The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried(6)

Eyes? Her eyes are supposed to be closed. They were closed. How are they open?

I take a step toward the gurney.

July Cooper sits up and screams.



It’s like that.

I bolt upright and I don’t know where I am.

I’m screaming and I don’t know why.

So I stop. Except not. No. I’m definitely not screaming.

Oh. It’s Dino, looking like a shaved llama in a Star Wars T-shirt, his bug eyes wide, yowling like someone gutted him. But why’s he here?


He’d probably keep backing up until he hit the ocean, but he runs into the wall and points at me and says, “You’re dead!”

“Am not.” But then I look down and see I’m on a metal table in the DeLuca’s chop shop, and I peek under the sheet I’m wearing and there are two cuts that run across the tops of my breasts, meet at my sternum, and keep doing down. I pull the blanket tighter against me and shiver even though I don’t feel cold. I don’t feel anything.

“What the fuck is going on?” I demand. “You better answer me, or so help me God, I will beat your flat ass concave.”

“You’re dead,” he says again. “You died. How is this possible?”

“Fine,” I say. “Don’t answer. I’m outta here.” I slide off the table and march toward the door.

“What’re you doing? Get back on the table.”

“Make me.”

“You’re dead, July!” This time when he says it, the words stop me short. My hand hovers over the doorknob. “Four days ago you had an aneurism. You were at home eating dinner with your mom and sister, and then you died.”

I don’t turn. Not yet. “Why am I here?”

“Because your funeral’s tomorrow. There was an autopsy and then they brought you here, and this can’t be happening.” There’s panic in his voice, like the time we got caught sneaking home from a party when his parents thought we were sleeping in his room. “We’re supposed to be burying you tomorrow.”

I round on him. “You are not burying me alive.”

“You’re not alive!”

“Then what the hell am I?”

“I don’t know!” Dino moves to the nearest chair and falls into it. Some of the fluster blows out of him. “I don’t know.”

“I can’t be dead,” I say. “We were eating supper, and I was telling Momma how Benji kept screwing up his lines during rehearsals and Mr. Moore was threatening to replace him and then . . .”

“And then what, July?”

“Then . . .” I dig through my memories like they’re tangible things. I was complaining to Momma about how Benji was too busy flirting with his understudy to learn the songs and then . . . “And then nothing. I woke up here.” I slide to the floor and cry, only no tears come out so I kind of dry-eye shake.

When I’m done crying, I catch Dino staring. He’s all trembling like he’s scared I’m gonna pounce and make a meal of him. “What?”

“How can you even ask that? You’re dead—”

“I’m not dead.”

Dino ignores me, as usual. “Do you have a heartbeat? Are you cold?”

I press my hand to my chest, but before I can answer, Dino says, “That’s not even where your heart is.”

“I might not have gotten an A in biology like some overachievers in the room—”

“Neither did I, thanks to you.”

“—but I know where my heart’s supposed to be.” I throw him a dirty look and let my hand drop. “What does it matter anyway? Beating, not beating, it doesn’t change that I’m sitting here having this ridiculous conversation with you. Therefore, either I’m not dead or this is hell and you’re my punishment.”

“This shouldn’t be happening.” He says it more to himself than to me.

“Look at it like a miracle,” I say. “I saved your folks from making the horrible mistake of burying me alive.”

“You’re not alive!”

Arguing is getting us nowhere, so I drop it for now. “Why were you down here, anyway? And how come I’m naked? You sneak out here to fool around with the bodies? Is that your thing?”

Dino sputters and twitches. “No! That’s not my thing! That’s not anyone’s thing.” Seeing him flustered makes me smile a little. “I was fixing your makeup for the funeral tomorrow. And you’re naked because that’s how you were delivered to us.” He points at a garment bag hanging in the corner. “Your mom dropped that off for you to be buried in.”

“But you don’t even like me, so why do you care how I look?” I stab a finger at him. “Got you there, didn’t I?”

“You died, July!” he shouts. “Maybe I wanted to see you one last time.”

“Uh-oh. Better call the dramahawk ’cause the waaambulance’ll take too long to get here.” I roll my eyes. “Why don’t you cry to your boyfriend so I don’t have to hear it?”

“Five minutes. You made it five minutes before bringing up Rafi.”

“I’m not the one who ditched his best friend when he got a boyfriend. I could see you bailing on me for Malik Sommers. He’s got that smile and that ass and damn! But you left me for some boy I never even met.” I let disappointment creep into every corner of my face, giving Dino the full weight of it.

Shaun David Hutchins's Books