map The Whole Goddamn Town

by William R. Stoddart

Published in Issue No. 251 ~ April, 2018

I made my way through the crowd and could see the man they shot. The dead man’s mouth was open, blood was flaming red on his hands, and his pants were wet. The smell was firecrackers and the sour mixture of blood and piss. Two cops showed-up and started yelling at the men who had rifles and shotguns. The young cop’s hat was crooked on his head and drops of sweat ran down his chalky face. The older cop kept telling him to pull himself together ‘cause everyone was watching. He’d be goddamned if he were going to be embarrassed in front of the whole goddamn town. “Git them guns out a here.” The young cop pushed the fat man that had the shotgun, and the older cop pulled out his sidearm. The big ugly car from the funeral home inched through the crowd, and the undertaker squirmed out of the car with a stub of a cigar in his teeth. He was a short man and wore a wrinkled black suit coat, and his face resembled a prune. He looked at the fat man with the shotgun and slowly shook his head.

“What da hell did ya do, Tubs? Huntin’ season’s over!” Prune face said. Some of the men laughed, and they were shaking the fat man’s hand, and the cops told them to go home. “Where the hell am I supposed to take it?” The undertaker asked as he bent over the dead man, closing the eyes of the corpse with his stubby nicotine fingers. The young cop was now sitting on the curb of the street with his crooked hat off.

“Can’t ya take it to your place?” The older cop asked the undertaker. “Town gonna pay? You gonna pay? I got expenses same as any business. You ought to make them guys pay that shot ‘em. Take a collection for all I care. Pass your partner’s hat ‘round.” The undertaker was mad, talking fast and wheezing.

“Leave ‘em alone. He’s green,” the older cop said, feeling sorry for his sick young partner.

“Yeah, I see he’s green!” The prune face smiled a pleased look, and when he smiled, his eyes disappeared into folds of gray flesh. The older cop helped the undertaker lift the dead man onto the stretcher and into the back of the big ugly car. A fire truck showed up with its red light spinning, and we all watched them hook-up the thick canvas hose to the hydrant. The smell of mildew lifted off the canvas as water animated the hose. The fireman doused the sidewalk and street. The blood melted into frothy pink water and found its way over yellow bricks on the street to the storm sewer. It smelled like rain on hard-baked dirt, and it helped me feel better.

I remember the sounds of men excited from the kill – scout leaders, coaches, postal clerks, store owners, veterans, vestry members, neighbors, retired men with perfect lawns. The clouds furrowed like sand below waves in the feeble November light. It was, after all, my goddamn town.


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March 6, 2018 Dear Fiction Editor, William R. Stoddart’s work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, The Adirondack Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Fast Forward Press, 34th Parallel and Ruminate Magazine. He lives in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh. Thanks very much in advance for your consideration! Sincerely, William R. Stoddart