Excerpt: “Dredge” by Matt Bell (The New Black)

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m running interviews with a few of the authors from the incredible new anthology THE NEW BLACK, and I’ve also got a few excerpts for you! Up first is a piece from “Dredge” by Matt Bell (In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods.) Enjoy!

From “Dredge” by Matt Bell

The drowned girl drips everywhere, soaking the cheap cloth of the Ford’s back seat. Punter stares at her from the front of the car, first taking in her long blond hair, wrecked by the pond’s amphibian sheen, then her lips, blue where the lipstick’s been washed away, flaky red where it has not. He looks into her glassy green eyes, her pupils so dilated the irises are slivered halos, the right eye further polluted with burst blood vessels. She wears a lace-frilled gold tank top, a pair of acid wash jeans with grass stains on the knees and the ankles. A silver bracelet around her wrist throws off sparkles in the window-filtered moonlight, the same sparkle he saw through the lake’s dark mirror, that made him drop his fishing pole and wade out, then dive in after her. Her feet are bare except for a silver ring on her left pinkie toe, suggesting the absence of sandals, flip-flops, something lost in a struggle. Suggesting too many things for Punter to process all at once.

Punter turns and faces forward. He lights a cigarette, then flicks it out the window after just two drags. Smoking with the drowned girl in the car reminds him of when he worked at the plastics factory, how he would sometimes taste melted plastic in every puff of smoke. How a cigarette there hurt his lungs, left him gasping, his tongue coated with the taste of polyvinyl chloride, of adipates and phthalates. How that taste would leave his throat sore, would make his stomach ache all weekend.

The idea that some part of the dead girl might end up inside him—her wet smell or sloughing skin or dumb luck—he doesn’t need a cigarette that bad.

Punter crawls halfway into the back seat and arranges the girl as comfortably as he can, while he still can. He’s hunted enough deer and rabbits and squirrels to know she’s going to stiffen soon. He arranges her arms and legs until she appears asleep, then brushes her hair out of her face before he climbs back into his own seat.
Looking in the rearview, Punter smiles at the drowned girl, waits for her to smile back. Feels his face flush when he remembers she’s never going to.

He starts the engine. Drives her home.
Excerpted with permission from the editor


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