#130 Seaworthy

by Selu Davis

The lowcountry sawgrass is stiff with blood even as cattails bend toward the body. State Trooper Megan Sage finds Joey wasted and laid out, hands balled under his chin, starved limbs bruised and collapsed.

Spiderwort zigzags across Joey’s mouth of broken teeth as he sinks deeper into the longshore drift. She crouches. Megan’s fingers curl over her kneecaps so she doesn't touch him. Too many years on the job searching for other missings to neglect procedure. Megan focuses on forensics instead of her need to gather up his remains. Whatever else local police seek along the rambling shore that shelters broken shells, broken bones may as well stay lost to her tonight.

Forgetting herself, Megan reaches out to roll the frayed hem of his tee-shirt between her fingers, rips the cloth at the seam for a piece of Joey she can keep. How did he survive the kidnappers' hunts, rifles trained on him from vertex blinds as he rabbited for the marsh? The fragile bones of his left foot are crushed; pucker wounds at his shoulder and hip weep through dental floss stitches.

Her brother is dead: the answer to all the questions she can’t ask.

Megan jams the fetid cloth into her uniform pocket and reaches out to trace three fingers down the ladders of ribs that billow out into a bony birdcage. “What made you survive?” she wonders as the moon skates a pale shadow over his crooked profile. “For so long?”

Living, dying—and knowing. Without me.


Anonymous said...

There is a larger story here that I want to read! Love the beautifully described setting, at odds with the quiet horror of the discovery of the body.

- desertport

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. I want to read more. The stark horror of the body amid the gorgeous setting creates such a great tension.

Gita Smith said...

The great American nightmare in 250 words. Well done! What could be worse then the torture of a child held in captivity? The dental floss stitches sealed the horror.
Good job.

Anonymous said...

A slice of tragedy that is more than the sum of the words. The horror hinted at is a thing of terrible beauty. <3

Unknown said...

So much detail crammed into such a small space. i feel like I've read a thousand words of rich experience that is at once horrific and touching.

meesasometimes said...

As always your choice of words goes above and beyond..."billow out into a bony birdcage", guh, you.

Anonymous said...

Bare-bones, beautiful, absolutely chilling. Loved it, I want to hear more of their story.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is just gorgeously written, and vivid and sad.

The shift into the victim being Megan's brother happens perfectly, and explains her inability to stay distant and completely professional.

This would be perfect as the opening to a book (and maybe it will be!)

I would actually have left off the last part (Megan's thoughts). I first read this without noticing that they were part of the story, and her sad question-- the hint of regret that his survival only subjected him to more torture-- is so palpable and clear. It's the perfect place to stop, at least for me.