Road Kill

A man was screaming. In the barn, the men who didn’t sleep in their boots were pulling them on. The beams of deranged flashlights were swing dancing on the windows from outside. The men moved toward the door and I moved against them, using my belly as a bull bar.

I climbed up into the loft, smell of a seaman’s navel and a window out onto the yard. Pet was laying on the ground in a circle of men who were talking over each other and slapping their weapons for emphasis. He was faced with his head toward me so that I could see his shoulder was resting on a rock about the size of a baseball. It was not a position anyone would adopt voluntarily. A headlamp brushed over his torso and I saw that he was covered in blood. I felt like I’d closed my lips around a vacuum hose.

The night crew ran the hot tapping operation, diverting crude oil pipelines into personal caches, which were harvested and refined and used to power the ranch and vehicles. It was high-temperature, high-pressure work, and they had lost men to it before. Which was why it didn’t make sense that the activities on the ground had taken on a military urgency. It should have been a time for tenderness, but there was no longer time for tenderness.

The guys were strapping weapons to their bodies and sharing cartridges around casually, looking the way Bosch would have painted a modern picnic, with children chewing on bullets rather than grapes.

I resisted the obvious interpretation of their actions for as long as I could. You can’t avenge yourself against chemistry. But the men armed up and raged out of camp, leaving Pet’s body lying on the ground.

I went out and sat beside him and moved his shoulder off the rock and into the grass. One of the cows was howling at the moon. I’d been kicked in the face once by a guy OD’ing while we slept toes to noses in the same bed. And it was frantic and blinding and sick. This wasn’t like that. It was quiet. I felt mushy and weird, like a peach that’s rolled down a staircase.

It wasn’t so different, living in the wake of the world, as it had been when the world was still around but I couldn’t see it because I was laying in someone’s garage treating my blood like a kid’s chemistry set and sleeping with strangers’ toes tickling my nostrils. Either way, you’re not living for any particular reason, you’re living just because you can’t help it, the same way it’s hard to draw your own blood even though your skin is so fragile, the way a few cells blink out in your brain and you can see the face of someone you’ve known forever and not recognize them, the way there’s so much junk in there that isn’t really you, and I don’t think any of us would still be here if there weren’t, when a pros and cons list of our lives limps along in circles like a one-winged moth.

Aw, hush. I don’t think that anymore. I haven’t thought it one single time since I met you, you know.

I unbuttoned the front of Pet’s green shirt and saw what I already knew. His chest was a demented sunflower of bullets. Not an explosion, then, but a war, one I’d sensed but never seen. I touched him because I didn’t want him to think that people would fear him now, or be disgusted. I patted him on the shoulder. If he’d opened his eyes he would have seen me and the moon hanging side by side in the sky.

“When you’re dead,” I told Pet, “You’re a dead peckerhead.” A little jumping spider sprinted across the open plane of his forehead.



Kim Carson Bodie

Kim Carson Bodie is an American journalist living on unceded Whadjuk Noongar Boodja land. She has worked a lot of odd jobs and lived a lot of odd places. This is her creative debut. You can find Kim on Instagram and she recommends you donate to buglife if you don't want to end up like the characters in this story.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, April 27, 2023 - 20:11