by Christopher Aslan Overfelt
Mouse’s trailer is homemade, a rusted metal frame held together with crooked welds and broken bolts. At one point it had a wood floor and sides but the wood has long since rotted and fallen off. A single gray board hangs perilously on a bent nail.
Mouse, himself, has a bare frame with rotting pants held perilously on a single suspender. He crouches down on the frame of his trailer, across the spars of which lies a body. The body is clothed and Mouse begins by removing the boots and shirt and pants and trading them for his own.
Still crouching over the body, Mouse takes up a torch and strikes its nozzle alight, honing the flame to a sharp hissing blue. In the dark of night, the light flickers electrically as he begins at the chest and works the flame down the sternum and through the stomach. The skin sizzles as it separates in neat lines and Mouse shuts off the torch and begins to peel the skin from muscle and bone. He pulls on the long flaps and exposes the rib cage, the abdominal muscle and the organs below.
Taking a pipe wrench, he begins at the fine bones of the ribs and snaps them off one by one until he is able to break the chest plate into pieces and pull it apart. Below, the purple bulbous heart is harvested with tin snips, followed by the liver and kidneys and other precious organs. With a set of pliers, he detaches the eyeballs from their sockets and then moves to the teeth.
When Mouse is finished, the body is disassembled; the arms from their sockets, the fingers and toes twisted from the grip of joint and ligament. Even the fingernails are pulled and stacked in order from largest to smallest.
On the horizon in the east lies a sliver of light that is the same hue of the blue flame of the torch. The blue light gathers and emanates from the tassels of the corn that stand like rowed sentries across the empty land. Around Mouse is a pile of junk that has washed up into the corn like starfish on an ocean tide; parts of machines once honed and crafted to operate in perfect harmony are now discarded and cast off like members of a quarantined community.
Through the layers of junk, Mouse moves like a ghost, traveling through passageways with hardly a noise as he stores his harvest in crevices he will never find again. As the blue light dawns across the land, Mouse crouches with a handful of kernels and chews them one by one in his teeth until, in a nest of scrapped newspaper, he curls and digs his toes into the soft earth and sleeps.
Christopher Aslan Overfelt lives and works on the empty plains of Kansas. In the summertime he grows cucumbers and in the winters he takes attendance at the local high school.