After supper, we took the kids down to the road next to Bryson’s Pond to see the body. Picture ran in yesterday’s paper of the accident. The kind of thing that makes news in our small town: smashed up car with the hood rammed through the interior and door sheared off, its body leaning against the telephone pole like a drunk too afraid to take another step. A couple of officers stood near the trunk, hats in their hands as if it were all new to them. Sure, the car was of interest, but what Hal wanted to see, the kids too, though I tried to hide the paper from them, was the driver. Some way or another, he’d got himself twisted up above the car in those beams that held the wires. The ones that make the poles kind of look like crosses? Others might call it a T, I guess, but I wonder where their religion lies, you know? The problem, the paper made sure to point out, was that the authorities didn’t know how to get the man down.
Even if it weren’t proper, a man left hanging like our Lord and Savior, it was a spectacle not to be missed. So we get out there with a haze of daylight left before dusk. The kids are in the back, wondering out loud, curious about the corpse, trying to scare each other. Hal’s smoking slowly, really holding the smoke in, while his other hand hangs out the window, tapping out some forgotten hymn. I’m chewing on a loose fingernail, even though I know it’s not decent and ladylike. We wait our turn in the line of cars, everyone puttering, like we’re here to see the Nativity.
When we get to the pole, that body’s there just like the picture. Arms outstretched, head cocked to the side, resting on the wire, eyes shut, thank mercy. We sat there for a second, a respectful silence, when little Christine pops up from the back seat, and says, “What did he do, Mama?
“Do? I asked.
Bobby laughs. “Must have done something awfully naughty to end up like that.”
“Son, mind the girls now.”
“An accident, that’s all it was. Right, Hal?” I turn to look each kid in the eye.
“Could be, Marie. But I think the kids might have it right this time.”
“I refuse to believe it. Where is your religion you two? Yours too, Hal?”
There’s a moment of silence and I think I’ve finally shamed them when Bobby speaks up.
“Maybe ol’ God needed some help getting ol’ boy up there into the air?” He sat back with his arms crossed as if that settled it.
“Bobby, don’t you talk like that. I won’t have it. Hal, tell him. Hal?”
“Oh leave him alone, Marie. Can’t you see we live in a different world now. Carelessness. That’s your religion now. No sense either. No sense at all.”
“Well I refuse to believe it.”
We tumbled away from the body, the sun a bright orange marble. God’s eye, my father called it. He’d glare at us until we understood that protection and judgement were intertwined.
“Slow down, Hal,” I said, looking back through the side mirror. “We don’t need anymore accidents. You all hear me?”
My family saw that man strung up in those cables as a marvel, something to witness, but reject. They’d soon forget the corpse’s message of spectacle, leaving me its lone prophet, afraid that the unusual would become our usual.
“God’s Eye” first appeared in Split Lit Magazine, 2016
IMAGE: Grant Wood “Death on the Ridge Road” 1935. Oil on masonic fabric, 81.3 × 99.1 cm.
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown.
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV (Redbird Chapbooks, 2014) and Covenants (ELJ Editions, 2021). He is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine He has been previously published in the Bending Genres, Atticus Review, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was included in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020 and the Best Small Fiction 2019. He won the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction.
Find him @TommyDeanWriter.