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f I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?”

Her cleavage deepened as she took a breath and, hitting pitches like ice cubes tinkling in a glass, words fell from her purplish lips, “I wouldn’t hold my body against yours if it was the last warm body in all this godforsaken North Pole!” The greasy plate with burger and fries that she dropped on the table reflected the pimples in the flab under Jerry’s chin. “There’s your special,” she said and walked away, hips swaying.

“Probably frigid, anyway,” Jerry muttered. His lips moved a little with the formation of his thoughts. Six more weeks in the wastelands of Alaska. Winter had come early and now the whole pipeline project was behind schedule. The pressure was on all the way from Washington D.C. on down to short-time truckers like Jerry. The last of the women who had come to do business in Deadhorse for the summer were long gone. He couldn’t fish because the streams were all frozen over. “Global warming my ass,” he growled. The cab of his truck was starting to feel like a prison cell, except in a prison cell you could roll over and get off your hemorrhoids.

The only glimmer of hope was this gal at the road stop in Cold Foot. He’d been polite every other time he’d met her, but he couldn’t even get her to fake a smile. He guessed she was with the dude that cooked the shit burgers in back. But maybe she just needed someone to warm her up.

Jerry shifted his girth on the metal folding chair. “Someone ought to haul some nice naugahyde booths into this hole,” his lips mumbled. He heaved a sigh and stared at his--dinner? It was hard to keep biological routines the way the sun kept staying away longer and longer. He wasn’t even hungry, but he felt empty all the time. He couldn’t wait to eat something, to fill the empty place in him. He took a bite of the burger. It was raw and cold in the middle. Just like-- He looked for the waitress with the beautiful body. She was filing her nails and watching some show where people on a stage screamed at each other while an audience cheered them on. “Hey! Miss!” Jerry called across the empty diner. “Hey, this hamburger isn’t cooked all the way!”

She chewed her gum.

“HEY!!” Jerry bellowed.

“The cook’s taking his break,” she said without the slightest sign of concern.

Air whistled in and out of Jerry’s clogged nose. “The world’s a hard enough place without people not being friendly and helpful to each other,” he said.

She shrugged. “Fill out a T.S. card,” she said.

“What’s that?”

“The T stands for Tough. I’ll let you figure out the rest.”

“I see. I’ll tell you what. You want to trade TS cards?” He took the edge of the plate between his thumb and forefinger, and stood up. “Here’s your tip,” he said and hurled his $3.99 blue plate special at her like it was a Frisbee, burger fries and all. Immediately, he felt better; the rage and unhappiness flew out from him along with the plate. It slammed into the side of the waitress with the beautiful body’s head, and a sound of amused astonishment snorted out of Jerry’s throat.

“Why didn’t she duck?” he wondered.

The plate hit the floor and shattered, followed in short order by the waitress, who shuddered, and then lay crumpled and still. For a moment Jerry didn’t move. She was certainly going to hop right up and throw one of those glass salt shakers at him. That’s what his ex-wife would have done. He waited. Where was that cook? He looked at the beautiful body. A small puddle of ketchup was pooling beside her pretty red hair. He didn’t remember there being so much ketchup on his special--

Jerry lumbered over to the waitress with the beautiful body and kneeled. Her eyes were still staring at Oprah. “Hey, hey,” he shook her. “Wake up.” He pressed his fingers to her wrist searching for a pulse. He craned his neck to look over the counter and still couldn’t see the cook in the kitchen. Was he in the can? Jerry undid her blouse, fingers fumbling with the buttons. Her breasts spilled from the top of her bra. Man, she had great tits. He felt under her left breast. He pinched her nose and bent to her lips and pressed his to hers. They were warm and soft. He blew and her chest rose, and he blew again, and those fine titties rose, and he blew again, and straightened up, interlocking his fingers, and pressed down on her chest one, two, three times. He could feel blood rushing into his penis. He pinched her nose and blew into her again. Son of a bitch. Could a knock on the head stop a heart like that? He pushed on her chest and blew into her again. After what seemed like many minutes, he sensed the futility of his efforts and reached under the beautiful waitress and held her body against his, rocking her. Warm blood streamed from the gash in her temple down Jerry’s neck and under the collar of his flannel shirt. His erection strained his foreskin, and he wondered dimly what that meant about him; he wondered if that made him evil.

“I’m sorry,” he whimpered. He held her waiting, wondering. Where is that cook? Didn’t he hear the plate crash? What if he notices my--? He laid the waitress’s beautiful body on the floor.

Jerry stood up. Call 911? It’ll be hours before they get all the way out here. Might as well call the coroner. Where is that cook? Hours. Maybe if I…Shit, I should… He was pacing. His adrenaline was pumping faster than the blood from the body of the beautiful waitress. He lurched toward the door, and pulled it open, bells on the knob jingling, and he bolted blindly out, past the diesel pumps and into the parking lot.

It was dark and cold as usual. Jerry had not seen the sun for the three weeks, nor had the temperature been positive in that span. The cold slapped him out of his panic. “Nobody saw me.” He climbed into his rig, shivering. “Nobody saw me.” He fired her up and threw her into gear. The diner fell away in the side view mirror as he turned out onto the highway and headed south. In the inky blackness he thought he saw a flash of white in his side mirror. The cook? A little blow of snow? He kept peering into the mirror until all was dark.

Nobody had seen him. The chance of any lawman being within two hundred miles was remote. He could cruise into Fairbanks, doctor his shipping logs to show he’d arrived a few hours earlier, and they’d never know who to blame. The fingerprints on the plate--The cook’s prints would be on it, too. “She was alive when I left,” Jerry said aloud. It sounded good. “Why would I kill her? I don’t know her. Maybe she and that cook had something going on. You know, trapped together in that place all winter. Probably drove ‘em nuts.” Who could say for sure? Jerry began to relax. His erection had gone. She could just as easily have slipped on ice going out to her car. The world was like that. God meant to take her. I can’t help it if He used me. She should have ducked.

It was not for another two miles that Jerry figured it out. His mind had been so preoccupied. He looked down, knowing ahead of time what he would see, but there it was. How could he have been so stupid? How could he have forgotten the foremost vital commandment of the Alaskan roads: Thou shalt not let thy needle reach empty. The rig sputtered to a rumbling stop. He reached for the CB, pulled the handset to his lips and pressed the button. The words froze in his throat.

Eventually, he returned the handset, blotted with blood, to its cradle. Snow fell through the beams of the headlights, fell and fell. The generator light grew dimmer. He grew numb. It became colder and colder, and he waited in a moment of eternal darkness-

Then an idea came to him.

Pulling off his blood-stained shirt, he clambered back to the sleeper and rummaged around until he found a bottle of Kamchatka buried among a pile of unwashed sheets and clothing. He swished the bottle in the darkness. It sounded like there might be enough. He put the bottle aside and pulled on a t-shirt and a plaid flannel, and removed a cigarette from a pack of smokes and lighter from the breast pocket. The lighter clicked twice before the flame caught, and as he touched it to the cigarette between his lips, his face took on a demonic glow in the reflection of the windshield. A few long drags later, he uncapped the vodka and set to soaking his shirt with it and wiping the blood from his neck and flabby pecs, turning the side mirror so that he could see under his chins.

When he was satisfied that the vodka bath had erased the blood from his flesh, he wiped down the CB intercom, and clambered back to the sleeper where he donned another stale-smelling t-shirt and flannel. He clambered down from the cab then and walked a little way into the woods. The snow was coming down heavily now. Good, he thought, soon everything would be buried until spring. He flicked the lighter and touched the flame to the vodka-soaked garb. It burned slowly at first, but soon he had to drop the clothes to the snowy road or burn his fingers. He watched the flame grow weak and sputter out, leaving a few remnants of cloth to blow about in the slight wind that sighed heavily through the trees. Back at the truck, he pulled on a Gore-Tex parka from the sleeper, climbed down from the cab and faced the way he’d come. Even in the dark, he could see his breath fogging in front of him. He pulled on gloves from the pockets of the parka and started back. His steps felt heavy and solid, and he felt oddly confident.

When he arrived back at the Quonset hut diner, all seemed the same. He pulled open the heavy outer door, and when he stepped through the second inner door, he saw the cook squatting next to the waitress’s beautiful body, a mobile phone clutched to his chest.

“What happened?” the cook asked.

“I don’t know,” Jerry said.

“You the guy was just here?”

Jerry didn’t answer him. He studied the tattoo peeking up above the cook’s grimy collar, some sort of old English writing, and he saw flames on the cook’s dark forearms and the spider web on his elbow, and at the corner of the cook’s eye, barely visible against his dark skin, a thin blue tear drop was inked.

Perfect. Another snort made its way out of Jerry’s throat and sinuses. “Did you hit her?”

“She was like this when I walked out here. Don’t try to play me like that. You the guy was here.”

“You can try telling the state troopers that, I guess,” said Jerry. “Did you call them already?”

The cook stood. “Maybe I’ll fix your ass. Maybe I’ll gut your fat cracker ass,” he said, sliding a butcher knife from a large pocket on the front of his apron.

“That wouldn’t look too good for you, now, would it? Your prints are on that plate, too, and judging from that tear under your eye, you already done time. Who you think they’re gonna believe? Your ass?”

The cook sucked up some mucous and swallowed.

“I got another idea. Why don’t I help you get rid of the evidence,” Jerry said.

“Oh, you gonna help me? I ain’t done nothing, motherfucker. I ain’t the one needs help.”

“I think you are. You kill me, you go down for two murders. You call the cops, you go down for one. Or maybe you don’t. You want to take that risk? We get rid of her, maybe no one goes down. Hear what I’m saying?”

The cook gripped the knife a full ten seconds before letting it slip back into the pocket.

Jerry asked, “Anybody gonna be looking for her?”

“Just like lotta other people up here, came to get away, didn’t want to be found, far’s I can tell.”

“Let’s sit down.”

“You sit down, motherfucker.”

Jerry eased his bulk onto one of the folding chairs. “Why don’t you get some nice booths in this dump?” He said, trying to sound casual, but he heard his voice crack and fought back all moral doubt.

“Fuck this.” The cook started punching numbers on the phone.

Jerry was relieved in a way, but before the cook got to the third digit, he cursed and shoved the antenna back into the phone. He stepped to Jerry and kicked a chair back and sat on it backwards. “What’s your idea, cracker?”

Jerry stared at him. He had an idea, but he hoped the cook would come up with something so that he wouldn’t have to say it. The cook only stared back at him with frozen red lightning bolts shooting out from his dark irises into the white of his eye. Jerry believed he really was capable of murder. “Cremate her. Cremate her and bury the remains out in the forest.”

“Shhhhhit. Cremate her and bury--that ground’s hard as concrete, cracker. We just gonna have a burned body on our hands even harder to get rid of. What else you got, motherfu---”

A muffled crashing out behind the kitchen made Jerry jump. “Who’s that?”

“Fucking bears. They trying to get into the dumpsters. Bear-proof dumpsters, but they still try. This crazy weather. They don’t know winter done come early. Dumb fuckers’ll eat anything.”

A glimmer of recognition passed between the two men.

“What if we like…rub her with meat and…?” Jerry murmured to the nodding cook.

The cook turned off the lights in the restaurant and locked the front doors. With his gloved hands, Jerry pulled the waitress’s beautiful body through the two-way swinging door into the kitchen. The cook pulled on some plastic sanitary gloves and scooped a handful of hamburger out of a stainless steel bowl and began to rub the meat up and down the waitress’s arms and legs. He reached into the bowl for some more meat and handed it to Jerry. “You, too, motherfucker.”

Jerry took the meat and stuffed it into her shirt around those incredible tits, rubbed it onto her torso and stuffed it into her panties. He was breathing hard when he looked up at the cook, who was already standing. “You think that’ll work?” Jerry asked and got to one knee and pushed himself up.

“This is whack, man,” said the cook. “Whack.”

“It was an accident. You want to go to jail for an accident?”

“Your accident, motherfucker.”

“You’re in it now, too.”

The cook unlocked the back door and they stared out into the trash area illuminated by the arc of light provided by the halogen bulb over the back door. Beyond the light was utter darkness.

“Where he at?”

“I don’t know. He must be gonna smell her soon. Come on.”

They carried her by her arms and legs out to the edge of the light and dropped her.

Jerry flung his hand from the wrist trying to dislodge stray bits of meat.

“Should we try to watch from the doorway to make sure it gets done?”

The cook wiped at his hairline with the back of his wrist where a small worm of hamburger dangled. Jerry was about to point it out to the cook when a small groan came from the waitress.

Jerry dropped to his knees near the waitress with the beautiful body. “Did you hear that?”

The cook opened his mouth to answer and then he was gone from the light, swatted into the darkness by an enormous clawed paw. Jerry heard the impact of bone and tree trunk, and as he stood up to run, a pair of massive jaws sawed down over his hand, up to the elbow, and shook Jerry’s three hundred pounds as if he were a hollow mass. Around the fifth thrash of the bear’s head, Jerry’s sinews had been torn through, and he was whipped fifteen feet through the air as he became separated from that half of his arm which was still in the bear’s teeth. He tried for a second to push himself up with the missing limb, and got to his knees before the beast was upon him.

There was very little pain. It was mostly sound: grunting and crunching and screaming. As the bear fed on Jerry’s entrails and his consciousness drained away, the last thing that Jerry saw was the waitress with the beautiful body, staggering to her feet, heading for the open door of the Quonset diner, covered in flesh.




John Ladd Zorn, Jr, B. A., U.C. Irvine, M. S., Walden., Certificate in Fiction Writing, U.C. Riverside, is the son of a long-time LAPD homicide detective, and a short order waitress. He teaches in various capacities and is the author of the short stories “Booze, Voodoo, and Ex-Lovers”, “Whale Song”, and “Like the Walls of Jericho”, which have appeared in the Southern California anthologies Inlandia and Phantom Seeds, “Flesh of My Flesh” in The Speculative Edge, and 'Nature of the Beast' in Down in the Dirt magazine. He is working on his second book, Maineiac, drawn from his experience working on a lobster boat in Maine, where he’d driven from California to tell a girl he loved her. Mr. Zorn is a former Jeopardy! Champion.

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