I’d had enough, she spoke. I don’t know why, but it didn’t scare me. The whole yard seemed to turn red and gray when she spoke. She was beautiful—her voice pitched like a long time smoker but not to the point that it had affected her too much.

“Where am I?” She didn’t move while she spoke. Not even her mouth. Her stringy brown hair began to dry out.

“Just outside of town.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes.” I was rubbing the back of my neck and looking around.

“Look at me.”

When I did, she was vibrant. Her leaks evaporated from the grass, and she was cured of her abrasions. Her lips were full and red. Only her position was unchanged. Her contorted body ripened in front of me. She reminded me of a former girlfriend—God save me to remember which.

“What happened?” I could only manage that question without reaching to touch her.

“I was riding out of town. I hit something. My car did. I ran off the road is all.”

“Oh, that’s all?”

“Can you fix it; make it better or anything?”

“I… well.”

“I know doc. It’s bad. Can you help?”

Of course I couldn’t. I was no doctor. I scratched into my neck harder and harder as she spoke.

“Well, doc?”

“What’s your name?”

“Alex.”

“I can’t help you, Alex. I want to, that is. But you—you see, I, well—you’re well past, um…” I started shaking uncontrollably. I collapsed next to her and took shallow breaths.

“I need your help. Can you help me? I have to get home. I have classes in the morning.”

“Yes,” I said. My voice quavered. I inhaled sharply. “You have school to attend to. You have to wake up early.”

“So, what’s it gonna be, doc?” I heard my front door open.

“I can’t.” My eyes were closed. I didn’t remember them closing.

She withered to her former deadened state, and her right eye, again gray, stared back at me. I lay almost parallel—facing her.

Behind me, my wife screamed.

“WHO IS THAT? WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?! IS SHE DEAD? OH GOD! JOHN!”

She was worried, and rightfully so. She ran inside, presumably to call the police.

When I got to the door, she had locked it behind her. I sat down, in my robe, without crossing my legs and waited for the authorities.

The police and an ambulance arrived. The officers theorized that a cadaver truck had lost a body. There was little explanation as to how. No one ever asked Alex’s name, so I didn’t mention it. My wife kept her distance from the situation, staying inside with the kids. She peeked out the window every few minutes.

After the authorities departed, I walked back over and collected the rotten crabapples. I threw them, as hard as I could, into the neighboring street. They exploded on impact. Their remains rolled into ditches or sat in the middle of the street to be crushed by oncoming cars in the midday rush.

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