Christina Olson is the author of Before I Came Home Naked and Rook & The M.E.: A Law & Order-Inspired Narrative. Her poetry has appeared in journals and magazines including The Southern Review, RHINO, Gulf Coast, Mid-American Review, Puerto del Sol, The Normal School, Anti-, Gastronomica, Passages North and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her nonfiction has appeared in Brevity, Black Warrior Review, Quarterly West, and was anthologized in The Best Creative Nonfiction, Volume 3. She is the poetry editor of Midwestern Gothic. Born in Cincinnati, raised in Buffalo, she now teaches creative writing at Georgia Southern University and lives online at www.thedrevlow-olsonshow.com.
From The Rook and the M.E.
When the Medical Examiner Dreams, She Dreams of the Body
A fistulated cow haunts her. Class field trip to Jersey, 1989. The researcher put on boots, uncapped the hole in the cow’s side. Lily did not blink, lifted her tail. Shit plopped out. Only M.E. stepped forward to volunteer. She thought her arm would slide right in, but it was a fight. She persisted, stuffed her arm into the side of living beef.
The tightness. The smell. All the other children sang Ewwwww but M.E. kept going, the glove bunching up in her armpit. The cow moved and the organs around her arm moved, a half-second later. Finally, the teacher said, That’s enough, and pulled M.E.’s arm free. On the bus home, no one would sit next to her. When she opens a body on her table, she thinks of Lily. Unless you have seen the puzzle of the body, you cannot imagine its neatness. First-year students can never put it back together properly.
The bodies will not let her go. Now M.E. sees it all: the jagged tear of bullet through stomach, the lungs and their secret cigarettes. She can pack what remains of the pancreas like a Tetris pro. But at night she dreams of Lily. Or this: once, she lost her watch. The cleaning staff took it, she tells herself. But she knows that night, the bodies in their cabinets ticked with something like life.
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