The summer that I turned eleven years old some friends of mine found a dead body. It was floatin around in a little creek not too far from my house. After Danny and Ray found it they asked me if I wanted to take a look see before they went and told anyone else about it, but the news of the discovery alone was enough to turn my stomach six shades of sour.
“You sure you don’t wanna go?” Danny asked. “Ain’t that far from here.”
“I think it might be that Peters girl they been talkin bout on the radio.” Ray added. “They was thinkin she done run off or somethin. Guess they was wrong.”
“Nah, you go on.” I said, fighting back the thick chunks of pancake and scrambled egg rising in my throat.
“Ah, you ain’t no fun. Yous just ascared cause yous a girl” Danny said.
I’ll admit right here and now that I was scared, terrified even, but it didn’t have a damn thing to do with me bein a girl.
“I ain’t scared. I just got better things to do is all” I lied. “Now, go on, git” I yelled, slamming the door in their dirty little faces.
After them boys left I started thinkin more and more about that body. I was thinkin bout what it might have looked like when they found it. My mind lingered on her face. I imagined that her eyes had become deep and hollow and that her head was swollen on up like a party balloon. Was that pretty blonde hair of hers all mudded up? Had any animals got to her yet? Did she even look human anymore? I wondered.
I allowed those morbid thoughts to take over and stick with me into the night. I dreamed that she had clawed her way up from the creek bed and found her way into my room. She wrapped her cold wet hands around my neck and wouldn’t let go. The look on her face wasn’t anger though, it was fear. She tried to speak, but the only sound escaping her lips was the bubbling of water. It bothered me more than anything that they found her so close to my house. I no longer felt safe.
That stupid body of hers ended up bein the talk of the town that summer. You couldn’t even go a single place without hearin the name Maryann Peters bouncin off someone’s lips. I guess some folks is just more interesting dead than alive.
“It’s just so sad” They would say as they passed each other in the market.
“Can you even imagine?” They whispered as her parents walked by.
That’s the problem with small towns, ain’t nothin stay private.
There was this whole big investigation and everything. It seemed like everyone had their own idea of what mighta happened to Maryann. I think people was just tryna make sense of the situation or maybe they was just bored. But after it was all said and done, the police had come to the conclusion that she slipped and hit her head on a rock as she was tryna cross the creek on the old rope swing that was hangin there. That rope was there for as long as I could remember. They took it down after that. I didn’t think that was fair. That rope didn’t do nothin.
Mama had insisted that we attend Maryann’s service. She didn’t know her none, but she said that was the Christian thing to do. So we went. It seemed like the whole damn town was there. I think it was more out of curiosity than respect, but I couldn't blame them none. Wasn’t every day a child that young turned up dead in town.
Maryann’s service was the first funeral I ever went to. I think it was anyway. As hard as I try I can’t seem to remember havin to go to one before that. I hated every minute of it. Mama put me in the ugliest dress I think anyone ever had to wear and she pulled my hair back so tight that my face felt about an inch and a half higher than it was supposed to be. The service was done by an ugly old man with a big nose. He smelled like moth balls. I dont ever remember seein him before that day. He read from the bible then had us all holdin hands in a prayer circle to ask the lord to watch over Maryann. I didn’t see no point in that though, she was already dead.
It’s been almost thirty years now since Maryann was found in that creek and I can finally say with all honesty that dead bodies don’t bother me none no more. As a nurse, I have seen my fair share of them. She was my first though. I’ll admit that I don’t have the best memory so some of their names and faces escape me, but I will always remember my first. I still can’t believe that after all these years I’ve never been caught. Everyone is so god damned stupid. I mean, it was so fucking sloppy. I did make sure to clean up all the blood she got on me, but anyone with a brain could tell that weren’t no fall. I must have hit her three or four good times. Knocked her proper little head in with the biggest rock I could lift. I was surprised by how little sound she made after the initial blow. Just like turnin off a light. I don’t think I was intending to kill her, but I aint never regretted it none. Ain’t nobody call me a hillbilly and get away with it. It took me a few years before I found the courage to do it again, but now I’m an old pro. I’m up to eighty seven. I do make sure to attend all the funerals. After all, it is the Christian thing to do.