They Dig Up Oliver Cromwell’s Body to Publicly Hang It, 1661
Jeter’s World History report has taken a turn. Marty’s gone, so it’s my job to sit in the kitchen and make dinner and talk to Jeter about England. I have the brief but insistent feeling that I’m failing pretty miserably. “Jeter,” I say, “what?” and he says, “Imagine just being dead for like three years, and then they just fucking dig you up and hang you for treason.” “Jeter,” I say, and he says, “What?”
Jeter’s playing second base on varsity this year even though he’s just a freshman, so he doesn’t have much time for World History, but I get the sense that this fact has beaten up his brain a little. Treason, I think. A little thing. Rectifiable. Jeter smiles a lot, which makes me smile a lot.
I’m in the stands for the game on Friday afternoon, and he’s crushing it. Some girl named Liz has his batting song cued up on a boombox. It’s Guns N’ Roses. I howl from the base of my chest.
Earlier I read about Oliver Cromwell. He was buried with great ceremony. He was washed and laid out, and then embalmed. The room was curtained in black velvet, as was the burial bed, and beneath his head gold tissue. But the body swelled. The room was quiet. I imagine a gaggle of Jeters, a chorus of Jeters—two Jeters at the head, two in the middle, two at the feet—and all the Jeters lifting Oliver Cromwell’s lead coffin and laying him in the hole. I imagine their upturned mouths. I imagine a job well done. Jeter’s little hands choke up on the aluminum. He knocks one through the hole to left. He bursts out of the box.
“They Dig Up Oliver Cromwell’s Body to Publicly Hang It, 1661” originally appeared in print in NANO Fiction, Vol. 9, No.1.
Tropical Storm Bill Washes Up Alligator Gar in Corpus Christi, 2015
The cities keep flooding and we’ve all lost our bearings. My uncle Billy works at a Bass Pro Shop in Corpus, out on 37, and he’s teaching young boys how to cast a fly fishing line into a stream that is pumped into the store through pipes. Over the PA, his manager calls that kid Andy over to the tents. Hold the grip like you’re shaking a man’s hand, Billy instructs the boys, but who among them has really shaken a man’s hand, he thinks. They approximate well. He doesn’t have children. The hardest of the rain comes, but the building is a cocoon, and the kids swing their arms around like new caterpillar legs in the light wind of the air conditioning.
After his shift, when he’s walking to his truck, he notices first the dirt and the mud on his boots and then, further away, a new pattern in the fence. His eyes droop down and down. He veers right and walks to it. Up close the gar are split almost perfectly in half, their fronts jutting through the rusty diamonds of the fence, their ends hanging placid out the back toward the alley. They are prehistoric. Their long noses point at him in a little, ancient chorus, their eyes open and rooted. Here we are, they seem to say. Where are you? He swallows the saliva that’s been sitting under his tongue and moves closer, and picks one, and delicately fingers an exposed tooth. It’s clean.
The new Texas is soupy, and I move through it slowly. When he texts me the photo, I am sitting at a bar downtown. Above me clouds float into the buildings. The girl next to me is foreign and practicing her vowels with an American boy. A, E, I, she says across the table. He grins, tosses his tie over his right shoulder. O, she says, her mouth a circle that contracts. I clench my fist in rhythm. O, O, O.
Callie Collins is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in places like the Rumpus, the Toast, Midnight Breakfast, the Collagist, PANK, and NANOFiction, among other venues. She is the codirector of A Strange Object, a small press; the fiction editor of Covered with Fur, an online magazine; and the cohost of the Five Things reading series.