The Plan

Dennis James Sweeney


I went out in the woods with the boys and we got straight to business. Marty and Bill dug while I dragged the mannequins out of their sacks. Then I gathered our clothes and dressed the mannequins in them. When the hole was finished, we tossed the bodies in. They looked miraculously dead, these forms that had never been alive.

Bill took out his cell and dialed home. Darling, he said, you’ve got to get out here. Bring the kids. Marty went next. I called last and my wife made an excuse about the soup and the child percolating in her belly so finally I snapped, Betsy—it’s me, my life. Come now. Then the three of us threw our phones in the hole and ran to hide behind the trees.

We stood there for a long time, naked and shivering. Eventually we sat.

It was night by the time our families trembled into the clearing. Perfect: They saw the hole, started to sob, fell to their knees, clawed the ground. We giggled together, peeking out. Marty took pity first. He stepped into the clearing. Linda, he said, it’s me! Don’t you love me now?

It was only then that we noticed the ambulance-men emerging from the darkness behind our wives. Linda stared into the ground, absorbed in her grief. She finally looked up, looked straight at Marty. Her eyes were blank. She wasn’t seeing anything.

Bill and I exchanged glances. We stepped out from behind the trees. We waved our arms. The ambulance-men, backlit now by an overwhelming floodlight, placed their arms across the shoulders of our heaving wives.

I tried to clatter: I slapped my empty hands together. I trilled my stiffened vocal cords.

But the sobbing dragged on and on. We stood in a helpless row as the ambulance men cut down three trees—right next to us! we touched those trees!—and threw them into the hole. The mannequins softened under the weight. Then the ambulance-men lit the trees on fire.

Like three Tom Sawyers, we watched our families watch us burn. It was everything—so much more than—we had hoped. Then we followed them back home.



Nowhere in this world exists a thing more dazzling than watching my wife pour her breakfast cereal in the morning, take out her breast, and feed my new son while she eats. She reads the paper. People die every day. None of them anymore is me.