To Be So Dead He Sure Is Big

Donnie Swank said, “He sure was big.”

“Especially to be so dead,” Ex-Ray said.

“Six-foot-eight, maybe two-fifty?”

“That’s before he was dead.”

“I pity the dead,” Donnie said.

“I pity the pallbearers,” Ex-Ray said. He stood on the bank of the Great Pee Dee River, mulching his hairy chin. “He was a big-un to start with. As swoll as he is, we’ll need a frontend loader to get him ashore. How many men do you figger it’ll take to get him from the hearse to the grave?”

“When I volunteered to fight fires, I didn’t sign on for this,” Donnie said.

“If you got some lighter fluid, I can solve that dilemma for you, Donnie. Be like settin’ a cruise ship on fire. Damn, look at the size of him. How long you reckon he’s been in the water?”

“I’d say for at least seventy-five or eighty pounds,” Donnie said.

“I’d call him a clay color. What color would you call him, Donnie?”

“I’d call him clay.”

“Clay it is,” Ex-Ray said. “What do you suppose explains why Clay’s still in one piece? There’s catfish that would have him limb by limb.”

Donnie lit a cigarette while he considered Ex-Ray’s question. “They’re not biting.”

Ex-Ray was looking up at the sky. “Who’s not biting?” he said.

“The catfish,” Donnie said. “They must not be biting.”

“Just goes to show,” Ex-Ray said.

“What?” Donnie said.

“You don’t have to catch fish to go fishing,” Ex-Ray said.

“Are you talking about Clay here, or are you talking about the catfish?” Donnie said.

“There aren’t any catfish. You said yourself they weren’t biting.” Ex-Ray said.

“Lucky for old Clay here, huh?”

“Clay’s luck run out.”

“Damn,” Donnie said. “For as big as he is he sure is dead.”

“Look at the flies,” Ex-Ray said. “I hate a damned fly. With some people it’s mosquitoes, with some it’s gnats. Me, it’s flies. Flies from Hell. Especially those big fat green ones there. Clay’s head’s swarming like a bee hive from Hell, ain’t it? How about you, Donnie? What is it with you?”

“Snakes,” Donnie said.

“Let’s keep it to the insect population. What is it, flies, mosquitoes, or gnats?”

“I’d say spiders.”

“Spiders, that’s good.”

“No, maybe fleas.”

“I can stand a flea over a fly any day, especially those green blowflies. Look, I think they’re making a nest in Clay’s ear.”

“Ticks,” Donnie said.

“Oh, hell yeah,” Ex-Ray said. “If Clay here was red, as swole as he is, he could be a giant tick.”

“Would we call him Tick?” Donnie said.

“No, we’d naturally call him Red.”