UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
THOMAS KEARNES

Photograph

I want to show Meredith the picture of the man who killed me, but she refuses to see it.

     It doesnít matter, she says.

     Iíve heard doesnít matter since we were freshmen in college. I must be pouting

now.

     Darren, youíre not dead, she says. The prick hasnít killed anyone. When you

actually die, then Iíll kick his faggot ass.

     She removes a pound of hamburger from the freezer. She fancies herself a chef,

so the burger meat must be a ruse, a diversion to let me know this conversation doesnít

warrant her attention. She takes a canister of diced onions from the spice rack.

     But I want her to see my photograph of Isaac Starnes. I visited him yesterday,

before Meredith. Their suburbs sprawl next to each other, a metropolitan kismet. They

could be friends, if proximity trumped any unpleasantness. I see Isaac when I drive into

Dallas. We fuck mostly, but every now and then stumble into conversation, like strangers

in a slow checkout lane.

     I canít believe you still see him, she says.

     She punches the microwave buttons to warm up the beef. The television drones.

She likes distraction, as if she could shatter any conversation into incoherence. Her back

to me, she watches the microwave window.

     If someone killed you, I say, Iíd want to know who it was.

     Meredith turns around and smirks. What good would it do you?

     Moments left to defrost, the red brain of beef spins inside its see-through box.

Someone comes to my house, Meredith says. Someone stabs me. Iím bleeding, I

need help, and where are you? Thatís when you needed meóto see him, to stop himóto

stop you when you bent over for some asshole you hardly knew.

     The microwave dings. Unable to speak, I watch her dump the beef into a tray.

     This was my death, and I wanted to share it with her like I had my life. I wanted to

tell her Isaac Starnes had given me more than she ever had, ever could: my way out of this

world.

     I snatch the photo from my satchel and shove it toward her. Isaac grimaces at my

lens. You donít photograph fuck buddies. Not when he wears his sweats and cradles his

dirty cat. But you can when he owes you.

     Thatís him, I say. Cute guy, huh? Worse ways to go.

     Meredith mashes the beef with her fingers.

     I suppose, she says. Nice smile. I can see the attraction.

     I wait for her to say more, to comment on the man who killed me: what does he do

for a living? Was he a good fuck at least? Does he wonder which of us will go first?

     Youíll have to hold it closer to me, she says. My hands are dirty.


Thomas Kearnes has published fiction in Wicked Hollow, Southern Hum, Blithe House
Quarterly and flashquake. He has work forthcoming this summer in Citizen Culture.
He has also published poetry in nearly a half-dozen magazines, including Nexus and
Slightly West.








© 2006 Underground Voices