Specifics of Hell

Kayla Rae Whitaker

Next Sunday, Aron fired up his weekly accounting of Bizzaroworld Hell details while James Mark hunched over his new Game Gear. Aron elbowed me, grinning. “In Hell, there’s no bathroom. You just have to hold it in until you explode. And the other guys have to hold it, too, and when they explode, you get hit with their poop. And in Hell, you have to eat old cigarettes. And you have to lick cat’s butts. Like on a conveyor belt. And you have to—”

“Aron, shut up .” I socked his shoulder. It surprised me, and it surprised him. “No one wants to hear what you have to say about Hell anymore, okay? We’ve heard your stupid stories before.”

Aron stepped back and regarded me, a little shocked but recalculating, trying to figure out how best to get at me. He rubbed his shoulder, staring, then dropped his voice. Whispered, “you’re a fucker.”

I stared at him. James Mark looked up from his Game Gear.

“Fucker.” And then he ran, looking behind him, expecting me to chase him. I put my hands in my pockets and watched him head for the hillside, arms pumping, dumb paisley tie flapping over his shoulder, and reach the ledge where the slope became a hill, the spot from which you launched if you wanted a good, smooth roll with a lot of speed, tucking yourself best you could in the shape of a plank. He lay flat on his back, hands pressed to his sides.

“Guess you told him,” James Mark said.

We watched Aron kick off, his pink shirt a bright spot against the cold, one of those damp sepia days before Christmas. We watched him flash belly, back, belly, back, and one of the Bible study ladies stuck her head out the door and yelled that it was time to come in for service, and we heard, “where is Aron Tolliver?” We saw her come out the door and look over the ridge to see Aron bumping down, and she shouted, “Aron Tolliver, you get up here right now! You’re gonna ruin your clothes!”

We looked back at Aron, saw him spin clean and fast, his body seeming to levitate one moment, and the next, his head jerk the wrong way—a slight angle, but hard enough for his hair to give one yellow jounce. And the moment following, his body slackened, his hands loosened from his sides, his legs and tangled, and he was no longer rolling, but falling.

The lady yelled his name once more, questioning, then ran to the hillside, stumbling as she took the slope, chasing him to the bottom.

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