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A Crocodile Never Cries
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Dew does funny things to a corpse. It makes naked skin sparkle and toes lying half-submerged in a mud puddle appear as a lost diamond necklace.  

It did nothing for her hair. It was stringy and matted and covered her face down to her lips. No doubt her eyes glared at him between the matted strips.  

"Quit starin at me," she'd say. "Makin me nervous."  

He couldn't pull his gaze from her ribs. The last two days, vultures had picked her over and left a spaghetti-red mess. Her ribcage lay exposed. Pieces of gut lay scattered about.  

"You hate my guts?" she once asked. "Not all of them," he'd said. "Only these here and here." He'd poked her in the ribs, then in her side. "And everything in between."  

The vultures had even started on her thighs. They would extend their large, jet-black wings, flap them and fold them again, reach down and rip a chunk of meat, swallow it and reach for more. Then they'd glance around, at each other or at him or at the sky, and do it again. He'd chased them away when one pecked at her face. Her eyes were hers for the glaring. He owed her that much.  

The log was soft and dry beneath him, but the dew wetted the fringes where his pants met the bark. It was starting to creep up the fabric, and it was cold. He took a long, last draw, and flicked the butt into a pile in the damp leaves. Smoke poured from his lips and nostrils in a long exhale as he stared at her bare feet. They were closest to him, with their white, wrinkled skin and red, round heels. He traced her form with his eyes, willing recognition of a body he'd come to know so well. The heart shape of her ankles. The birthmark on her waist. The mole in her left armpit. Her long, thin, bony arms. He'd watched a vulture peck at the red splotch on her waist until it was a tiny morsel in its beak.  

She lay flat from the feet to the waist. At the waist, her hips twisted and exposed her belly and breasts, curved around to her neck, and her head lay facing back to him. He tried to imagine how it had happened.  

A drug deal gone sour perhaps. More likely rape. She was naked after all, and from the imprints on her neck, he suspected she’d been strangled. So it was rape. But what did it matter now? She was dead and half-eaten. Left lying in the woods like a deer over the limit.  

She would be happy that vultures had eaten her. She always found funerals barbaric and burial wasteful. Give back to nature, she'd say. "Let me rot beside a log, let me end on a spit." "I'm not eating you," he'd said. "I'll cook you, but I'm not eating you." "Then don't cook me." "I might cook you, just to see your skin crack and shrivel." He'd cracked a wry smile at just the right moment, but she hadn't laughed. "I'm serious, Jed. Don't bury me."