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The Happy Homicidal Hipster

by Penny Pennell


 


Penny received an M.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Her fiction is forthcoming or has appeared in Portland Metrozine, 3Elements Review, Nightingale and Sparrow, Barnstorm, and other places. She is an avid gardener and Chicago Cubs fan. @pennyrpennell 

A hipster will kill you with a mason jar just as sure as he can with a knife. Twirl the ends of his moustache with a flourish. His crime scenes are obscure, bodies left in places you’ve never heard of. He fantasizes about Carrie Brownstein and young women, fringe-banged, like an unwashed Lisa Loeb. He has no need for goggles during clean up; the heavy rims of his specs keep him squarely protected. His rooftop garden is organically tended and GMO-free: heirloom tomatoes and kale fertilized with the acid-tongued protests of victims one through three.

In his fifth-floor walk-up, he keeps his loft tidy: a scrim to separate his bedroom, bedazzled with pilfered dream catcher earrings. In milk crates he alphabetizes the appropriated record collections of victims seven and nine, besotted by the discovery that he can listen to Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians’ “Balloon Man” on vinyl.

He takes their fingerprints before rigor sets in, shaving graphite on an index card, only to press the ring finger, wrap and lift it with packing tape, and secure the print on card stock. His hands protected by latex, he slips the cards into handmade, pulpy envelopes. He seals them with melted wax infused with droplets of blood and mails them to police. 

The police comb back alleys, looking for clues, blood spatter and weapons, a strand of hair, a blond dreadlock, traces of DNA detected under black light. Hemp fibers. Victims accounted for and victims unknown. On a Thursday they find a femur. 

In want of coffee and shortbread, he attends the visitation for a girl he called Scarlett. Sitting in the back row, detecting faint notes of formaldehyde wafting from the preparation room, he listens to Radiohead with eyes closed. A whisper interrupts him and offers him a prayer card. He smiles at the woman and tells her she looks fetching.

They meet for maple bacon, red velvet cupcakes at a food truck seven blocks over. They walk, hand-in-hand and skinny-jeaned, while the sun dips into night. She explains that working in a funeral home isn’t quite as macabre as she imagined it would be. And he asks about arterial solutions and where he might be able to find silk for sutures. 

She laughs and shrugs and tells him the sutures are synthetic. He bristles and releases her hand. With her thumb, she wipes a crumb of red velvet from the corner of his mouth and invites him back to her place. They spend weeks tangled in each other’s company and he lives vicariously through the bodies she prepares. He takes her to his place and tells her he loves her and makes her a cocktail called Death in the Afternoon. She sips the drink and tells him Hemingway is overrated. They make love and watch Nosferatu. Then she asks him about the dream catcher earrings.

The police find him on a gurney in the cooler of the funeral home, a toe tag fashioned of pulp matching a collection of envelopes. There are traces of graphite on his ring finger; his hyoid bone fractured. In the palm of his right hand: an earring.

She tells police that she thinks she may have seen him at the funerals for victims six and eight, but she can’t be sure. They ask her to call them if she remembers anything further. She promises the detectives she will and leaves town with a brand-new record collection.


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