Back to contents page

This Is Not a Questionnaire


Who are you?
We got a call.
Where’d you come from?
Any day. Tomorrow.
Who sent you?
We got a call.
They send out the police for a sin?
We got a call. Somebody had a hunch.
A feeling is evidence?


Cause of death?
Hard to determine. A sharp blow? Starvation? Asphyxiation? Poisoning? Probably.
How many bodies?
Four. Maybe two or three. Definitely one.
How could you get rid of something like that?
Easy. Throw it in the river. After dark.
Anything could go wrong. Neighbors.
People see and don’t see.
It could resurface. Don’t you have to weigh it down with something?
Cut it up. Throw it out bit by bit.
The blood. All over the place. What about the blood?
It’s commonplace, I tell you. Soap opera stuff.
The smell. What about the smell?


I didn’t see a thing. I just heard this story.
Tell it again.
It’s nothing.
You heard it.
He rang the doorbell. The old lady could see him from the windows.
Was she suspicious?
No. She knew him. A local boy. From a family with a lot of cancer.
Did she disapprove?
She didn’t question the Lord. He gives, He takes.
What did the boy say?
He was polite. “Ma’am, I came to see your daughter.”
Her response?
The old lady was soft-spoken. “She doesn’t take company, yet.”
Then what?
He left. Returned exactly one year later.


No evidence.
What do you mean?
No photographs. No jewelry.
A wedding band. Hers.
That’s no evidence.
Children. A girl and a boy.
That’s no evidence.
There was a song. The victim said it had been their song.
A Nat King Cole classic. “They Try To Tell Us We’re Too Young.”
That’s a long title.
The victim sang it a lot before the daughter went to school.
Did they go out dancing?
Never. There was a war going on.
After the war? At home?
The daughter said never.
That’s the evidence.


Was he a previous offender?
Clean record.
He bungled the job?
The usual. He came too soon. The baby came too soon.
You got a confession out of him?
He shows no sign of breaking down.
He’d been watching her for months. It was a small town. Everybody knew her.
She had a reputation?
No. She was just a schoolgirl.
A church girl.
Not exactly. She had cousins he knew. Everybody knew her people.
What about her people?
Nothing. One landed in jail for life. Not murder. Robbing transit.
What did she say?
When he said hello?
He didn’t say anything. Hanging with the other guys. Talking the talk. Nodding.
He was shy? Keeping cool?
Laughed a bit. Not much. Slick hair and shined shoes.
Sunday? He went to church?
No. His parents were dead. He didn’t have to do that anymore.
He noticed her? She came walking by with her cousins?
Prettiest in the group. She was dark, but so what?
She slowed down a bit?
She changed her hair a bit.
They always do that.
Flicked it behind her ear.
They always do that.
He saw her. Heard about her troubles.
What troubles?
Fights and threats everyday after school.
With the tough dark girls?
The plain light ones started it.
She didn’t belong? He thought he could save her?
That could be his alibi.
Could be?
He shows no signs of breaking down.


What’s the crime?
The daughter says she can’t find her mother. Disappeared.
The daughter says she was born into it.
Any witnesses?
The daughter says she can’t remember.
Any accessories? Before or after the fact?
The daughter says she’s been accused.
The accuser?
The daughter thinks it might be her father or possibly her younger brother, but almost surely her mother.

Copyright © 2002 Yvonne Chism-Peace

The poet Yvonne writes short fiction under the name Yvonne Chism-Peace. She has stories online in Moondance Ezine, Clever Magazine, Feminista, Moxie, and In Posse Review; Thought published “The Key” for its Spring 2002 issue; Saint Anne’s Review published “The Dusk” in the Winter 2001 issue. Her books of poetry are IWILLA SOIL, IWILLA SCOURGE, and IWILLA RISE (Chameleon Productions Inc. 1985, 1986, 1999), for which she won NEA fellowships. She was the poetry editor at MS. magazine (1974-1987).