I Met the City Coroner

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Four

at a cocktail party. I introduced myself and asked him how he knew the hostess. She’s an old friend from way back. He had reached the bottom of his martini and was now chewing the inebriated olive. How about you? He asked this because he had no choice, not if he didn’t want to seem even more heartless than a man who cuts hearts from the dead for a living already did. I told him that she was an old friend from way back for me, too, even though I didn’t know her at all; I was nothing but a plus-one looking to drink as much free booze as possible and then pass out after driving my date home through a fog of my own making. In our midst, an invisible sound system was playing bad jazz to no avail whatsoever. What do you do? He asked me this as I was sucking the last drips of Bombay Sapphire from the ice cubes of my gin and tonic. I’m a professional semaphorist, I said, just to see if I could get away with it. He scowled at me, conveying what I assumed to be incomprehension. Get me another drink, and I’ll explain. I shook my empty glass like a maraca as I shouted this over everyone shouting over the truly evil jazz, which had been turned up by the jazz police. He disappeared, and while I waited, I counted the moles visible on the skin exposed around me because, in truth, I was a dermatologist, though not one with good reviews on ZocDoc. There were six moles within my line of sight, including one that was almost certainly one hell of a melanoma. It was shouting, “Death! Death!” but the hostile jazz drowned it out. The gin sloshing in me wanted to stroke it, to feel its dark bravura, but I abstained. A fresh drink appeared before me. I took it reverently into my hands and breathed in its fizzy, juniper goodness before I began lapping it up like a collie, but not before silently toasting the cancerous eye staring at me from the neck of an oblivious redhead. What was left of my pickled brain cheered the fresh infusion of numbing poison. Meanwhile, the city coroner’s face now loomed, revealing itself to be a frighteningly bulbous double exposure, which made me briefly think of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica (which I’d listened to while dressing for the evening) as I fought my balky eyes to bring him into focus. Before the night is through, I may make my sweetbreads ready for you to view, I said. Or did I just imagine that? And where was my date, anyway? Was she with the jazz police? You said you’d explain, the coroner said. You said you’re a professional sema-something. Ah, yes, I said, now smiling at the thought of him lifting maroon organs from my chest cavity and waving them about, signaling to the ships nearby.

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