Haitian Death Song

John’s mother practiced voodoo. He remembers her cramped in their dark red kitchen when he was a child. Necklaces made of bones hung from nails. Black-painted mammy dolls lined the wooden shelves next to the family telephone. Black pots sat on the gas stove boiling water and potatoes and turkey carcasses. The dolls’ thick pink lips smiled.

Matman. That’s what he called her. Matman. Mother, I love you. He remembers still the smell of boiling bones that never left the kitchen, the ceiling stained brown with patches of soot. Matman poured the steaming broth into three white bowls, then sat two of the bowls on the table in front of John and his brother. John stirred his soup with a fat wooden spoon. The clear soup, once disturbed, turned murky, a thick undercurrent rising and swirling in his bowl. Chunks of onions and ripped pieces of turkey flesh sank after their upsweep. He remembers his mother walking out the always-jammed sliding glass door into their backyard with the cauldron of leftover boiling water. Dipping her fingers in, she flicked the broth skyward, singing incantations to the gods. Sometimes Matman fell down on the ground, rolling around in the dead dirt under the glowing moon. She rose after her possessed spells, poured the thick remains of the pot into a patch of black soil, then walked inside to eat.

Até. That’s what Matman called him. Até, lion child, son of my womb.

He was fifteen. He left the house for school, walking as he always did in his torn up Reebok track shoes next to the busy highway. It was raining, and water and mud seeped into the holes in the shoe leather. His name at school was John. John Atogwe.

He saw Yoshi Adams, a pale-skinned boy, standing next to a stop sign at the crosswalk under a black umbrella. Yoshi was the closest thing John had to a real friend. They never spoke much, but almost every day they met at the same crosswalk next to the tall red stop sign. Yoshi had been diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. Sometimes he succumbed to nervous tics in class or during lunch or on the walks to school with John, scratching at the inside of his forearms until they turned a burnt pink hue. Yoshi got a brand-new white iPod for Christmas from his father, and he liked listening to his songs more than talking with the other kids at school. Yoshi’s favorite band was Amadou & Mariam. They were from Mali. They sang in French. Yoshi walked next to John on their way to school, headphones shoved deep in his ears, deaf to everything around him. He said to John, They’re married. I like that. They’re blind too, John. They play the most beautiful songs and they can’t even see their instruments.

After they got to school, John sat in the cafeteria at a table by himself before classes started. Headphones shoved in his ear canals, he listened to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker on his portable CD player. He ate a square piece of pizza. The melting cheese dripped onto the plastic tray. He sipped at a box of white milk, snapping his fingers under the table and saying to himself again and again: Oh Bird. Bird. That sax . . . He thought the pizza tasted like cardboard, the milk like soap. But Matman was a working woman. She had a job at a kitchen downtown and had to wake up early to take the bus into the city. She had no time to make him ham sandwiches in the morning. The other kids sat at their tables eating Cheetos and drinking SunnyD, wiping the orange from their lips with napkins their mothers wrote notes on in the morning. John sat alone with his milk and his pizza and the sweet jazz humming into his ears that said: Don’t forget, I’ll always love you just the same.

His brother didn’t go to school. He was nine years older than John. A mechanic, he worked long hours at a shop six miles from their house. Unlike John, he went by the name Matman called him.

Dédé, my chubby grasshopper, looking over me always.

Dédé rode an old Schwinn bicycle to work. It was slow and gear-rusted. The whole thing shook as Dédé rolled over potholes and down gravel paths to the shop. He was a heavy man, despite the time he spent riding his Schwinn bicycle. He seemed to make up for the fat that wasn’t on John’s bones. The brothers looked nothing alike.

While John sat at his desk in American History class, Dédé pulled up to his shop. The teacher lectured about World War II, but John was distracted, thinking instead about Matman and Dédé working: Dédé’s oil-stained hands, the chicken fat clotted in the webs of Matman’s fingers. He held his textbook in his hand, comparing how light it was to the engines Dédé lugged across cement floors, the forty-pound tubs of lard that Matman carried from sink to stove top.

John usually walked home with Yoshi after classes ended. He found himself drawn to Yoshi’s deeply fascinating life: the random things he was amazed by, like the short life span of a Mayfly, which is only a day, John learned, or desire paths, the beaten Earth that humans create by over and over again walking through the same patch of grass, taking the same shortcut one after another until it is no longer grass and turns instead into flattened dirt.

Yoshi’s father made sex dolls for a living. He molded their rubber bodies in the basement of the family house, but had a little shop downtown with neon lights in the windows where he sold them. He always named the girls before selling them, so the lonely men that walked into the shop would feel connected to the rubber bodies. Instead of walking up to him and asking for that slim redhead wearing the black nightgown, the men said, I’m interested in Lola. What’s her story? Mr. Adams’ trade paid well. These lonely, overweight, and neurotic men were willing to pay anything to connect with someone. They walked into Mr. Adams’ small, neon-lit store looking for a brunette. Mr. Adams introduced the men to the rubber ladies one at a time, This is Ally. She’s a nurse. She likes helping people. The men told him that she seemed like a nice girl, helping people and all, but they were looking for a lady that didn’t work so often, maybe someone who wanted to stay at home and raise a family. So Mr. Adams walked the men over to another one of his girls. Well this here is Emma, she’s real smart. She’s studying English right now at university. She wants to be a writer. So she does most of her work at a desk in the house. The men fell instantly in love. They noted the curve of her jawline, her perfect breasts. The thick brown hair they were looking for. The men ran their fat hands along her thin neck and thought, Yeah, she’s perfect for me. Mr. Adams felt he was doing good, selling lifelong love to these lonely men for only five thousand dollars.

John liked Mr. Adams. They had only met a few times, but each time Mr. Adams was smiling and kind. John thought Mr. Adams must be happy just to see Yoshi get along with someone. Mr. Adams always asked John to come inside and have a sandwich, but John politely said that he’d better get home.

Mr. Adams was all by himself after his wife died. John thought that must be why he wanted to help all of those lonely men. John started thinking of his own father, whom he’d never seen. Matman had told John that his father was a terrible man, a coward who ran away when John was still growing in her stomach. It made John sad, this not knowing his father. He wondered if his father had the same big palms that he had, if he was bone-skinny, or fat like Dédé. And then John stopped thinking of his father, angry with his own thoughts. He remembered Matman’s words.

Até, my little warrior, there is no use in this thinking of your father. You are already more of a man than him. And look how thin you are.

When John got home, he gave Dédé language lessons. Dédé did not speak English well. He had been thirteen when the family moved from Haiti to Detroit. John had been only four, so he had easily developed a fat and lazy American tongue. Even as a kid, John taught Dédé how to speak with an American accent late at night, after Dédé’s shift at the auto shop was over. They faced each other on the floor of their shared bedroom as John mouthed over and over: Engine. Engine. To which Dédé always responded: Injahn. Injahn. John moved on: Girl. Girl. To which Dédé responded: Gwaal. Gwaal. They sat with a candle burning on their wooden end table, the smell of burning bone drifting in from the kitchen and hovering around the smoky ceiling of their bedroom.

Matman walked in and leaned against the doorway. She smiled. Her English was not good either. She spoke it, but preferred her Creole tongue, which she only got to use in the kitchen downtown. John never learned Creole, and Dédé had forgotten most of the language since moving to Michigan, so it was difficult for Matman to confide in her children. She learned how to say English endearments with a perfect American tongue. These she said to John all the time. She knew he preferred English. She recited them throughout the day at the kitchen.

Até, sleepy child, you are my breath.

Matman went to bed. John and Dédé studied until John fell asleep in the middle of Dédé’s lessons, the word Mother hanging on his lips. Dédé picked John up and put him to bed. He laid John’s head on a chubby goose feather pillow and wrapped a thick cream-colored blanket around his still body. John dozed heavily. He looked dead when he slept.

Dédé walked over to a cardboard box and pulled out a record. Bird and Diz. It was wrapped in thin white paper. He pulled the vinyl out of its sleeve and placed it in his record player, then dropped the thin needle into one of the album’s many black grooves. Dédé blew out the flickering candle and the two brothers slept to the sound of trumpets and saxophones.

Dédé’s recurring nightmare surfaced in the middle of the night. He found it difficult to fall asleep yet again. Every time the memory surfaced, his stomach churned. He smelled blood. His soul felt weak and sick.

It had happened when Dédé was only fifteen. Two years after moving to Detroit, the family’s golden retriever, Lord Invader, sprinted out the front door that John had left open on his way to school. A little boy was playing basketball in the middle of the street, dribbling the orange freckled ball between his thin white legs. He was pretending to be Dennis Rodman. The Pistons are down by one. You just got the ball in the paint with only three seconds left in the last game of the NBA Finals.

Lord Invader charged at the little boy. The little boy snapped out of his game and started to run. Lord Invader chased the little boy and, leaping, tackled him from behind. The dog bit down on the boy’s ear and gnawed until it was bloody.

Dédé ran up and ripped Lord Invader off. The boy screamed. Dédé jerked at Lord Invader’s collar and, looking around, saw the entire block standing out in the street staring at him. They stared at the little boy cupping his bloody ear, writhing on the hot black pavement.

Dédé looked down at Lord Invader for a moment. Then he beat him, right there in front of everyone. The entire street heard the whip of Dédé’s knuckles against Lord Invader’s ribs. Lord Invader howled for Matman or John but only Dédé was there, and he kept beating the dog, in front of everyone still staring at him on the street.

Dédé looked down at his cowering dog and fell down on top of him, weeping. He held Lord Invader in his tired arms and rubbed his cheek against the dog’s wet and bloody skull. The entire street stood there. They watched Dédé cry as he cradled Lord Invader. He got up, the tears and blood and wet fur stuck to his cheeks and knuckles. Dédé walked back to the house staring at the ground. When he reached the door, he screamed at Lord Invader to come inside. Lord Invader didn’t listen so Dédé screamed again, louder, his voice cracking, high-pitched, and the dog cautiously limped up to the front door, then walked slowly inside. The fat lady that lived next door held her hand over her gaping mouth. Dédé walked inside, and closed the door behind him.

Thirty minutes later, the little boy’s father was at the front door, screaming. The first thing Dédé noticed was the man’s nice clothes: his unwrinkled tie and silver cufflinks. He told Dédé that he was going to kill his rabid fucking mutt if Dédé didn’t. Dédé tried to speak calmly, but the man shouted that he didn’t understand Dédé’s thick-lipped island accent. He said that their house smelled like rotting flesh. The man told Dédé that he would take all of their family’s money in court and they would have to leave their house if he didn’t put that stupid fucking dog in the dirt where it belonged. Dédé said that he would take care of Lord Invader.

After John got back from classes and Matman got home from downtown, Dédé sat them down in their living room and told them what had happened. He told them what the little boy’s father told him to do, and what would happen otherwise. John screamed at Dédé, crying.

“John, the man say he’s gwaan to keel Lawd Invadar if I dahn’t.”

“No. You can’t do that. It’s that boy’s fault for running from hi—”

Dédé walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of milk, saying over his shoulder, “John, the man say he’s gwaan to make us pay hem mahney if I dahn’t.”

“It’s Lord Invader. He’s our dog. How could you do th—”

“John. You are too yahng to ahnderstend. We ain’t got nah mahney. T’ahts t’aht.”

John stuttered. “You can’t d—”

“I said t’ahts t’aht.”

John was afraid of the look in Dédé’s yellow eyes so he walked upstairs and sobbed to himself in his room. There was nothing to say. Lord Invader was going to die that night. John lay in his bed, wiping snot from his nose and water from his eyes and gripping his bedsheets with his tiny fingers and screaming until his throat felt like sandpaper. Matman walked upstairs and, leaning against his open door frame, whispered, Até, my oxygen, it is time.

John lay in his bed for a few minutes before walking down the house’s creaking wooden staircase, through the dark red kitchen, out the always-jammed sliding glass door to the dead dirt backyard where Matman stood next to Dédé. Dédé held a leash tied around Lord Invader’s neck. The moon glowed overhead and a large pile of bamboo burned on the ground by Matman’s feet. Matman’s eyes were closed, her head hung low as she whispered a Haitian death song. Dédé stared at John’s wet eyes. John stared down at the dead dirt backyard. Flies and mosquitoes hovered around the ashy dirt. Matman’s whispers turned to howls.

When she was done, John stepped forward and got down on one knee, pressing deep into Lord Invader’s ears and skull with his bony fingers. He pressed his cheek against Lord Invader’s neck, and cried that he was sorry for leaving the door open. He told Lord Invader that he was a good dog. Dédé walked up and put his hand on John’s shoulder, and John sobbed harder. He ran over to Matman who cradled her little boy in her arms, her lips pressed against his skull.

Até, do not worry, everything must die.

John buried his face deep in Matman’s stomach so all he could see was black. Just then he heard Dédé take out a knife and slit Lord Invader’s throat. Lord Invader barely whimpered before gurgling on the blood in his throat.

John looked up and saw Lord Invader fall to the dead dirt ground. His shadow was distorted and flattened under his body. John looked up at Dédé. His eyes were vacant. No one said anything as the dog lay twitching in the dirt. John sobbed into Matman’s white dress. Dédé did not cry. He just stood there with the bloody knife in his hand, dripping under the glowing moon, and said, Lawd Invadar. I lahved you.

Dédé struggled digging Lord Invader’s grave. He picked up a rusty shovel and, grunting, dug into the hard-packed dead dirt, then hollowed out a wide plot. He knelt next to Lord Invader’s limp body and closed the dog’s eyes with his open palm. He picked up Lord Invader and lowered him slowly into the grave. Matman used the shovel to push the burning bamboo into the hole after Lord Invader. She walked over to the fertile soil she always poured boiling broth into and, digging the rusty shovel into the pile, dropped the soil onto Lord Invader’s burning corpse. She ladled the dirt onto the dead dog until the hole was filled. Then Matman and John walked back inside in silence, listening to Dédé’s broken voice cracking, Lawd Invadar. I lahved you.

Lord Invader had haunted Dédé’s dreams since that day. He would wake up wild-eyed and sweating. This night was no different. He lay in bed for hours with his eyes shut, listening to Parker’s sax and Diz’s trumpet and John’s snoring until it was time to get ready for work.

John woke up to the sound of Dédé’s thick boots clunking across the wooden floor. Matman was already gone, riding a city bus that would drop her off a few blocks from the kitchen downtown. John tried to go back to sleep but a fly buzzed around his face, landing on his lips and nose and eyelids until he woke.

Dédé put another Charlie Parker vinyl on the wheel, then walked over to their kitchen, where he knifed honey and butter onto dark wheat toast and sang, It tain’t nah joke ta be stone broke. John lay in bed for a few moments before rising, then crawled out to eat breakfast with Dédé in their dark red kitchen among the bone necklaces. Dédé didn’t bring up his dream because Lord Invader’s ghost still haunted John as well. The soul of that dog had hovered around the narrow hallways of their house ever since Dédé buried him.

During his sleep-dazed commute to school, John walked next to the busy highway and came to the crosswalk where he always met Yoshi, but Yoshi wasn’t waiting for him. John waited, leaning against the stop sign. When Yoshi never showed, John kept walking to school. He thought again about his father, the invisible man roaming somewhere through Haiti. He wondered if his father was still alive. He thought about how he would never meet the coward, the donkey that ran away from Matman before he was born. John thought about how he had awakended in bed the other morning, instead of on the floor where he had fallen asleep. It must have been Dédé who had placed him there. Dédé, standing in the morning kitchen making breakfast. Dédé, lugging engines all day long. Dédé, who had to kill Lord Invader. John thought about Dédé and Matman, those two beautiful humans, and how they were all the family he needed.

There was an odd quiet when he showed up late to school. The attendance lady that sat at the front desk told him to go straight to class. John walked into his geometry class as Mr. Grafton was lecturing on René Descartes’ theory of tangent circles. Mr. G. trailed off, talking about the philosopher’s life.

“Descartes was cool, I swear. Look. One day he was on a walk with a girl he liked, just like any of you guys would, when a thug walked up to him with a sword. This punk was trying to steal his lady, so Descartes got real mad and disarmed the guy with only his hands. Then he gave him back his sword and told him, ‘Look, the only reason you’re alive right now is because I have this chick next to me, you dig? Now leave, if you know what’s good for you.’ The guy wasn’t just sitting around all day in a cement room working on geometric theories. He had a life. He isn’t just a name in a textbook that you need to know. He was a human being. He wrote that the hardest things to find in the world are a good book and a beautiful woman. The guy took pleasure in the same things we do.”

A boy named Kyle raised his hand in the back of the classroom.

“I thought he was a woman. Why would his parents name him René?”

The class laughed, and before Mr. G. could calm them down, the principal’s voice came over the loud speaker, all fuzzy and sad. Students, it is with great sorrow that I must tell you that this morning, around 9:30 AM, our beloved student, Yoshi Adams, tragically passed away at his house.

John heard the principal’s voice crack. His ears closed off part of the report. The principal’s voice came back into focus. If any of you are deeply affected by this news, please visit Ms. Sharp in the guidance office.

The rest of the day, John felt like a ghost treading through the fluorescent halls of his school. His blood felt thick. His ears rang. On his walk home, he stopped by Yoshi’s house. The garage door was distorted and bent in on itself, and there were news vans and cameramen and reporters standing by Mr. Adams, who was crying real hard into his hands. Mr. Adams looked up and saw John standing out in the road by a news van. John thought Mr. Adams’ eyes smiled a little bit when he saw him, but Mr. Adams kept weeping into his big hands.

John kept walking. It wasn’t until he got home that he heard the news report on television. Yoshi had tried to drive his dad’s car that morning and reversed straight through the garage door into a telephone pole at the bottom of the driveway. The cable news reporter said, The police have not disclosed the boy’s name. He died upon impact. He was only fifteen.

John found a snuff article online detailing exactly what happened. The website leaked police photographs that were taken before Mr. Adams got home. It was Yoshi. He was dead in his father’s Toyota. In the picture, his body was twisted around the front seat. His foot hung out the open driver’s door and his ankle bled through his white cotton socks. Two rubber dolls had lunged forward and were lying on top of Yoshi’s unmoving body. One of the doll’s still arms covered Yoshi’s eyes. She had a blonde disheveled wig sitting crooked on her head. She wore a skimpy red dress. The other girl was bent over the dashboard in her black nightgown, her bald head jerked sideways.

The funeral was six days later at a large cemetery outside of the city. John stood still, wearing all black, watching Mr. Adams the whole time. Something was missing in Mr. Adams’ eyes. He looked lost. He started crying as Yoshi’s tiny coffin was lowered into the dirt.

John looked past Mr. Adams and saw a teenage boy digging into one of the plots in the distance with a garden spade, a dead snake hanging limp in his other hand. The headstone he knelt next to had the name Madison carved into it. The boy finished digging, buried his dead snake, and walked away. By the time John looked back at Yoshi, he was already in the ground.

Mr. Adams moved away three weeks later. The news reporters wouldn’t leave him alone. They stopped every day by the house to ask him more questions and flash cameras in his face. He moved to escape Yoshi’s ghost. He moved to escape that twisted garage door.

John struggled with losing Yoshi. Did he have the right to be sad when Mr. Adams had it so much worse? He couldn’t fall asleep the night of the funeral, so he took his questions to Matman, who was hunched over a cutting board in the dark red kitchen, slicing the feet off a chicken. She looked over at him, holding a bloody knife in her hand.

Até, my breath, it is the middle of the night. What are you still doing up?

John asked Matman why things like this happen, why must things die?

Well, Yoshi is dead. That is true. But he is buried in the earth. And soon his wooden coffin will dissolve. And the worms and the soil will feed on his body, giving back life where life was once taken.

John said he didn’t care about the soil or the worms, he just wanted Yoshi back. Matman held the chicken feet under a cold stream of water in the kitchen sink.

Até, my child, that is very selfish thinking. And you will one day understand this: that the gods must consume life to keep feeding others.

John paused with uncertainty, then turned to walk away.

I know you don’t understand these things yet. They take time, my little warrior. Matman pulled out a small and black wooden box, opened it, and, placed the chicken feet inside. She carefully sat the box on a shelf next to three identical cases.

Take time. Love your thoughts of him. Keep them close and he will be with you forever. Soon your sadness will turn to joy. Know that you will lose more. That you will love more. That you will feel again and again this pain. Know that this is not the end of anything. Know that you are only fifteen. Know that you do not know much. Know that you are suffering. But most of all, know that death is not an end. It is a beginning. It is rebirth. Just as I gave birth to you, death gives life to Yoshi, and he is a child again, kicking and screaming in some distant universe.

John stood around saying nothing, then poured himself a glass of milk. He gazed at the black-painted mammy dolls. He ran his fingers along their smooth and painted wooden bodies.

John picked up one of the many bone necklaces hanging from the rusty nail and put it around his neck. He decided to walk through his midnight-deserted neighborhood. He walked out back through the always-jammed sliding glass door and knelt next to Lord Invader’s grave. The earth was no longer raised where the dog was buried. John imagined Lord Invader’s skeleton, the worms wrapped around his decaying bones. He ran his fingers along the dirt, reciting Dédé’s eulogy, Lord Invader, I loved you . . . Lord Invader, I loved you . . . Lord Invader, I loved you . . . 

John stood up and walked out the gate of his backyard, around the side of his house and down the street to where Lord Invader had bitten the little boy. The basketball hoop was lying on its back along the side of the boy’s house. The metal rim was rusty, the net was no longer attached. It looked to John like the boy hadn’t used it in years.

Thunder cracked across the sky and rain poured from the thick clouds. John began to run. He ran down the busy highway next to speeding cars that splashed water up in the air as mud and rain seeped into his torn-up Reeboks. His shoes grew heavy as he sprinted next to strobing headlights, but he kept moving forward.

He turned at the crosswalk under the tall red stop sign and stopped for a few seconds at Yoshi’s house. John fell to his knees. He knelt in the middle of the street under the pouring rain and cracking thunder, right where he had stood the day that he looked deep into Mr. Adams’ eyes. John thought of Lord Invader falling to the ground; he heard again his dog’s gurgle of blood and spit, Matman singing the Haitian death song. He thought of Yoshi, folded around the driver’s seat of his father’s Toyota, the bald rubber doll bent over the dashboard, her legs spread. John remembered Matman’s words, Até, do not worry, everything must die. He said her words out loud. Do not worry, everything must die . . . Do not worry, everything must die . . . He thought of Matman and Dédé, how they would one day die.

John blinked, and when his eyes opened he saw Matman and Dédé’s wooden coffins in Yoshi’s abandoned front yard, under the violent rain and thunder. He blinked again and the coffins disappeared.

John screamed at the top of his lungs at Yoshi’s empty house. He leaned back in the wet mud and untied his track shoes. He ripped them off his feet and threw them at the deserted home, shattering one of the windows. He pulled off his white cotton socks, now wet and stained brown. He unhooked his belt and hurled it to the ground. He un-zipped his pants and pulled them down around his ankles along with his white cotton briefs, taking two steps out of them. He pulled his wet t-shirt up from around his head and dropped it into the mud. He wore only Matman’s bone necklace, loose around his skinny neck. He screamed once more, louder this time, his voice cracking from the strain, and started running again. He ran until he could barely breathe. He ran until his feet bled from stomping against the hard and wet pavement. He ran until he was in the backyard of his family home under the rain and the thunder and the glowing night moon.

John lurched over to the fence and lifted a rusty shovel. It was heavy in his thin hands. Walking over to Lord Invader’s grave, he sang the Haitian death song. Then he began to dig.

He pushed the shovel deeper and deeper into the wet soil. His arms grew weaker with each jut into earth. John struck something solid and dropped the shovel. He knelt down by the plot for a few seconds before reaching into the soil with his fingers, pulling out globs of wet clay and sliced-up worms. Then he found three very tiny bones, yellowed brown. A few of Lord Invader’s toes. They had corroded since their burial, but still smelled like wicked flesh. John took the shovel up once more, then dug deeper. He sifted through the soil and retrieved Lord Invader’s femur, a crooked oblong. He found a series of vertebrae, all tiny and round and wound together in a series like the bone necklace around his neck.

He dug his fingers deeper into the wet clay and found Lord Invader’s skull. A haunting crack split the middle of the cranium. It looked medical, like something he had seen in his biology class. All at once, he felt detached from this body he once held as a child. He sat the skull down at his side and kept digging. He found the detached mandible deeper in the clay. There were still a few teeth attached, but most of the molars and canines had been lost deep in the earth. John arranged Lord Invader’s bones in the wet soil as they were structured in the dog’s living body. The skull first. Then, the detached mandible. Followed by the vertebrae. Pushing each bone softly into the wet soil as to leave an imprint. The femur. The toes. John used his finger to dig a circle into the ground around Lord Invader’s excavated skeleton.

John hummed again the death song, a lulling tune. He remembered Matman’s words, Até, do not worry, everything must die. He closed his eyes, saying her words out loud over and over again. Do not worry, everything must die . . . Do not worry, everything must die . . . Do not worry, everything must die . . . When he opened his eyes, he was among Lord Invader’s bones.

John felt the dog’s ghost rise out of its grave. He stood up and gripped Matman’s bone necklace. Lord Invader’s ghost felt like a heavy wind surrounding him. Then John felt the ghost move through him. As soon as the wind escaped his body, he grabbed at it with his fingers, pulling it slowly back into his body then out through his mouth. His tongue rolled back in his throat. John sang the Haitian death song backwards. It was a warped sound. He collapsed in the soil, then fell asleep among Lord Invader’s bones.  end