Travis Kurowski

They carried the body out to sea. It was a little body, almost a boy's, but it wasn't. If you looked close, if you somehow got through the crush of bodies surrounding the boy-like body, you'd see it was a man, a dead man, or almost dead. That's what I thought when I saw him fall from the plane, saw his body bounce on the sand, saw his head kick forward against the stones: How do you know, really know, someone is dead? On television shows they are always bringing people back to life—or that movie I saw as a kid, Dream-something, where they entered dead peoples' brains. I think Kiefer Sutherland was in it. Some white, angry-looking actor. The guy could enter the minds of dead people, look around, so they obviously weren't dead. Not dead, dead. And that book everyone at church has been reading, Five Minutes in Heaven. Obviously there is more than meets the eye, is all I am saying. I worry everyone is too quick to judge. Personally, I want my body to lie around for a while on a gurney, maybe just in the hospital hallway somewhere, or in the waiting room, so I don't take up too much space, don't get in the way. What I mean is that I want people to be sure I'm gone. I want there to be a lot of checking going on. My one great fear is to be buried too early, get, like this poor sap, tossed out to sea too quick, before my time has come. How awful it would be to be six feet under, those backhoe shovels of dirt just finishing packing when you wake up and think "Oh, fuck me." I mean, fuck you, that's it, it's all over. The only better thing is if you'd died earlier, because that would be the worst right there, that would.

I didn't even really get where the plane came from or why they were tossing the body into the water. I'd just got off work and was coming down to the beach for a beer from one of the stands, maybe walk around pretending I lost my dog and try to meet some girls, I love how they look in their bikinis, don't know why anyone would stay home and watch TV or whatever when they are down here everyday almost naked, for everyone to see and see and see. Fucking stupid people stay at home. Whoever he was, this little midget man wasn't one of them. He wasn't fucking stupid. Someone started pointing into the air. I was just about to get into my act, scream, "Oscar! Oscar, come here boy!" when the pointing began, people started craning their heads up and around. The plane, one of those old-time stunt planes with the two wings and the propeller on the nose, was coming at the beach from out over the water, and as it got closer you could see it was doing loop-de-loops like just half a mile or so above the ground, spinning and spinning. It wasn't until the plane neared the beach that a bunch of people started yelling there was a man on it, on the wing. And he was, standing there with his feet glued to the wing or something, like magic. Well, it isn't magic. If you ever seen the Blue Angels perform you know it isn't magic, there's a lot of skill to it, people can learn how to do it. But there, on his two-winged old plane, coming at us from the ocean, it looked like magic, like he was doing it with his mind or something. I couldn't see, it was all too far away, the plane coming too fast, and when it was close enough he fell, but I seem to think that I saw him smiling, grinning from ear to ear as he stood spinning on that wing. There was no way I could have seen, but if you asked me while we were watching, if the woman in the red two-piece sitting next to me just ignored her kids, pushed up against me and asked, "Oh, did you see his face?" I would have told her, yeah, he was smiling, grinning like a motherfucker. But that didn't happen. What did happen was he fell. And the plane, it just kept going. I heard a crash about 5 seconds after it passed over our heads, no doubt falling somewhere in town, but no one from the beach ran off to look for it as far as I noticed. We all just watched the little guy fall, bounce, head kick forward, then lie still.

We didn't see really how little he was till he was lying there on the ground. He nearly hit a couple of people who just backed away in time, but I was twenty or so feet away and could see him pretty well, better when I crept forward a bit in the few seconds everyone stood frozen, trying to get a better look at him. He was maybe two feet tall, but his muscles were thick, bulging almost out of his white button-down shirt tucked into his dark jeans. He looked like a waiter at a bar or something. Dressed up a bit. And he was hairy, too, his hands, his face unshaven, his flopping black hair. The mass of him, this little waiter, was just lying there, in the sand, face up, no blood around. He didn't look dead, just asleep, mouth slightly open like he was about to tell me something, some big secret he had come to share with all of us, and I was the first to get there to listen. Then I felt a shove from the back and that's about all I saw before everyone rushed him, pushing me to the ground, crowding all around.

That was months ago. I've got a better job now, working for the city, filing marriage licenses and property deeds. It's pretty good, 8 to 5 sort of thing, and I'm tired at the end of the day even though I don't sweat or anything. Brain dead, I mean. Brain tired. So I go home like everyone else. My girlfriend Margie and I get together, get a bite, a beer, talk, have sex or just get home to take care of the pets, the dishes, go to sleep. It's beginning to make sense, each day, why they tossed the little guy, it makes more and more sense. And I kind of, thinking back, even wish I had helped. I wish I had gotten into the crowd, helped lift him up, grabbing one of his muscular little calves, feeling the firm tissue through the jeans with my fingers, clenching it hard. I would be able to feel how much he weighed, get a sense of the reality of that little person in my own muscles, something real to remember him by before we pulled that little fucker back in unison and let fly.

Travis Kurowski is the founding editor of Luna Park. He has stories in or coming from Ninth Letter, Hobart, >kill author and others.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Xelcise.

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