The Bog Body

Chucho and I were searching for golf balls in the protected wetland on the twelfth hole when my feet found a body. There were already several hundred golf balls sitting on the edge of the marsh ready to be cleaned and sold and I’d dug my feet into the mud expecting to feel the cool dimpled cover of another one, but instead, I felt a face.

Buried in the mud, a golf ball feels like a rock and you curl your foot like a hawk’s claw and yank it out. Over the course of the summer, searching for golf balls in water hazards, my feet had become very sensitive. I likened them to a blind man’s hands, something that you could substitute for eyes.

Sometimes Chucho and I played this game where he dropped some pocket change on the ground and I put my foot over it and told him exactly how much it was. It was a useless talent knowing that there were 78 cents underneath your foot instead of, say, 82, but the skill came in handy at times like this. When I patted my toes around in the brackish water I knew right away that my foot was pressing down on someone’s nose.

“There’s a body buried where I’m standing,” I told Chucho. I ran my big toe over its pursed lips. “And it didn’t die happy.”

“Hold still,” Chucho told me.

He dove under the water to get a closer look. He was down there forever, swimming right by my feet. He came up with three golf balls, chucked them over to the shore.

“Well?” I asked.

“Bog body,” he said. “I’ll go get Dutty.”


Dutty was the greens keep. He was a drunk with a legendary mean streak, but he let us rummage around in the creeks and ponds on the municipal golf course in exchange for giving him a cut. His mail-order bride had recently arrived, a Russian girl named Kika. Chucho and I figured that it was partly our doing that Dutty had been able to finance such a venture. We were none too pleased.

Three days ago, instead of making us wait on the stoop when we dropped off his money, Dutty had ushered us inside.

“My trench-footed friends,” he’d said, “I’d like you to meet the missus.”

His place smelled of grass seed and cigarette butts. There were bags of fertilizer leaning against his TV cabinet. Kika was sitting on the couch, smoking and watching a TV show about penguins.
“Boys, this is Kika,” Dutty said. “Kika, this is the boys.”

Kika glanced up at us for a second. She had dyed blond hair and a slightly turned up nose. She grunted something in Russian and then returned to her TV show. She scratched her scalp and she cracked her knuckles and then put her feet up on the milk crates that were doubling as a coffee table. She was sitting right there next to us, but I felt like we were staring at her in some sort of cage, waiting to see what she’d do next. She snuffed out a cigarette in an ashtray and immediately lit up another one.

Dutty extended his arm out beside Kika like he was showcasing a brand new coupe at a car show. He was beaming. I was thirteen, old enough to understand that I was expected to say something.
“You’re a lucky man,” I told him.

“I most certainly am,” he crowed.


As I was waiting in the water, I watched the endangered herons peck at their nests about thirty yards off, their urgent cawing and their skinny legs impatiently tamping the earth to find solid ground. The reeds of the marsh made a pleasant whoosh whenever the wind freshened.

I didn’t want to move around a lot and lose contact, so I kept my right foot on the body’s head while my left foot explored the rest. I could tell the body was wearing a blazer or something that had a shitload of buttons on it; there was a long skirt, a pair of boots with a sharp heel.

Bog bodies showed up every couple of years around here. We’d seen the pictures in the papers. They were from centuries ago, whores and heathens strung up by the locals because they didn’t believe in the right god. Or because they didn’t believe in God the right way. They were fully preserved by the salts in the marsh, complete with skin and clothes and their hair parted however they parted it during their time on earth.

I saw Kika and Chucho walking down the twelfth fairway with a couple of shovels.

“Dutty went into town,” Chucho explained. “At least that’s what I think Kika just told me.”

Kika was wearing cutoff shorts and a tank top and her hair was in a ponytail. She was barefoot and I noticed that she’d painted her toenails red.

“There’s a body,” I said pointing at my feet. “And Chucho and I are going to dig it out.”

I was speaking slow and loud, hoping that she might gain some meaning from my enunciation and volume.

Kika responded in Russian. I heard her say the word “Dutty” and then she spit on the ground. She said his name again and spit. “Dutty,” she said. Then she spit three more times right in a row.
“Lady,” I told her. “I understand. Dutty sucks. We get it.”

After she was out of spit, Kika flopped down on the edge of the marsh and lit another cigarette. Chucho passed me a shovel and we started digging. After about ten minutes we’d cleared the wet earth around the body. Chucho took the legs and I grabbed onto the shoulders and we lifted it out and set it down on the shore.

It was a woman. Her skin was this strange silvery metallic color. She was wearing a long skirt and a waistcoat that buttoned all the way up to her chin. Her hair was pulled back into a bun.
When Kika realized what we’d pulled out of the marsh, she started screaming and pointing at the body and then at us. Who knows what she was thinking? Maybe she thought that we were teenage murderers who liked to dig up our kills and show them to our next victims before we murdered them. Or maybe she was thinking something even worse. Maybe she’d just had enough of this place, enough of Dutty. Her shrieking was tremendous, and it scared the nesting herons and the endangered reticulated wood owls into flight. Chucho moved toward her to calm her down. Kika screamed louder and then she turned and ran off.

Chucho and I watched her run toward town, wondering if we should stop her, try to explain ourselves. Maybe there was some diagram that we could sketch out that would help her understand that this sort of thing was normal around these parts. Neither of us moved a muscle, though. We were both sick of Dutty; sick of us having to give him more money than we thought he deserved.

“If he wants her,” Chucho said, “let him go track her down.”


Dutty returned a little while later and we showed him the body. He got on the phone and called it in. In a few minutes, the town’s newspaperman was out at the golf course interviewing us. He posed us next to the bog body and snapped pictures and we pointed and smiled.

“You seen Kika?” Dutty asked.

“Haven’t,” I told him.

Dutty gave me a little nod and then he turned and trudged back up the hill. That day would be the last time any of us ever saw Kika and it seemed like Dutty already knew that she was gone. Dutty was walking up that hill like he was an old man who did not trust the earth to hold his weight. He was walking like there was something strange buried beneath the soles of his feet, and for the life of him he couldn’t seem to figure out what it was.


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