THE DEAD MAN • by Shane Fraser

Kitrid told me I’d go to Hell for what I done. I didn’t believe her. It was a mistake, I said. Kitrid said it didn’t matter; that some mistakes are forged in iron. But I didn’t know what that meant. All I knew was there was a dead man on the floor and I sunk the knife.

The dead man wasn’t dead last week when I met him. He was at church and I saw him take communion. When he kneeled he did it with a smile, and he took more blood than body. He kept smiling as he walked to his seat and he smiled at me and I smiled back and I smiled thinking about that smile later on. It was hard not to think of the dead man.

I kept seeing the dead man around the bay. I don’t know if he had a home but he had old clothes and sometimes he had a bag and sometimes he didn’t. He’d sit on the dock and stick his feet in the water and one time I went by him with Kitrid after getting ice cream and he smiled at me, but I didn’t smile back ’cause I was with Kitrid and I’d be embarrassed. That was the first mistake, I figure. The first of a lot of ’em.

A day later I was walking to school and the dead man was leaning against a post. He was frowning at me. He had on a hat this time, and it pointed down on his face and made him look scary. I thought the dead man was handsome until then, but he looked old and white as a ghost up close. I stopped near the sign.

The dead man lifted his hat a bit and his eyes shone blue.

“Why didn’ I get a smile, yesterday?” he said.

I looked to the ground, coy-like.

“Sorry.”

“That’s no reason. Sorry?”

I shrugged. “I guess I don’t got a reason.”

“E’rybody needs a reason. There’s no life without it.”

“I never have reasons.”

The dead man crossed his arms.

“You’re young. You will, soon, and then that’s life.”

“What’s your reason?” I asked, putting my foot behind the other.

“Oh, I have lots of reasons. Drinking, gambling, no mother, shit dad.”

I looked him up and down. The sun was shining and made the dead man brighter. It warmed him to me.

“My dad yells sometimes,” I said.

The dead man smiled.

I made sure to smile back.

I told him I was late for school and walked away. I didn’t see him again until the last time I’d see him.

And so the night came. Me and Kitrid were having a sleepover. We were in my room on the top floor, talking and laughing as always happens when we get together. My parents were gone to the movies: a mistake. I had the window open: a mistake. And we were loud: a mistake. A thud was heard. The dead man was standing on my floor. Kitrid screamed. His eyes shone red. He came to my bed and kneeled down. He smiled at me, then started to pull down my dress. As the dress met my ankles, I reached under the bed and pulled a knife. It sunk into his back. He curled up like a dog and the dead man was dead.

The police were called. The man was taken away. I was given lots of presents and everybody treated me nice.

But Kitrid wouldn’t have it. You had the knife, she said; the knife was there all along. Kitrid was right. She was always right. I put the knife under the bed when the dead man smiled. And I smiled back. The dead man never had a chance.


Shane Fraser is a writer from Saskatchewan, Canada.


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