The smell coming from the body was awful. There’s no other word. It reminded me of cellar potatoes gone over, or a fly-blown carcass lying under a woodpile. It was the smell of maggot-scoured meat. The corpse had been in Kincaid’s shed all day, closed off from fresh air, torn apart and slopping out his damp guts like raw honey. Of course he stank, and it made me feel sick. It hit home what I was doing, and I wondered if The Handsome was worth the sickness I felt.
I once saw men digging a hole for a pig, said Kincaid. Took them all morning. They covered the pig with hot stones and buried it for the whole day.
That ain’t burying a man, I said.
I just meant that it took six good-sized men to dig a hole wide enough–
It ain’t the same, I said. We ain’t cooking this fella, we’re putting him to rest. His family and friends will never know. Whatever we do here, we do out of respect. It’s a solemn thing, not a barbecue.
I was just….
And it don’t have to be wide, it has to be deep. Real deep. Deep enough to stay put no matter what the weather, rain or tornado or earthquake, he has to stay put.
Vern Kincaid smiled. At least that was how it looked to me.
It’s still dark, and there’s still a dead body in the back of the pickup. We have to do something before sunup, and time’s running out. Time is greasy and melting like candle wax. The lines on the road are skewed, faded and wildly uneven. The sky is a thunderous canopy, blackened and bruised and moving like smoke. The wind smells sour and wet, and the road looks hand-drawn. Tree branches are too close and too low to the truck, and they scrape against the sides, sounding like scratched tinfoil.
I don’t see anything clearly in the truck bed, just heaps of old branches and the shape of a man wrapped in a dirty robe, his face obscured by deep shadows.
I have someone coming to take a look at it, he said. I turn my head, but there’s no one with me; voices sliding through the night.
And then the dead man sat up, and Vernon Kincaid planted a shovel into his rotting leg, and the sound was a screech, metal against dead bone.