Amelia Gray, “Waste”

Museum-of-the-WeirdA guy who picks up medical waste for a living is invited to a special meal by his neighbor on the other side of the duplex.

(from Museum of the Weird)

“Pig to pork,” Olive said. “When does the change happen? At death, it’s a dead pig. At the market, it’s a pork product. But when does the grand transformation take place? After the animal’s last breath? When it’s wrapped and packed?”

“It would be horrible to be wrapped and packed.”

Olive shrugged. “Some might think so. The pig might think so, if it wasn’t well on its way to becoming pork. But it’s lucky, in a way. Not everything gets to transform.” Her collarbone ducked in and out of the neck of her hospital gown as she talked.

Roger returned his sandwich to its plate. “I’m going to have the rest of this at work tomorrow,” he said.

She unlocked her side of the connecting door for him. “Think about it,” she said. “The pig gets to become pork. The rest of us simply go from live body to dead body.”

I read Amelia Gray’s novel Threats last year and was totally pulled in by its persistent despair and prevailing grossness. It was just so beautifully horrible. Maybe better than anybody else I’ve read, Gray knows how to set sad, people-shaped meatbags stumbling through modern life, barely seen, never understood.

“Waste” is exhibit B. Trashman Roger trudges through his grim, stinking daily routine and pins his hope for sweetness on Olive, who seems to like him while also barely acknowledging the things he says and does. This story takes some pretty unexpected turns, which I won’t spoil here. But I’ll say this. The only thing less reliable than an unreliable narrator or the person in whose you never thinking you never have any insight as all. Olive, you are something else. (Here’s an opening excerpt, for whatever that’s worth.)

threats_headerThis is a library book so I’ll probably try to fly through it. I also read the opening story, “Babies,” a two-pager about a woman starts giving birth every night in her sleep. It was like some sick male nightmare about a sick female fantasy. Or something like that. I think it was a horror story. Read it here and tell me different.

And now I just read “Unsolved Mystery.” A detective is trying to track down a serial killer who removes a rib from his homeless victims, and wonder whether calling the unsub “God” is disrespectful. Or too respectful. This is another short one, and I wish it went longer because this seems like the kind of detective story I could get into. Fast-paced, gruesome, intriguing. Too fast-paced, I guess.

[I’m supposed to read 71 more stories this year, as per my personal goal.]

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