Crime scene technicians in head-to-toe white protective suits are photographing the bloodstains on planks of the boardwalk, dusting the railings for fingerprints, scooping shell casings into evidence bags. I look down from the window and think yet again about moving out of the neighborhood. Thieving seagulls with a human liking for fast food used to command the beach. It was entertaining watching them squabble over a French fry or scour the water for fish. Soon there might not even be a single living ocean left, just the creep of lugubrious shadows across the floor and up the walls.
Death takes such a bewildering variety of forms. A first cousin gets carried off by esophageal cancer, a childhood friend by dementia. Everyone involved, if only peripherally, feels the disturbing sensation of mounting the gallows. It’s a test of some sort, must be. Just last year my condition remained unnamed. Now it has a name too foreign for me to pronounce. The doctors say my body is attacking itself, even though you can’t see any outward signs yet, a rash or dark bruise. I’m often afraid, but when the end comes, oh, what dust will rise!
I don’t know if what happened to me has happened to others. I do know I have been pissing blood ever since. Sometimes the men who tied me to the chair were trying to extract information, but sometimes they seemed to just be amusing themselves. “How is this legal?” I said through broken teeth, and the tall one replied with a grin, “It’s not legal at all.” Days later when I was released back into the world, there was the kind of graffiti everywhere you usually only find in a men’s room – swastikas, dick drawings, and obscene references to your mom.
Howie Good’s latest poetry collections are The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro-Press, 2020).