art by Richard Gagnon
by Leah Thomas
"Wait," Mother scolded. "We need to wind the bobbin first."
Erin sat back from the sewing machine and crossed her arms over the seeping hole in her stomach. "Can't you do it for me?"
Mother set Erin's hands back on the machine's turquoise hull. She rested her own decaying palms on top of them. "You should learn, Erin. What would you do if I weren't around?"
Erin clenched her fists, dislodging Mother. "Where're you going?"
"It never hurts to be prepared. Even the dead don't live forever."
"Like Mr. Brixton?" Mr. Brixton, from three houses down, had been dead for only months before his stovetop set him alight.
"He was a fool. What does a dead man need to cook for?" Mother, ever impatient, reached across Erin and slotted the empty spindle into place. The table shook when she put her foot down on the electric pedal. The spinning bobbin steadily gathered thread.
"Mr. Brixton was being brave, Mom." His papery skin was highly flammable, but the only reason the flames got him was because he ran back into the burning building to fetch his Persian cat, Priscilla. Erin theorized that he had been cooking her a salmon dinner. "What happened to Priscilla?"
"'Priscilla' who?" Mother tucked the newly wound bobbin into the base beneath the needle and set a spindle of flesh-toned thread in place above the hull. She adjusted the height of the sewing machine head, so that a foot of space stood between the needle and the base. "Lie down."
"Mr. Brixton's cat." Erin laid herself flat across the base and the table, positioning her body so that the gaping wound in her torso was aligned with the needle's point.
"Maybe she ran away." Mother pulled safety pins from between her teeth and poked them through both sides of the hole in Erin's stomach, pinching it shut. Erin could not feel it, of course, but she averted her gaze all the same.
Mother threaded the needle.
"Hold still, Erin."
"Hold still, dead girl!"
The kicking was not painful. It was just frustrating. Every time Erin tried to get to her feet, the other girls kicked her legs out from beneath her. Again and again they thumped her head against the sidewalk and asked her if rotting dead girls (who everyone knew didn't bleed without pulses) still got their periods. One of them grabbed her backpack and laughed at the old lunchbox she kept in there ("What does dead meat need a lunchbox for?"). Erin scrabbled free while they were laughing and gagging at the smell of her, but that was when Sarah Miller knifed her in the stomach.
"This is like what happened when my mom miscarried!" She spat the words into Erin's face. "Every time one of you crawls out of a grave, a baby dies somewhere. Did you know that, graveyard girl?"