All the Things a Head Contained

03/07/23

“That’s one way to deal with him,” Kira said, kicking the dead arm across the floor.

Mara, machete in hand, stood in her garage and followed the arm with her eyes. It landed on the oil stain that even the rented pressure washer hadn’t erased last year. Now there would be blood to clean from the concrete. Surely, a trace would be left behind, no matter how many endless cups of hydrogen peroxide Mara poured on all of the places now pooling with blood. She dropped the machete.

“Well.” Kira sighed. “I guess we have to get rid of the body.” Pieces of Officer Thompson were strewn all over the garage. Kira walked over to Thompson’s head and looked down. She grabbed a rag from a nearby shelf and used the cloth to close the officer’s eyelids. “Do you have any large trash bags?”

Mara stared at the now closed eyes. The officer didn’t seem as menacing as he had just fifteen minutes ago. Certainly not as threatening as he was the night they first met. Mara closed her eyes too, remembering the flashes of red and blue in her review mirror.

“Mara.” Kira clapped her hands. “Hey!” She walked to her sister and lightly grabbed Mara’s shoulders.

Mara looked up into Kira’s deep brown eyes, so much darker than her own hazel ones. Their mother had once said that Mara’s eyes were flecked with gold like a sandy beach while Kira’s were dark like a forest. Those images of a sunny, carefree beach day contrasted with  dense woods were how Mara always thought of herself and her little sister. Kira, three years younger, always seemed stronger than Mara had ever been.

Kira released her grip and squeezed her sister’s hands. “I can’t do this alone.”

Mara nodded. This wouldn’t be like when they’d killed Uncle Kenny. He was old and there’d been a plan. This was reckless and Mara knew it. She looked down again at Thompson’s head. His badge splattered with blood lay a few feet away.

Panic always started in Mara’s gut. It gurgled and bubbled its way up until it reached her throat. Then the rolling boil would transform into one big mass, blocking off her airways. She’d struggle to take in a breath, to expand her lungs filled with the seething liquid of fear. She’d felt it that night, driving in the rain when she pulled off the highway and Thompson walked toward her car. The rain and his breath, reeking of Johnnie Walker, had burst in through the open window.

Kira saw her sister’s flushed cheeks. She pulled Mara’s face back up to her own. “C’mon, like we’ve practiced.” She placed a hand on her own chest like the psychiatrist had shown them that summer their mother thought family therapy would solve all of their problems. “Breathe in. One. Two. Three. Four. Now hold it for one. And release.” She expelled the air forcefully.

Mara repeated the steps three times, stifling a cough as she inhaled the wafts of gasoline and turpentine. “I’m okay.” She swallowed and pressed the panic and hazardous smells down her throat. “There should be trash bags in the pantry.”

Kira left Mara to collect Thompson’s arm and head. She placed the arm next to its socket and straightened out his legs that were crumpled where he’d fallen when she’d finally been able to wound him enough to take him down.

The head was heavier than she expected, and Mara thought of all the things a head contained: a skull to protect the brain teeming with thoughts, eyes that’d seen more than they should, ears that heard only what they wanted to, a mouth full of all those teeth. Thompson’s mouth was slightly open, and after placing his head on the ground near his shoulders, Mara tried to close his lips, but they kept opening back up. Like he didn’t want to be kept quiet, like there was actually something to be said about the last two weeks since he’d pulled her over. Now he’d be silent forever and never threaten to say a thing, and Mara would never tell a soul what he’d found out. Not even Kira.

~ fin ~

Celeste_Cosme_Headshot

Celesté Cosme has been teaching high school English for 17 years. She received her MFA from Rosemont College. She is the CNF editor at Philadelphia Stories. Her work appears in PangyrusSouth Florida Poetry Journal(Mac)ro(Mic),and Scapegoat Review. You can follow her on Twitter @celestemaria or read her works on celestecosme.com