By Anastasia Stelse
Most people don’t realize the stomach’s
power, don’t consider it when contemplating
murder. Forensic science has made
leaps—delving into a five hundred
year old bog body’s leathery purse—
nuts, fruits, meats—we can pinpoint
region, season, how long after eating
death occurred. We can get even
closer with the newly dead. Solidify
a time of death (TOD), like Mary here,
curled on the steel slab—still stiff
from 10 frozen days in her own
trunk. So well preserved the abdomen
hasn’t begun to balloon. Her husband
states they had dinner together at 4:30,
that she left at 7. Plausible. No evidence
on the scene itself to suggest otherwise,
to implicate the man in this strangling.
Look closely at her contents. At the serrations
on the potatoes. Jagged. Defined. No sign
Steak and potatoes, a side
of glazed carrots—Mary
prepares the meal mindlessly—
wraps russets in tin foil, sets
the timer. Frozen carrots splattered
with gobs of honey, zapped
in the microwave. Her husband
does not see her rip the paper
from the steaks, so fresh the muscle
has not greyed, drips blood.
The pan is not hot enough,
will not sear the juices inside.
Watch the meat shrivel—
moisture eradicated. It will
be tough to chew. He will
make a point of it, will smack
his mandible open and shut,
tongue masticated muscle
before spitting it on the china.
The next bite he will grind
between molars, look directly
at Mary as he spits.
Anastasia Stelse is a native of southeastern Wisconsin, a graduate from the MFA program at American University, and a graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi’s creative writing PhD program housed in the Center for Writers. She currently teaches at the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, Rougarou, Passages North, Gravel, and Split Lip, among others. Follow her on Twitter @AnastasiaStelse and on Instagram @anastasiastelse_writer.