And it was the morning after a big party but we hadn’t come down completely yet, much less gone to sleep, so Doug and me and a couple girls went to hang out on the abandoned highway bridges. We were going to go to the Amoco for sodas but weren’t coherent enough to talk to sober people yet, so we were just up there. I saw these big piles of dirt mixed with gravel and called out to Doug that we should dig for dead bodies.
He ran over all excited, waving that weird black umbrella cane he always carried whether it was going to rain or not, something about the Penguin from the comics, but then he sagged all disappointed. Said he thought I told him I found one and he was almost kid-happy to see it.
Still, it was a good idea and we dug, him using that umbrella, careful so as not to fuck it up in the dirt. The weird thing was that we actually found one.
Well, the guy wasn’t really dead. He was an out of work auto body mechanic. Said his name was Karl, though he slurred a bit. His training was all on Volvos, which no one in town drove since the 70s, so he got fired when the market dropped on that as all the old ones finally crapped out. The city was real strict on the homeless, so he hid by burying himself alive. Breathed through an old plastic McDonald’s straw he found in a storm drain. The jig was up due to our digging, but he wasn’t too mad. I’d apparently been standing on the straw accidentally anyway, so he was going to have to come up after all for air.
Of course, there was no way we could simply leave things like that. The girls would never have slept with us again. Not that they ever had, but again was still a concern. Regardless, we got him a job behind the register at the Amoco.
It was perfect; the store was open 24 hours a day so he didn’t need an apartment. He’d bath in the employee-only sink and sleep at the counter when business was slow. He had to survive off microwave burritos and those big-sized Sweet Tarts, but everybody had some kind of problem. All things considered, he wasn’t too bad off.
Which is more than I could say for Doug and me. We ended up getting 10 years for disturbing a crime scene. I tried to tell them Karl wasn’t really dead, but cops never listen.
They only want to get home to watch Cheers.
David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time, Not Quite so Stories (2017 Nebraska Book Award Winner, anthology), The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, and Bones Buried in the Dirt. He is a Staff Reader for Digging Through The Fat and his writing appears in Literary Orphans, The Airgonaut,Connotation Press, and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/.