In the kitchen lay a corpse with an unknown identity. Betsy and Mr. Dearborn had heaved it atop the breakfast table while Mrs. Dearborn wailed in the opposite corner, overcome with the feeling that this person had not been given a dignified death and would be subject to the knowledge of his abandonment and everlasting loneliness. She’d watched Betsy folding the body’s arms across its chest as her sobs grew shrill with the hopelessness of it all.

“Can’t we do something?” she said. Tears pooled in the pockets between her collarbone and her neck. The door to the parlor slammed shut and she felt a warm cloth pressed against her cheeks and resigned herself to despair until the body and its soul, searching the property like a child separated from his mother in a department store on Christmas Eve, could be passed over to the Lord in peace. “Betsy, you know we have to do something.”

“Yes, Mrs. Dearborn, of course. Mr. Dearborn is calling the police to have them remove the body. The kitchen will be scrubbed clean by tomorrow morning, and you will be able to forget this ever happened.”

Terror spread up Mrs. Dearborn’s spine, and her eyes widened as if encouraging her to unleash an onslaught of tears. The salty sting washing over her cheeks soothed her: she was going to save this person’s afterlife, and she would accept the torture of the process as confirmation of her morality. Her mother, arranging bread in the wicker basket she’d carry to her neighbors a mile down the road every Sunday morning, always told her that life’s trials would guide her to Heaven. “They can’t take him, Betsy. They won’t give him the burial deserves or even attempt to help his soul find the path to God.”

“But, Mrs. Dearborn, Mr. Dearborn said it would be best if we got it out of the house as quickly as possible. We don’t know where it’s been, or what it might have brought in with it.”

Mr. Dearborn returned to the kitchen staring at the silver pocket watch his wife had given him on their wedding night. The metal had dulled considerably since, though Betsy polished it every time it was within her sight. “What is she going on about, Besty? I told you I was taking care of it.”

“She’s primarily concerned, Mr. Dearborn, with how the police will lay the body to rest.”

“Oh, is that it? Such a sweet woman, she is. They’ll give it a proper burial; they always do. You needn’t worry yourself with it.” He tucked the watch into his jacket and instructed Betsy to light the stove.

Mrs. Dearborn sniffled, and her husband suggested that she spend the afternoon in bed, as the consensus was that the police would upset her far too much. She took to the stairs slowly, searching for a face in the mangled body as she left the kitchen.

“Remember, my love,” Mr. Dearborn said, “this will all be over in the morning.” He winked and, breathless, she crossed the threshold to the foyer.

Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 11, 2012.


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