The Coroner as a Child
From the child’s seat in the grocery cart
he reached to poke the plastic-wrapped beef.
A cold spun yarn of muscle,
pooled blood around his finger.
His grandmother’s reprimand disturbed
the careful application and release of pressure
and as she yanked his arm away
he squirmed, slipped, and punched
his finger through the cellophane:
a bullet hole in an unfurled animal.
She made him pay for the meat
with a five dollar bill still kept
in his birthday card.
On the car ride home
he held the wounded beef in his lap,
feeling the warming blood spilling
into the bag and sloshing over his legs
in rhythm with the potholes.
He watched Grandma fry the meat
into patties, grease spattering
pinprick burns across their arms.
Her lecture on wasting food and
children starving in Ethiopia
muffled by the sizzle.
The smoke visible in the kitchen light
blanketed the antiseptic lemon smell
on his twice-washed hands as
the beef’s skinned knee color
seared into a cadaverous grey.
Do you think they are safe to eat now?
she asked, answer already in mind.
He nodded without reason.
She cut a patty in half.
At the dinner table his burger was served
dissected into three blackened parts,
leaving charcoal trails on the bun.
Even a ketchup transfusion could not
reanimate the cremated remains
as they sanded his teeth.
She counted his bites, 1,2,3 to 50
before motioning to swallow
the puree of meat, bread, condiment,
and textured filler
When she cleared the dishes,
he snuck outside to the garbage can,
and dug out the grocery bag
peppered with old coffee grounds,
and sticky with brown oxidized blood.
He stuck his finger in the gristle smeared
on the styrofoam tray. The taste was metallic
like a razor blade inside a Candied Apple
handed by a stranger on Halloween,
and just as sweet.
Chase Dimock is the Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois and his scholarship has appeared in College Literature, Western American Literature, and numerous edited anthologies. His works of literary criticism have appeared in Mayday Magazine, The Lambda Literary Review, Modern American Poetry, and Dissertation Reviews. Links to his publications are available at chasedimock.com