The Body by Andrew Hilbert.


There it was. Flies buzzed around it. There had to be a hundred of ‘em. Flies, not dead bodies. Of dead bodies there was only one.

Traffic did not slow down the way it usually does at grisly scenes. Nope. It just kept speeding. But the body was there. I know cuz I saw it. I know cuz I poked it.
                
He wasn’t a friend of mine or of anybody I’d recognized. This dead body had a suit on. A suit and tie. Nobody ‘round here wears those. It’s tacky.
                
“Smells like shit,” Crazy Bob said, “Tha’s why the flies swarm it. They think it’s shit. You check his pockets?”
                
“I don’t wanna touch it,” I said.
                
“Well, shit! Poke him and make fer certain he’s dead so he doesn’t get all jumpy when I reach in his back pocket!”
                
“Ok, you gotta stick?”
                
“A stick!? There are sticks all over the god damn place! We’re on the side of the freeway!”
                
I looked around but there were no sticks.
                
“You think a beer can’ll work?” I asked him.
                
“Is it a tall can?”
                
“Nope,” I said with the empty Bud in my hand.
                
“If you wanna get that close to him. I hear dead rich people curse you with wealth if you poke them. You don’t want that, do you?”
                
“Wealth?” I asked.
                
“Money, you idiot. Just poke the motherfucker!”
                
I poked him in the shoulder with my finger. He didn’t move. The flies made my skin feel like millions of things were crawling all over it. I like that feeling.
                
“He’s as dead as flies on shit!” Crazy Bob’s hands dove into each of the body’s side pockets simultaneously. Crazy Bob pulled out an ink pen.
                
“What’s the California Redemption Value on this?” Crazy Bob was holding the pen close to his eye. He sniffed it. “What the hell’s the use of a pen!?” Crazy Bob threw it onto the freeway. Tires screeched but there was no accident. A pen ain’t too much of a harm to the normal flow of things.
                
Crazy Bob turned the body over and reached into his back pocket. He pulled out the biggest wallet I’d ever seen.
                
“I think our nightmares are over!” Crazy Bob could barely lift it with one hand.
                
I ran toward him.
                
“Fifty-fifty?” I asked.
                
“Sixty-forty.”
                
“Fifty five-forty five?”
                
“Sixty-forty.”
                
“Ok.”

Crazy Bob opened the wallet. No money in it, just a bunch of golden and silver credit cards. No one would believe me and Crazy Bob could legitimately get our hands on one of those. There were just some lint balls and a receipt to a high class restaurant. He spent $200 on two plates.
                
“That’s where all the money went, goddammit!” Crazy Bob yelled.
                
“That’s one heavy receipt.”
                
“Shut up! Shut the fuck up! How’re we gonna split this? Sixty-Forty. What’s sixty percent of a lint ball and an eyelash?”
                
“I’ll take the receipt,” I offered.
                
“What? So you can pretend that you spent $200 on a meal? So you can be the King of Shit-town? No!” Crazy Bob waved his arms around, holding on to that damn wallet like it carried bars of gold.
                
“I just wanna look at it and imagine,” I said.
                
“Imagine what? Imagine what? You stupid damn idiot sonofabitch cock sucking wannabe moneyed snaggle ass! What’re you gonna do with the receipt? Use it as collateral to get shiny new spinny rims on your grocery cart?!”
                
“Fine, you take the receipt. You can have the whole damn thing.”
                
Crazy Bob threw the wallet into the freeway traffic. One of those platinum Visas must have had a real heavy balance on it or something because that wallet shattered the windshield on a Mercedes and it went skidding across four lanes, getting smashed by cars less valuable in each lane. The flies’d be happy soon. The bodies were stacking up as far as I could tell. Lots of honkin’ and hollerin’.
                
Sirens started blaring nearby. A fire truck came. Police cars came. Helicopters hovered over. The Mercedes driver was dead-- I saw an officer poke him. A couple of officers were interviewing survivors and witnesses and all of ‘em pointed at me and Crazy Bob. Crazy Bob smiled and waved at them.
                
“Look at it this way, Corker,” Crazy Bob put his arm around me. With his free arm he pointed across the sky, “Free meals, a place to sleep, and television.”

He paused a second and made sure I heard him take in a deep breath right before he said, “Jackpot.”

Andrew Hilbert lives in Austin, TX.

14 comments:

tom pitts said...

Always love a good hobo tale.

Anonymous said...

"The flies’d be happy soon." Great line!! Enjoyed the story.

Graham Smith said...

What a strong tale of lifes unfortunates scavenging and arguing over the spoils. Kick Ass ending too.

Anonymous said...

I've typed my comments twice, and Blogger is screwing up!

Hopefully, this one takes:

After I read this story, the Counting Crows song "Mr. Jones" went through my head.

You've written a story about life's losers that's both sad and sublime. Good slice-of-life scene!

Robin B.

Madam Z said...

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

"You stupid damn idiot sonofabitch cock sucking wannabe moneyed snaggle ass!"

Okay, I may have to reconsider. But the free room and board in jail will help soothe the pain.

Good story, Andrew!

Rick Carufel said...

Nice and gritty, just the way I like it. Nice job Andrew. :)

Anonymous said...

All I needed was a Mercedes crash and I was happy.

Anonymous said...

cheers to this one!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Nice delivery, and got a few laughs too with some of those clever lines.

ajhayes2 said...

That's the way you do a flash. Complete story and never a word in it the got in the way of the telling. Favorite line, "Is it a tall can?" That one was a real coffee spitter. The rest of the story matched up just fine. Cool.

Liam Sweeny said...

Great sory. I can picture the highway and Crazy Bob, love it.

David Barber said...

A fine tale, Andrew. Thanks for taking the bits of advice I offered. Great read and, as AJ said, not a word wasted. Well done!

Benjamin Sobieck said...

Love the tight prose in this piece.

"Sirens started blaring nearby. A fire truck came. Police cars came. Helicopters hovered over. The Mercedes driver was dead-- I saw an officer poke him."

There's a real lyricism to that passage. Nice job, Andrew!

Mark said...

Poignant and hilarious. More writers like this please.