The Gunfighter, Smith

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Everyone was under strict orders not to disturb the corpse. But when the oldest brothers showed up, they immediately announced that they had no intention of complying with the request.

"You call that embalming?" they screamed as one. "We'll show you embalming!"

Upon this utterance, they dragged their sister's frame onto the kitchen table and cut into it with rinsed steak knives. They pulled out yard upon yard of long intestine, great fistfuls of grayish organs, and quarts of still, calm blood. They hacked at her with butcher knives, pizza cutters, pinking shears, and every other sharp implement they could find. Then they wrenched apart her rib cage, smoothed out her muscles, and pressed her bones into new configurations. Following this, they stuffed her with a combination of old bedding, extra-large croutons, and souvenir t-shirts from all the trips they had taken together as children. The concoction was then smothered in grape Kool-Aid and homemade moonshine that they claimed was better than formaldehyde. Finally, they sewed her up with fishhooks threaded with bright red thread, leaving a zigzagging series of sutures that crossed, looped, and even double-backed at one point.

When they were done — and their grimy faces were streaked with bile, undigested food, and squirmy bits of kidney that also dotted their chests — they grasped hands high over their heads in a victory pose and shouted at the assembled family members, "Now that's embalming!"

They were greeted with a silence that went on far too long, as they stood there grinning furiously and holding hands so tightly that the congealed blood on their palms seeped onto the floor like pressed MSG from a bad Chinese dinner left in the fridge overnight. They only broke ranks and stopped smiling when their mother said bitterly, "We weren't to disturb the corpse because the police haven't seen it yet."

They were most dreadfully embarrassed. They looked at each other, then at their sister's blank stare, then at their mother, Mrs. Smith. When it became clear that no one else was speaking anytime soon, they slowly washed the knives they had used, put their coats on over their soiled garments, adjusted their Fedoras, and walked out the door without looking back. Neither one of them was ever seen again.

Five hours later, a third cousin from the ex-father-in-law's side of the family broke the awkward silence by asking, "So how did she die anyway?" The innocent question provoked a barrage of insults and personal threats. Other family members screamed in outrage and issued vindictive promises into the third cousin's terrified face. When he could take no more verbal abuse, they beat him about the head and ankles and threw him into the street, whereupon he stood and walked away, never to be seen again. But back in the house, his question was answered in the fullest possible manner.

"My daughter," said the matriarch, Mrs. Smith, "was known as the Zanzibar Kid. We didn't find out for years that the reason she was called that was because it was her request, not because she had earned it or even had anything at all to do with Zanzibar itself. It was just a phat, slammin' word to her.

"But it came in handy because she earned her living as a professional gunfighter, which is a difficult occupation in the 21st century. Not only is it highly illegal to have a Colt 45 Peacemaker strapped to your thigh, but there really isn't much call for a travelling Yojimbo anymore.

"She preserved, though, becoming the quickest draw this side of the Pecos or that side of the MTV Summer House in Malibu. It's true that nobody thought it was very sporting when she yelled, "Draw!" at a helpless yuppie having a taco salad. And then when she would whip out her gun and shoot him while he was completely unarmed and cowering in his three-piece suit, you would have thought it was a federal crime or something."

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