Sometimes, I like to prompt myself into doing very quick, one-page stories. And usually, it’s about something I struggle with or something I don’t usually write about. In this example, I decided to write about a dead body, and I was practicing using child dialog and a child narrator. It’s called “Priceless.”
Mike and me watched the old man for some time through the passenger side window. His maroon Plymouth Reliant was parked on the side of Route 202 outside Peterborough. Not too many cars were passing by. The old man had his head tilted back against the rest, and his mouth was wide open like he was sleeping, but he didn’t look like he was sleeping. Mike and me lurched up to the car, afraid the old man would spot us and shout at us, not liking us watching him, but he didn’t. He just stayed still.
“I bet he’s dead. He looks dead,” Mike said.
“How you know?” I asked.
“I saw my gram’ma when she died. She looked like that. Frozen. He’s dead.”
I’d never seen a dead body before, so I approached with more care and an increasing curiosity.
“How you think he died?” I asked.
“I bet heart attack. Lots of old guys die from that. My gramps died of that down in Florida.”
“What makes somebody have a heart attack?”
“Yelling. Being mad. Roads do that to some people. My dad’s always screaming and punching the steering wheel when some jerk-hole cuts him off or is going too slow. That vein in his forehead shoots out like when he’s about to go off on me. I just turn up my iPod.”
“Oh,” I said, “I hope your dad doesn’t die of heart attack.”
As I brought my face close to the window and looked in, Mike leapt at the car and smacked it with both his palms and shouted in my ear. I leapt in a panic and he fell to the ground, laughing, holding his sides, saying, “You should’a seen your face!” but the old man didn’t move.
“Priceless!” Mike shouted, pointing.