Site icon Alexander Hammil


We killed the old man in his sleep so he wouldn’t feel anything. Danny said he woke up while we were killing him and so he must have felt something but I don’t know. Sure it was he opened his eyes and gasped once and made a noise that might – might, I said, not was — have been my name or Danny’s but he was an old man and didn’t sleep very easy normally. I think it was just more of that. So what if he did wake up before he was all the way dead anyway? He wasn’t alive for very long once we got into him, so if he felt anything it wasn’t much. I don’t lose too much sleep over that sort of nonsense but Danny does.

All of which is sort of by way of introduction. Hi, howdy do, we killed this fellah, bang, dead. So. It doesn’t really matter why we were after killing him, the way I figure it; dead’s dead, and the whys and wherefores of those doing the killing are never as important to the dead as we make them out to be. Danny agrees with me on this. Anyway he died and we held onto his corpus for a couple of days until we had a cloudy night to bury him in. Only trouble was we had a long string of clear nights and bright ones, too, even without much of a moon the stars seemed to burn extra bright and we couldn’t see our way to doing our black work where we could see what we were doing. Superstition, you might call it.

So the old man’s corpus sat around in his bed for near on two weeks without so much as a shroud wrapped around it, just out in the open air of the room for the flies and whatnot to get at. We didn’t go into the room much during that time, always thinking that we’d move the body tomorrow when the clouds came in like they were supposed to, and truth be told neither of us wanted to go and sit for a quiet little tete-a-tete with the meat. When we finally figured we had to bury him proper bright nights or no we weren’t exactly looking forward to it. Two weeks of death doesn’t make anyone prettier, and he was an ugly old cuss to begin with. We were ready for worms, rot, pus, bloat, you name it. Ready, if not exactly dancing with joy at the prospect. But here’s the weird thing. Damn if the room isn’t full of roses when we open the door, huge flowers like cartoons, reeking with that rose smell that you think smells good for a couple of seconds before it gives you a headache, all growing out of the walls and floor and ceiling and the mattress on the bed and the little bedside table and the lamp on it, but not on the corpus at all. They snugged up right close to the body like puppies sucking at their bitch but they didn’t cover him over any.

Danny freaked out, just went right off the rails when he saw those roses, and especially when we got around to noticing that the old boy was in a lot better shape than he had any right to be after two weeks of moldering, and maybe better shape than he’d been in when he was alive. Anyway, that’s what Danny said, that he looked washed clean someway, less pinched and crabbed with living, but I don’t know. I didn’t see it, but then of course I don’t look for that sort of thing. But he wasn’t eaten away any, I can vouch for that. You’d have thought we did for him five minutes ago, not two weeks like it really was. Danny said it meant he was a saint, that when one of them up and dies – or gets killed, more often, saints being sort of aggressive about getting themselves popped off – when one of them dies, however he manages it, his body doesn’t get maggoty and blown up like other people’s, that they get soft lights and flowers and preservatives you and me don’t.

I don’t know about saints but I’m willing to find out. It’s been two weeks since we killed him, I said, let’s give him two more. I don’t know what we’ll do at the end of the month but we’ll have something there. Danny wants to take up religion, but I don’t know. I’ve seen what the best and brightest of their johnnies gets, and I don’t know that it makes up for everything that goes before, to say nothing of getting killed by two young guys with their eyes out for the main chance. I’ll take my chances with the maggots, thank you very much, yessir, nossir, not for me, no.

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