STYLE by Shea Newton

In the river just blocks from my house I watched a corpse caught in an eddy beneath the cottonwood trees that line the bank.  I waded toward it.  Toward its long yellow fingernails, transparent blue skin, slimy moss tangled beard.  It had bloated in the summer heat and strained the suit it wore.

“Why are you floating in this river?” I asked it out loud.

It turned its head and the glassy eyes met mine.

“I’m watching the clouds.” It winked.  “This suit’s Armani. I’m watching the clouds in style.”

“What’s it like being dead?” I asked it.

“I’ve done some terrible things,” it said.  The decaying flesh of its lips fell in pieces back into its open mouth.

“How much do you want for that suit?”

The corpse rolled on its side, its body still held by the current.

“What would I do with money?” it asked

“What will you do with that suit?” I began to smell its decay. It smelled like urine and rotten fruit. It smelled like flies and fish.

“I don’t know,” it said.  “How much you got?”

“Ten bucks. No twelve.”

“You’ll have to pull it off me. I don’t have the energy.”

I waded further in.  I took the pants first.  They slid off easily.  The skin of its legs slid off with them.  Muscle shown bare and gray there.  I took the jacket.  One arm pulled from its socket as I wrenched it from the sleeve.

“I think this will fit me,” I told it. I unfastened the buttons of the vest. The corpse’s torso fell back, sinking into the water as I pulled it over its head. I set the suit on the river bank to dry. Eventually the torso surfaced.

“You owe me twelve dollars,” it said.

“You’re not trying to scam me into an Alfani are you?”

“Read the label you prick,” it said.

I waded back in and counted the bills.  Two fives and two ones.  I shoved them into its rigor mortis fist.

“I don’t have any pockets,” the corpse looked at me questioningly.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“God damn it,” it said.

On the beach I watched the body turn in the eddy until it finally broke away, belly up in boxer shorts toward the rocks ahead.  The twelve dollars had slipped from its grasp and still spun in the water near me.  I picked up the bills and once they dried put them back into my wallet, crawled into the stiff sandy Armani suit and walked home, watching the clouds in style.

SHEA NEWTON lives in Boise, Idaho. He is forgetful in all the wrong ways.

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