Sunday, July 1, 2012

Scene for a roadside death

A short woman sat on the guard rail sobbing; her face as bright as a raspberry. Leaning forward, gasping for air, her swollen, over-ripe breasts were just shy of tumbling out of her nearly invisible bikini top.

She probably shouldn't have worn the swimsuit in the first place. She wasn't a small woman and later on, the details of the afternoon might come back to her in electrified flashes --but she didn't mind be stared at. Men like curvy women and what was wrong with liking being stared at on a sunny day by the river? Why not be looked at? What was wrong with feeling warm all the way through?

The woman's hair was wet and hung down the sides of her head, flat and oily. A friend, a sister maybe, had an arm latched around her shoulder. She held her stiffly, even fearfully, as the woman gasped out of grief and horror. The friend, the other woman, her face grim and ashen, her head turned away, mumbled something like prayers: things of no use to the living, things that could not be heard by the drowned.

A small crowd clumped around them, some, like the women, perched on the guard rail, near their vehicles. A few milled around in a schizophrenic shuffle; rocking one step here then one step there but never really going anywhere.

This was just the waiting around for news already lying on the doorstep.

The deliverers of that message, a small army of uniformed professionals, waited in the wings. They stood by polished, red trucks, leaned out the door of predatory police cruisers and watched with curiosity the drama unfolding without their help. They're only apparent purpose, the bulk of them, seemed to be to  separate the crowd of family and friends, soon to be mourners, from those working unseen, underwater, looking for a body.

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