Target Practice

by Sara Taylor

When the news of the murder breaks I’m in Matthew’s buying chicken necks so my little sister renee and I can go crabbing. 

There isn’t much in the way of food in the house, but we found $1.63 in change, and decided free crabs would get us the most food for that money. Usually we use bacon rinds for bait, but we’ve eaten those already.

I’m squatting down looking at the boxes of cupcakes on a bottom shelf when a woman steps over me to get to the register; Matthew’s is so small I can throw a rock from the front door and hit the grimy meat counter at the back. She’s a big fat woman, with more of an equator than a waist; she steps heavy and all of her trembles when she does, and for a moment I’m worried she’s going to fall and squish me. She dumps a dozen cans of pork and beans on the belt and pulls out her food stamp card, then digs down the front of her stretched-out red shirt to find cash for a pack of menthols. “Hear what happened to Cabel Bloxom?” she asks the cashier. The cashier hasn’t. “They found him waist-deep in the mud in Muttonhunk Creek, had his face shot to pieces and all swole up with being in the water. His girlfriend had to identify him by the tattoo on his back.” The cashier’s eyebrows jump up, and her eyes get big. I keep rummaging among the cupcakes. The cashier can see me, but they’ll probably keep talking anyway; being almost thirteen doesn’t get me noticed any more than being almost twelve did. My necks are starting to drip through their newspaper onto my leg. 

“They know what did it?” the cashier asks as she collects up the limp bills and unlocks the glass-front tobacco case.

“Police say it was a slug-loaded shotgun. They couldn’t find no cartridges, though.”

“That’s a lot of help, everyone’s got one of those,” the cashier answers, and she’s right. Ours sits next to the .22 by the porch door, in case deer turn up in the yard.

“And that ain’t even the half of it.” The lady leans in close, but her whisper is almost as loud as her talking voice. “They done cut his thang clean off!” The cashier makes a face at this, and bags the cans of pork and beans. The woman waddles out, and I straighten up from the cupcakes and plop my soggy packet on the belt.

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