by Josh Goller
The spade split a skin of wet leaves. She heaved a clump over her shoulder, the sodden ground spilling stinkwater into the hole. She’d picked this reedy spot along the creekbank so she could keep him close to the others, but no telling how close in the pelting rain. Were there a soul to bear witness, the whites of her eyes could be seen flickering, afire and huge, in the sporadic flashes of cloud-swaddled lightning.
Her chin itched where his beard hung, fastened to her cupped ears with braided whiskerloops. He lay crumpled in the mud, his head pared like an onion with his own buck knife, rainwater streaking down pale skin flaps.
Footing softened along the sloped creekbank, and while digging, she twice dropped to a knee. The slab of his curly-haired chestskin she’d suctioned to her breastbone sloughed off and slapped the murky gravewater. She fetched it and placed it alongside the rest of him. His chewing tobacco, gummed in her lip, dizzied her. She readjusted the frightbeard and scratched her wiry chin and spat, as she’d seen him do upon emerging from the Chevron’s shitter.
The spade struck a stone, or another hard thing. She bent. Prying out a sheath of rotwood, she heard the reeds swish behind her, followed by a plunging glop, and she turned and watched her flayed trucker bobbing in a postmortem escape. She hurried along the bank after him and gathered up a fallen willow limb and lashed at the corpse, but only managed to push him farther.
Wading into the swirling black water, her feet tangled in crags and she shucked a shoe in silt. A ratsnake parted the surface like an obsidian switch and lolled over the tumbling corpse, and she reached out and snatched it and pitched it ashore; she snagged the wet flannel of her trucker.
Reeds crunched underfoot as she dragged him along the bank to the hole. She dropped him in and twisted her beard back in place and licked her lips clean. The dug soil had melted in the driving rainstorm, and she’d barely enough left to cover him.
Skulking back to the road through the half mile of rushes and swampgrass, she was her trucker, spitting into shadows and scratching her crotch, road-weary and itching to bang some beaver should it be found leaning alongside her rig upon her ecstatic return from a long-held shit.
Behind the wheel, she breathed in the lurking stink of blood and jissom so deeply she thought her lungs might split. She switched on the headlights and they cut through the driving rain. She ground gears and the rig jerked forward and rolled across the slick asphalt. As she navigated toward the abandoned quarry to ditch the rig, she sang of the girl from Ipanema through her whiskers and reached into her pocket for the tobacco tin and lifted out the tenderest morsels of him she’d cut away and stowed there for such moments.