The look on David’s face was incredulous.
I raised my voice.
“I said, ‘Hey, David, how’d you like to go see a body?’ Y’hear me that time?”
“Oh,” he said, sounding clear though he still looked a bit dazed, “I heard you. I just…”
He stood over his bicycle, which rested upside-down in the grass, just holding the can of chain-oil, trying to work his way through it. I looked up at him. Though we were both the same age, what my mom called “thirteen going on thirty”, David was big. Could have passed for fifteen easy, maybe even sixteen.
“I just…” he said, finally focusing on me. “You… okay.”
A wide grin suddenly stretched his face, and I could see the idea taking hold.
“What body? Where?”
He dropped the can and grabbed his bike, flipping it back over and clearly planning to leap into the saddle and pedal for all he was worth.
“Why didn’t I hear ‘bout a body?”
“Stop messing with that.” I pointed to the bike. “We’re lucky, it’s actually pretty close. And nobody’s heard about it. It hasn’t been officially found yet. But we’ll have to be quick.”
He didn’t ask any questions, which struck me as kind of odd. I mean, David’s not the brightest kid, but he does ask questions. Lots of them. But this time, though I was ready for his barrage, he simply fell into step beside me.
“This is weird,” he said, once we’d entered the woods that backed his house. The woods backed all the houses on the north side of the street, and we walked the well-worn path we all called the “Kid’s Highway” that ran behind all our yards.
“You,” he said. I glanced up at him as we walked and found him studying me, all those questions I’d been expecting reflected in his eyes. Silently reflected, at least until now.
“I didn’t think you’d be up for this sort of thing. Some of the other kids, Jamie Hardison maybe, but not you.”
“You just… you’ve never seen a body before, have you? I mean, no funerals or anything like that.”
He wore a sly little smile I didn’t think he was aware of. It made me kind of nervous, so I focused on answering the question.
“Nope. This’ll be my first. And it’s a kid, which makes it special, I guess. Like in the movie.”
“Stand By Me? Sure, I love that movie! It’s the coolest thing, those kids heading out to see a dead kid.”
“I know,” I said, turning off the main path and heading off through the underbrush. “You like that movie as much as I do— ”
“So that’s why I knew to ask you. You seem to be kind of… into it. The whole thing, I mean.”
“Into it” was an understatement with David, really. Everyone knew it. You could tell he knew what people said about him, and he tried to sort of tamp it down every once in a while, but it was way too late. The couple of times he’d asked to attend funerals for people he’d never even met — people with no connection to him whatsoever — it had gotten around the school pretty quick. “Dave of the Dead” creeped some people out.
I glanced sideways at him as we made our way through the trees, and I saw it. I knew it would be there, but seeing it like this, all alone with him, well, it was a lot more spooky than when it happened on the schoolyard, or with the rest of the gang around.
David was making “The Face”.
It was a look he got sometimes when he or anyone else started talking about a dead person. His eyes were a little glassy. His lips were parted slightly, allowing him to mouth-breathe like nobody’s business. He was a little flushed. Some of the older kids — Seniors at the high-school, mostly — said it looked like he was “getting some”, or at least thinking about it. Jamie Hardison’s big brother, Tim, said it was creepy, that face, like David was trying not to whip it out and jack off right then and there.
Like I said, seeing that expression out here all alone with David, it made me nervous, like maybe this hadn’t been the best idea.
“Where are we going?”
David sounded dreamy, as he often did when discussing his favorite topic.
“To where we’ll see the body,” I said.
He sounded anxious.
“Not far,” I said.
He stopped walking and looked at me, I mean straight at me, for the first time since leaving his yard. Bewildered, I just looked back. He stared at me for a moment, then away, a thoughtful expression replacing “The Face”.
He looked at me again.
“You said back there that this ‘would be’ your first body. Not that it was. You haven’t seen it yet?”
I tried to keep my eyes blank as I shook my head.
“But you said no one knew about it. It hasn’t been ‘officially found’ yet. So… how do you know about it? Or where it is?”
David was paying more attention than I’d thought. I was out of time.
“It’s not that I know where it is,” I said, slashing with the knife then darting back, avoiding the spray of blood.
“I just know where it’s going to be.”
David clutched at his throat, thick red blood spurting from between his fingers. He turned, trying to run back toward the Kid’s Highway, but he fell to his knees after just two steps.
“You’re right. I’ve never seen a body.” I walked around to face him, but he fell forward in the dirt.
“But that movie… that movie made me want to. Really bad.”
I settled down on my haunches and watched the hitching rise and fall of his back, waiting for my first body to arrive.