Jolly Roger

by Michael Sions

There is a dead body in my basement. At least I think it is dead, but I have not checked for a pulse, so it could just be sleeping every time I go down there. It has been there since the day that I found it there and I have not moved it since that day. I thought I should move it out, but instead I kept it, just in case I ever needed it.


It has been there, in my basement, for a long time now, but I still have not moved it. Sometimes I go downstairs to get something and it is there, because dead bodies stay in the same place if no one moves them. I wonder if it will talk to me, but it never does. It just sits there, not moving, and not talking either. By this point I know it is dead and not sleeping, because it has started to decompose.


An insurance salesman comes to my door to try to sell me insurance. He knocks once, but I do not hear it, so he knocks again. This time I hear his knock, and I answer the door.

“Hello,” he says.

“Hi,” I say back.

“How about I sell you some flood insurance for a real dandy price?” he asks, in a southern accent.

“Why do I need flood insurance?” I ask back, without an accent.

“Well,” he says, “this house you got here’s real near a floodplain, and so you’re at risk of a flood.”

I still do not know what a floodplain is, but I know that I should, so I just nod and he keeps talking.

“If a flood were to come in right now,” he talks, “then you’d lose everything you got stored up in this real nice basement I see the hatch for.”

I tell him that I do not have very much in my basement except for a dead body that I found down there.

“You have a corpse in your basement?” he asks. He looks horrified.

“Yes I do,” I say back, “do you?” He still looks horrified.

“Why, n-no. No I certainly do not,” he says.

“Well,” I say back, “then I have more dead bodies than you do.”


I am at a yard sale that my neighbor is having, and I am buying a picture of cats playing Scrabble. I tell him that I wish I had a cat to play Scrabble with, because all I have is a dead body in my basement, and I don’t think it knows the rules to Scrabble.

My neighbor tells me that cats do not know how to play Scrabble, but it is a shame that I only have one dead body in my basement. He tells me that he has five dead bodies in his attic, and he calls them corpses.

I remember that the insurance salesman called it a corpse too, instead of a dead body. I decide to start calling mine a corpse, but I do not move it to the attic, because the attic is already mostly full.


I am out jogging when I see a man who lives down the street walking his dog. He tells me that he is glad to see me keeping healthy, because healthy people make better leaders.

I tell him that I am not a leader, and he tells me that I should try running for office, because I have a strong build, and people like their leaders to have charismatic skeletons. I ask him what a charismatic skeleton might look like, because I used to have a corpse in my basement, but now that it has been decomposing for a while it is mostly a skeleton, and I would like to know if I have a charismatic one. He tells me that he does not think that having two charismatic skeletons will be better than one.

“But,” he says, “you should put it in your closet. All the good politicians have a skeleton in their closet.”


The insurance salesman is back at my door.

“Hello,” he says again, “how about I sell you some tornado insurance at a dandy price?”

I ask him if my house is on a tornado plain too, and he says no, so I ask him why I should buy tornado insurance.

“Because,” he says, “since we last talked, I’ve collected six dead bodies, and, now that I have more of them than you, you should listen to me when I tell you things, and I’m telling you this: you need to be ready for a tornado.”

I am now ready for a tornado.


I am trying to sell my house so that I can move into an apartment, because my house is too big for just me to live in. There is a young couple inside my living room, and they ask me why it is they should buy my house and not any of the other houses.

“You should buy this house,” I tell them, “because it is the only house on the market with a skeleton in the closet.” I do not know if this is true, but my neighbor is not selling his house so I think that it is.

“That’s horrible!” they say. They tell me that they would not want to buy a house if there was a skeleton in the closet. I tell them that that is good, because I was probably going to take the skeleton with me when I moved out anyway. They ask me if this is an area prone to natural disasters, and I tell them that it is near a flood plain, but it is not in a tornado plain.

“Oh, good,” says the wife, “I’m terribly afraid of tornados.”

They do not buy my house, because they want to buy a different one. Instead I sell my house to a family of four whose kids are named Chad and Robert. Chad and Robert want to see the skeleton, but their parents tell me to take it with me. I take it with me when I move, but there is not a closet for me to put it in so I just put it in the living room.


I have met two of my new neighbors. One of them is a pirate, and the other one is a first grade teacher named Renee. Renee is very fond of her dog, and so I tell her that I have a skeleton in my living room if her dog wants a bone. She asks me if I can get one right now, so I bring her back a bone.

Her dog loves the bone, and so later she asks me for another bone. I bone her three times before I tell her that I cannot give her any more bones, because my skeleton is starting not to look like a skeleton anymore. She tells me that if I do not have a full skeleton, the next best thing is a skull and crossbones, so I should keep boning her until I only have the skull and two other bones. I do it, and I put the skull and crossbones on the counter.


The insurance salesman is at my new door. I do not know how he found me again.

“Howdy,” he says, “how about I sell you some greyhound insurance at a dandy price?”

I tell him that I do not live in a greyhound plain, and I have never heard of insurance for greyhounds.

“Well,” he says, “say a greyhound comes in and messes up all your stuff. Well then, if that happens, we cover it!”

I ask him what he thinks the chances are that a greyhound would be able to break into my apartment and mess up all my stuff. He tells me that if I do not buy his insurance, it is almost certain that a greyhound will come in and mess up all my stuff, but if I buy his insurance, then it probably will not happen.

I am no longer insured for tornados, but I am quite prepared for greyhounds.


I have the pirate over for dinner, and he sees my skull and crossbones.

“Arrrrrrrrrr,” he says, “that be quite a jolly roger ye got there.” I tell him that I didn’t know his name was Roger, and I ask him why Roger is so jolly.

But he just says “arrrrrrrr” again and changes the subject.


I run into my old neighbor at the grocery store, because my new apartment is not very far from my old house. I ask him how the five dead bodies in his attic are doing.

“Not so good,” he tells me. “The cops are investigating things and it’s only a matter of time before they start sniffing around too much and figure me out. How’d you get away with it?” he asks.

“Get away with what?” I ask.

He tells me that I am clever and he winks at me.

Later that day I hear sirens.


When I come home from the grocery store I find my door open, and all of my stuff messed up. I look at my skull and crossbones and both bones are gone, so I go to Renee. Her dog has one of the bones, but the other one is nowhere to be found.

“Say, what breed is your dog?” I ask her.

She tells me that he is a golden retriever.

MICHAEL SIONS is an eighteen-year-old Richmond, Virginia, native who is now studying architecture at the University of Virginia. He would’ve studied literature, but literature majors don’t make as much money as architects. He enjoys listening to rap and has been known to freestyle a verse or two when the time is right. His sense of humor often falls spectacularly flat in conversation due to the fact that he seems to be the only person on this entire planet with an unbreakable conviction that, regardless of the circumstances, elephants are always funny. Always.

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