We got to it by the pipe path. No gravel or anything. Just a brush path wide enough for Pumpkin to drive his Jeep over. I’d get these jumpy bubbles on my skin when we entered those dark woods.
On one side of the spot was a wall for a hill, and at the top, hanging off like toenails, were six trailers. Running out their backs and down the red dirt was trash—tires, fast food bags, long silver beer cans. The other side, the river side, it would flood. When it did you smelled rotten eggs.
The spot had two brown metal plates where we’d sit and smoke. We’d listen to water run below. The sound used to calm my head but then Pumpkin told me what was in that water.
Poop soup, he called it.
Sounds fell off that hill too. Came from the trailers—screaming, laughing, or sometimes just crashing sounds. Pumpkin said it was bums but I saw clothes hanging on ropes up there too. I thought maybe folks lived up there.
Our last time Pumpkin had gotten some smoke that made his Jeep smell like a skunk’s tail.
“This is some good shit, Casper. Might make your head fall off.”
Since it was the spring, we’d gotten some big rollers. There was lots of flooding. I remember thinking it never smelled so rotten and I had to keep coughing it out of my nose.
When we got up on the metal plate, Pumpkin rolled two. I hit mine. Made me choke. Made me cry. Pumpkin too. Next thing I knew, we were laughing just like crazy people. We were laughing at each other’s faces. Pumpkin had a fatty face with small teeth and oily hair. Me, I was real white. Not skin color but white color. They said it was skin pig men disease. It’s why they called me, Casper.
I gave Pumpkin the rest of mine and jumped over to the other plate. Felt the poop soup vibrate under my shoes.
That’s when we heard five quick pops fall from above, from the trailers.
“What the hell was that,” Pumpkin asked.
I felt my chest tighten. “Should we get out of here, Pumpkin?”
Pumpkin lifted his nose in the air like my dog smelling the wind and said, “Nah, probably just some old hobo got hold of some firecrackers.”
“I don’t know, Pumpkin. I don’t know.” The tightening moved up around my neck. Felt like my dad choking me.
Pumpkin swatted his hand at me. “Look, we’re all the way down here. We got the dopest dank we’ve ever burned. I ain’t going anywhere until these joints are dust.”
I stood up on my plate to look better. Pumpkin put the two joints to his lips.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
“Jesus,” I said. “Jesus, Pumpkin. That’s definitely guns.”
But Pumpkin had fallen back. His arms were spread apart. He had a goofy smile on his orange face and was staring up at the sky.
I looked back up to the top of the hill, to where the shots came from. The trailers looked wiggly and jumpy. The beer cans shined beneath.
Then I saw something fall over the hill. It looked like a bundle of white sheets. I followed it into the hill’s shadows but lost it.
Pumpkin and I would never go back.
One week later on prom night, Pumpkin rolled his Jeep, got thrown against a tree, and died. I wasn’t with him because I was at home helping my dad count change. I didn’t really know any girls either. Pumpkin had a real nice girl. She was wearing her seatbelt.
Later I joined a Christian club where they asked me if I ever seen a miracle. I said, yeah. I told them I once saw a dead body disappear. That it was there, falling from above, and I saw it with my best friend and we were listening to poop soup run and then it was gone. All of it was gone. To heaven or hell, I didn’t know, but that it happened felt like a miracle to me.
About the Author: Daniel W. Thompson’s work has appeared recently or is forthcoming at publications like Bartleby Snopes, decomP, Camroc Press Review, Wyvern Lit, Noble/Gas Qtrly and Cheap Pop. He lives in downtown Richmond, VA, with his wife and daughters, cleaning up diapers and dog fur.
Story Song: “Computer Love” by Zapp & Roger
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone