Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » July 2018 » “This Corpse” by Ron Riekki

“This Corpse” by Ron Riekki

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, a butcher, an addict, and a liar dissect a corpse in the country’s cheapest med school. 

This Corpse
by Ron Riekki
Raleigh, North Carolina

Matt sneezed all over the pig fetus and then wiped his nose with his glove covered with formaldehyde and who knows what viruses. I asked if I could switch groups, but the instructor said, “People can’t just move when they want,” which has never been a rule in any universe I’ve lived in.

That was last week. Today was different. Today was our first corpse. There were three of them. For three groups. One group was all Chinese females who I never heard speak a word of English, even when they spoke with the professor, a man born in Guangzhou, which is somewhere in the blob of China. The second group was all Latinas who never seemed to speak at all, just nodding and studying in silence.

Then there was our group: four hard-core failures who thought becoming doctors would save us from existence. Matt was definitely an addict of some sort, possibly several sorts. K was the laziest human on the face of the earth; he even abbreviated his name from Ken to K, because it takes too much energy to write three letters. Adedayo spent the last two decades as a butcher and one day decided there isn’t much difference between a butcher and a surgeon, except pay.

We were told to speak out loud the words written on the board, which were FOLLOW THE SHEET EXACKLY. This was one of the cheapest med schools in the country. I know because I looked it up and it was incredibly low rated for quality of education, but very highly rated for parking. A problem was everything was misspelled. The professor would confuse the words “corpse” and “course,” writing in our syllabus that if we were going to “pass this corpse,” we would “have to study at least fifty hours a week.” I asked if he meant to write “fifteen hours a week” and his reply was, “What does the syllabus say?”

Matt cut into the cadaver without reading from the sheet, saying “I wanna see the heart.” I informed him the heart is in the center of the chest and not off to the left like everyone likes to think. But Matt continued, apparently thinking the heart was located in the shoulder. Mind you, he had to have several prerequisites done to even be allowed in this class, but he told me he had to be high to study, so I think the smoke jumbled up all of the Latin and facts in his head so the heart was located in the shoulder and the eyeballs—to him—were somewhere in the chest.

Minutes later, with the thoracic area spread open, we had struggled to find the gallbladder and were unsure which was the pulmonary vein and which was the pulmonary artery. Frustrated and nicotine-starved, Matt put his hand into the middle of the cadaver and just started stirring all of the organs in a circle.

K excused himself.

Matt, Adedayo, and I stared down at the goop.

Behind us, the Chinese girls whispered in Mandarin and their whole group gave a collective nod of agreement about something that I had the feeling was incredibly specific. They gently placed something back into their corpse’s chest. I glanced over and it appeared to be the perfect corpse, the woman having died so peacefully that you imagined prayers still softly radiating in her head. Our corpse looked like he’d committed multiple suicides at the same time. And now, stirred, he resembled a monster. Matt itched something on his face and when he put his hand down, I could see something shiny on his cheek.

About 200,000 patients every year get infections by going to hospitals.

“How many patients you think you’re gonna kill?” I asked Matt.


“Where did K go?” I asked.

“Probably emesis,” said Matt.

“No,” I said, closing my notebook, “He knows this guy.”

“Who knows what?” Matt said.

“This guy,” I said, pointing to our cadaver, “K told me before we started that he recognized who he is.”

Shocked, Matt put his gloved hand to his mouth.

“He’ll probably come back and stab you in the gut with one of the scalpels,” I said.

The goop stared back at us.

I was making it all up, of course. But I thought Matt should at least try to learn one thing today, since we hadn’t learned where a single organ was in the guy’s body.

Next to us, the Latinas zipped their body bag up, finished for the day.


RON RIEKKI has been published in The Threepenny ReviewBellevue Literary ReviewWigleafPrairie SchoonerShenandoahAkashic BooksJukedNew Ohio ReviewCleaverPuerto del Sol, and many other literary journals. His story “Accidents” received the 2016 Shenandoah Fiction Prize and “The Family Jewel” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2015. His books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917–2017Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper PeninsulaThe Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works, and U.P.: a novel.


Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—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 distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 9, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , ,