Community hall nights, when cribbage takes place, and liquor made from potato peelings can be purchased. Hunters lay out inedible body parts on the table. The bony bits. Later they will be burned. It is a fortnightly bonfire intended to float grief & responsibility away. The old way of(more) doing things is exorcised from this new society on pork-stinking plumes.
On the table:
Hands with ragged, chewed stumps of fingernails. Van Gogh ears. Individual feet, mottled from years of walking in the wet with ill-sized boots & rotten socks.
It was a courtesy measure: hey, does anyone recognize this nose, this artificial eyeball, this belly button piercing? Hey, is this the wedding-ring finger of a spouse, a friend, perhaps an aunt? See the cherry red polish still clinging to the nail despite it being wedged with dirt that doesn't wash out? Was this someone you loved?
We have stopped asking: Is this someone I COULD love. Now it is everyone for themselves. We know that no one we encounter will mean anything good for us. We may as well make any survivors into a meal.
By show of hands, we voted and confirmed the fact to ourselves: no one liked Mike Bolger. But it wasn't for the usuual reasons kids have. He wasn't too fat or too skinny. He didn't have over large ears or wear thick glasses. His breath didn't stink, nor did he stutter,(more) nor did he have any medical conditions that would make him sickly or strange in the sight of others. In fact, physically, Mike Bolger was a handsome kid, with sandy blond hair and a healthy, golden complexion. Furthermore, he could throw a tight spiral and, as the fourth fastest runner in his class, he should have been one of the first kids picked when putting together a team at recess. But no one liked Mike Bolger.
Mike transferred to Cumberland Elementary halfway through the school year. As with any new student, the kids were drawn to him, peppering him with all kinds of questions: where he was from, what music he liked, and if he knew so-and-so. The feeling that something wasn't quite right about him came during one of these low key interrogations. Someone asked why he had left his old school in the middle of the year.
"My dad's work assignment ended and he said we had to move to Cumberland." This, naturally, lead to what his dad did for a living, which Mike appeared reluctant to get too specific about. Finally, he explained it like so, " He's sort of a minister. He helps people. People come to him and he helps them solve their problems and they pay him."
This sounded fishy to me, even slightly sinister, but I kept the feeling to myself. What kind of minister takes money from people like that? And for "solving problems". A sinister minister. It was weird. (less)