Stump Remover


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Chapter 1

It’s cold, in the other room. I have to walk past it. The body. Twelve stab wounds. I argue with my dad about it. I ask him to find out from one of his Hells Angels mates how to dispose of a body. The problem is, as soon as you dispose of the body, people seem to find it. It’s on the news, the police talk about it. I’ll be questioned. There’ll be evidence. News vans will park out the front. People will find out what’s happened. At this stage, no one even knows my mother visited me.

My sister will understand, in a way, but she’ll be disappointed it turns out I’m a murderer. No one wants a murderer in the family. I toss in bed, wondering what to do with it. I can feel the sensation of dragging her cold pink limbs through the house. As I take her by the wrists, her shoulders move behind her, giving her a posture she never had. Her head flops forward and she stares down the hallway behind us. I can see each individual bloody stab wound on her chest. Red stars against her primary school teacher patterned blouse.

A wood chipper, that’s all dad had heard of. A wood chipper guy. He can woodchip the body. If I just drag the body out of the house. The wood chipper guy will come and load her up, no problems. He doesn’t load her up, though; it’s actually a stump removal grinder. And the company is called GroundCorps. It’s not as easy as you imagine. You have to dig a hole so that when the blades move across the body it doesn’t spray her across the lawn. Dad will dig the hole because he’s always getting me out of trouble. The stump removal guy, skinny with scoliosis, looks more intelligent than I expected, and far too calm. Far too cheap. I wonder if this is the best option. I worry about the red woodchips and the guts everywhere. But nonetheless scoliosis and I take the body by an end each and move her into position in the hole. Dad will have left at this stage. Unhappy with the whole situation.

The blade sweeps across the body. Once a section is done, you’ve got to shovel some dirt and woodchips on top. Needs some kneading and mixing. Needs to be turned into soil that resembles blood and bone. It’s going to go on the roses. War of the Roses. Your mum used to watch that. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Danny DeVito, a shorty like your mum. Short and compact. Somewhat hard to dispose of, though.

I’m looking at the ceiling again, in the dark. Wondering whether to go ahead with the wood chipper, stump grinder, fertiliser idea, feeling sick in the stomach. Unable to remember actually penetrating her with a knife but feeling some residue of satisfaction. I roll to the side and hear something bang onto the hardwood floor. I sit up, confused. My eyes adjust. Why am I in the living room? I feel around on the floor below the couch. I can’t see what I’m feeling for, but I know something fell. My phone maybe. Then I feel it. Broken back. Battery half out. The air conditioner remote. That’s why I’m on the couch; it was too hot to sleep in the bedroom. I was asleep. I push the battery back in and point the remote towards the wall and turn the air conditioner off.

I’m chilled. The kind of cold that makes you wrap yourself up like an infant. I wrap the blanket around me and sink back into the pillow. I close my eyes. What am I going to do with the body? I think. Then I pause. I open my eyes again. I didn’t actually stab her, did I? I take a steady breath. No. I was dreaming. That’s all. What an awful dream. What a nightmare that would be, dealing with the fallout of that kind of confrontation. I must be so angry with her, to have her haunt my dreams. Mother, the backstabber. Turns up to stir up trouble, arriving unannounced. I might get some notice, a text from my sister warning that she’s come to Melbourne. I go out and come home not knowing when she’ll turn up. All crocodile smiles and skin crawling moments of physical affection. Her hand brushing the back of my neck.

I see the image of the body again. So many stab wounds. My strange subconscious. My father appearing out of nowhere to help. Unlikely. I try to fall back into the abyss of sleep. Trying to think of more positive things. But flowers make me think of a bad Liam Neeson movie and incest and white roses, and that makes me think of my rose bush that was snapped, pulled from my garden bed in the front yard. All that was left was the bare roots, helpless, half out of the ground. Someone had taken the rest of the rose bush. And then thinking of roses brings me back around to fertiliser and the wood chipper. I decide to go back to the bedroom. Surely it’s not too warm down that part of the house at this time of night.

I get up and wrap the blanket around me. I grab my pillow and carry it beside me. Moonlight makes the kitchen seem to glow, the silent appliances dormant and waiting as I walk past. I turn into the hallway, where it’s dark again. Too dark to see. The blanket flips between my feet and I pull it higher. Just as I do I stub my toe on something cold and fleshy. I trip. My hand that’s not holding the pillow tries to break my fall but lands on something else, leaving my face to hit the floor. My cheek and chin hit hard on the hardwood. I blink into the darkness through the pain. I can taste blood.

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