“The Belizean Body Dump” by Tom Leins
Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.
This week, Tom Leins has an interesting encounter in Belize.
Freddy scowls when I shine my flashlight in his face. His gold tooth glints in the gloom.
“You’re late, boy.”
“Don’t blame me, boss—blame your mother.”
I wince. It’s a bad line. Freddy’s mother has been dead since 1992.
He grins regardless. It’s good to see him.
I haven’t set foot in Belize for nine years, and I’m already regretting it.
I need money, and Freddy says he has work for me. Last time I spoke to him he was working as a beachcomber in San Pedro, scuffling over coke parcels that had been wet-dropped in international waters. He told me he moved back to Belize City after he started dragging in more bodies than packages. Ironic, really . . .
There are six body bags on the flatbed truck. We haul them onto the water taxi one by one.
Freddy used to be a cop—well before I knew him—and I figure he may have connections in the Gang Suppression Unit. Everyone knows that the GSU leaves a bloodbath wherever they go, and I’ve heard that they now employ a cleanup team to haul away the broken bodies before the fucking journalists arrive.
The rain is coming down hard, and the boatman has rigged up a tarpaulin for us to sit under. Freddy passes me a bottle of Belikin. It tastes like shit, but at least it’s cold.
“You ever see Amber?”
She was born in Dangriga. She had two silver upper teeth and a tattoo of lipsticked lips on her neck. The last time I saw her was the morning I was extradited. She was sitting on a stool painting her toenails orange. The rhinestone in her belly button glinted in the morning sun. She said she would visit me in prison, but she never did.
I shake my head.
Caye Caulker. Thirty kilometers northeast of Belize City.
The boardwalk creeks under our bare feet as we drag the bodies off the boat.
The rain has eased up, and the sand looks black and gritty beneath the pale moon. The mangroves twitch in the night breeze.
The garbage dump is next to the airstrip. It stinks like the dead and the dying.
Crocodiles scare the shit out of me, but I can see half a dozen snouts poking out of the sludge.
Freddy passes me the axe and keeps the shovel for himself.
I unzip the first bag.
It is a fat man with a bland face. He has a weak chin and a chunky gold chain. Freddy rips the jewelry off his fat neck and stuffs it in the pocket of his black boilersuit. He was supposed to burn the suits after a botched home invasion, but thought that they would come in handy for his new job.
I unzip the bag further. No bullet holes, which surprises me. No slash marks or bruising either—just a bloody crater where his guts used to be.
Jesus. What kind of shit is Freddy into now?
“Why did we have to haul these bodies all the way out here? Couldn’t we have just dumped them in the backwater canals in the City and be done with it?”
Freddy smiles ruefully.
“My friend wanted the bodies off the mainland and as far away from the jungle as possible. It causes less . . . awkwardness, that way.”
A shrill whistle pierces the sour night air.
I reach for my brass knuckles, figuring it for some island rent-a-cop doing his rounds.
The man is small—not midget-small, but really fucking short. He is ugly as sin and smells of jungle rot.
He grunts when he sees me, eyes glowing red like a rabid dog. He prods me in the chest with his wooden stick, but I stand my ground.
“You like this work, boy? Plenty more bodies where these come from.”
He laughs gutturally, unpleasantly, spittle clinging to his rotten teeth.
The stash of banknotes he withdraws from his billfold is so moldy I can barely make out the picture of the fucking Queen.
He passes me the cash and I notice that he has no thumbs, just raw lumps of scar tissue where the digits should be.
He grunts again, adjusts his red pimp hat, and weaves his way back into the drizzle, hobbling on crippled-looking feet.
I keep a tight grip on the brass knuckles until I can no longer see the freak.
“Who the fuck was that?”
Freddy chuckles amiably.
“If you need to ask, then you are better off not knowing.”
TOM LEINS is a disgraced ex–film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, and Near to the Knuckle. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at http://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Nov 13, 2015
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