Ways of Coping

The room is as composed as a photograph, from the spray of just-opened blossoms to the white muslin curtains weighted down with blood. The body itself is tumbled artfully in the middle of the floor, one arm gracefully extended. David Brown thinks: he was beautiful. He was beautiful and he is dead.

What he means is: here is a riddle. Or, is there a riddle here? Is there something to discover, to unravel, to figure out, or is there merely a long chain of events with a prosaic beginning and blood at the end?

Here is what he knows about the dead man: name, age, address. All of these found on an expired driver’s license in the leather wallet in the man’s left hip pocket. Also in the wallet were a credit card, a library card, two membership cards for nearby grocery stores, and a collage the size of a business card with a baby’s head and a bird’s skeleton on it.

Here are the things in the room: three wooden chairs; one orange couch; one elaborately patterned throw rug; five hundred and seventy books, mostly genre fiction, four hundred and twenty three of which are paperback; one battered coffee table. On the coffee table are one glass, one plate, one fork, all used; one package of Fatimas, out of which four have been taken and almost certainly smoked, but not necessarily (missing from the room: an ashtray; the smell of smoke); seven empty beer bottles, comprising three different brands, which suggests a dilatory cleaning schedule more than alcoholism.

About the body: skinny jeans. One white sock, one black. Shoes are missing (he makes a mental note). Tight white t-shirt with an airbrushed picture of a howling wolf, heavily stained with blood. Hair mussed, though intentionally, modishly; no sign of violence. And of course the raw red gash of the throat with the remote, seraphic face above it, empty now of whatever it might once have held.