portion of the artwork for Matthew Fogarty's fiction

Stealing Copper
Matthew Fogarty

Kim was the one who found the guy hanging from the wire and called the cops. She was headed to school but stopped when she saw him across the street. She said he looked like he’d been trying to steal copper, shears in his one hand, dangling from a low power line by the other. Didn’t look homeless like you’d expect. Probably just a guy without much else going on and probably not a lot to lose. I’m not sure Zeke or I fully believed her story on its own but there he was the next day in both the papers.

It was almost the end of that semester and we all were looking for ways to get out of class or to make sitting through class less whatever. Kim and Zeke had figured out they could half-empty a juice bottle and fill it up with vodka without anyone really noticing and so that’s what they did most days. I’d just bought an old Lumina with a manual transmission and wasn’t that into drinking. At lunch we’d go out there just the three of us and they’d drink and I’d smoke and we’d most days make it back into school for the last couple periods but some days not. I remember I’d been thinking at the time about all the different ways there are to die and the wire thing was a new one.

That morning Zeke and I were hanging out in the Lumina near the Pizza Hut on the white side of 8 Mile waiting for her—she didn’t live too far over the line but 8 was as far as my dad would let me go—and Zeke was getting all worried I guess because he didn’t want to miss class unless there was a real good reason. Kim was pretty fucked up when she finally did get to us. Her eyes were all bulgy and her face was white and she kicked Zeke out of shotgun and just said, drive, so I did.

I took us out toward the river first where there were a couple of freighters passing each other between lakes and then back down through the Grosse Pointes, past all the big houses and lawns. Kim wasn’t saying anything and Zeke was getting bored and I started us back toward school when Kim let out the whole story and started losing it. She said she’d wanted to reach up and touch it—it was that close to the ground—and also that she felt bad for calling it an it and not a body or a corpse. Her dad was a cop in the city and had probably seen his share of bodies but he’d always kept her away from all that and this guy was just right there in front of her and there was a little part of her that wanted to see what it’d be like to kick it or stab it with a kitchen knife maybe, just to see how thick flesh feels. By that point she was really sobbing and taking long pulls from a bottle and asked me to drive around some more, that she just wanted to erase the image of the guy’s shoes at eye level.

Zeke suggested going down into the city to an abandoned factory he knew where we could all just hang out and do whatever. I knew it was a bad idea but Kim said it sounded good and she reached across low and put her one hand on the inside of my leg where Zeke couldn’t see and there wasn’t anything I could do about it then.

The factory was on Grand Boulevard near the highway and the overpass shadowed the entrance—basically a spot where the wall was crumbled a little lower than anywhere else—which made the whole place dark and wrong-feeling. There was barely a roof and most of the walls inside were only half-erect and tagged with graffiti.

They were taking turns with the vodka and I stopped to smoke and set my lighter down on a ledge. Where you could tell there’d been windows now there were just empty rectangles. The city outside didn’t look like much other than rubble and I wondered how Kim managed to live in all that and still be shocked by seeing a dead guy hanging from a line.

I turned back toward Zeke and Kim but Zeke and Kim weren’t there anymore. Kim was laughing far away on the other sides of half walls off in some other room. Zeke, I said loudly, but he didn’t respond and I said, Zeke, again and then, Kim, and still nothing so I walked in and out of the sprays of light and the shadows with my Bic going. I said their names over and over and didn’t hear anything except some lower pitched version of their flat muffled voices and breath. I think the jagged stone walls must have warped in the echo whatever sounds were thrown at them.

I called Zeke’s phone and more than the dull distant buzz saw the light of it raise up shadows of the two of them, their heads and torsos together, against a tall wall a couple rooms over. The bottle broke. And they were still on the wall, sometimes two shadows sometimes one.

Everything just fell out of me and fuck there was a big part of me that wanted to leave them and drive back out of the city to where I was supposed to be. But I couldn’t get my feet to move and I was really feeling the smoke and so I stayed there and kept calling Zeke’s phone and watching their wallshadows. After a time there were ragged gasps and a groan and the shadows stopped and I drove us all to school and that was all that happened that day. Though, I decided then that I hated Zeke and that I didn’t like Kim nearly as much as I thought I did, not just because she would do that with Zeke while I was right there but also because in all that she said about the it she didn’t mention at all that he was once a real person who was probably trying to take care of his family and that was the only thing he could think to do to survive.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 42 | Fall 2013