St. Louis was frenzied – The Cardinals were playing The Yankees in the World Series, and the sounds of the screaming fans bellowed down the Mississippi River and pushed against the tin walls of the old chemical factories across the water on the Illinois side.
Josh hated Halloween, and he also hated St. Louis, and most of all he hated anything frenzied; unfortunately, he was enrolled in a Top-20 MBA program at Washington University, and the leader of his team decided that their group should dress up in costumes and go on a riverboat casino cruise for a night of "team building." The theme for the team-building event was The Brady Bunch.
The air on the Queen Mary Casino Riverboat Cruise was thick with cigarettes, wet diapers & beer. Josh was wholly convinced that his nausea was caused by the old ladies playing the dime slots while hooked up to their oxygen masks -- and NOT the Jaeger shots & unfiltered Camels that he had been nursing all night long. Josh went to the deck for some fresh air & to catch the score of a baseball game that he cared so little about.
"Hey, man," someone said while pointing down to the river. "Would you look at this? St. Louis sure knows how to put on a good show, dude!"
Josh looked down to the murky water of the river and saw a bloated, white object that had the shape of a body but was missing an arm and leg.
“Is it real?” someone asked.
“Dude,” some guy responded, “It’s Halloween. Of course it isn’t real.”
Onlookers began screaming JACKPOT and throwing nickels, pennies, and empty beer cups at the body. Anything that could be thrown to hit a dead body was hurled from the side of the Queen Mary Riverboat. Josh felt an urge to stop them – what if it was a real body? – but the liquor in his belly forced him back from the crowd. He was no activist, Josh wasn’t, and this was hardly the time and place to make a scene to protect the sanctity of a decaying, bloated body on the polluted Mississippi river.
The deck filled with onlookers, and Josh found himself pressed against the railing of the boat. Whenever someone with a transistor radio heard that The Cardinals had scored, dimes and nickels rang down on the bloated body. In the crowd, Josh saw his MBA teammates, Kwame & Abbie. He pushed off the railing and slowly moved towards the center of the deck to meet his friends.
"Who the hell are you supposed to be??" quipped Abbie, the team leader.
“Abbie, there’s a dead guy in the water.”
“Yeah, I heard,” replied Abbie.
Never mind humanity - let’s stick to the business plan.
“What’s with your costume? I thought we agreed to the theme?"
“I am sticking to it, Abbie. My costume is within the scope of our project.”
Abbie rolled her eyes.
"I'm Sam the Butcher," Josh said. "I'm Alice's unconsummated love interest."
Abbie was ever mindful to increase morale in her group, so she touched Josh's blood stained gown, ran her hand along his arm-length polyurethane gloves, and tousled his paper butcher hat.
"Is it real?" she asked.
"My costume?" Josh answered. "Yeah, I went to the grocery store and observed how these guys dress. The blood is food coloring, of course, but the rest is authentic. I would've worn the plastic coat to protect my clothes from the dropping innards, but it's a little too humid for an overcoat."
"No," Abbie responded. "The body."
Josh just shrugged his shoulders.
Abbie gave Josh another once-over and said, "Nobody remembers Sam the Butcher."
Kwame, the only African American guy in the MBA School, stepped towards the railing to get a better view.
“It’s the St. Louis police, out in full force.”
“Shouldn’t it be the coast guard?” Josh asked, glad to change the subject from his costume but wishing Abbie’s hand would linger on his butcher arms.
“The Mississippi river isn’t a coast, dude. They use the police for this kind of shit.”
Kwame was right, but Josh didn't want to make any racial assumptions about why he was right and how he knew about the functions of the St. Louis police department.
It wasn’t rescue & recovery, anyway, which seems more likely suited towards the Coast Guard. This night was all about recovery.
One dead body.
Lots of onlookers.
The Cardinals game.
These cops had better things to do, like trick or treat with their kids at home, but now they’re pulling an all-nighter and fishing a bloated corpse out of the Mighty Miss.
“They’re trying to rope in the body with a two-man approach,” Kwame reported. “One man with a hook, the other with bag.”
"Kwame, that’s really gross.” Abbie snorted.
Then Abbie did a double-take: first of the sagging, bloated corpse in the water, and then of Kwame, dressed in a white button down shirt, knee-length shorts, argyle socks, and penny loafers.
“Your costume is insane, Kwame. Who in the hell are you supposed to be?”
Kwame looked down at Abbie and rolled his eyes. "Honey," he said, "I'm cousin Oliver."
... by L--, continued by T--...