“HOUSE ARREST” by SAMUEL STEVENS

The patrol cop pulled up to the tiny house in the suburbs. He could smell the dead body through his car. “Son of a bitch,” he grumbled. He lit a cigarette just to ward off the miasma. The house was in a woman’s name but her son—Gary Adams, 26, single, no employment history—was the only resident. He’d seen a lot of that in the last few years. Some autism mom would shack up with a schlub, move across town, and leave their kid at home.

It wasn’t the town he’d grown up in, or the town he joined the force of 15 years ago. “Shit,” he muttered. He shook his head at the house.

He got out of the patrol car. The neighbors stood on their porches and stoops. It was like having a bunch of UN monitors, he thought. The officer checked out the yard. The lawn was trimmed, landscaping kept up. There was a little sign staked in the ground from a “Dos Amigos” landscaping service. He winced.

His cigarette got to the end and he stubbed it out and put the butt in his pocket. He knocked on the front door a few times, mostly for appearances.

“Police,” he groaned. He kicked the door in. The gas cloud hit him. It was corpse smell with added sewage. He bit back bile. “Mother fucker,” he gasped. Breathing through his mouth only did so much. The front room of the house was dusty. The living room off to his right still had a sad little LED Christmas tree up. Trash bags flanked the front door along with empty packages. He took some latex gloves, two for each hand because he didn’t want to take any chances. He proceeded into the kitchen. Dishes were piled up in the sink. More trash sat around the overflowing can. He opened up the window that looked out on the backyard and turned on the fan in an attempt to air out the house.

The sticky kitchen table had a receipt from a grocery delivery service. The billing address was the dead kid’s mother’s.

He checked the fridge. The fridge half was full of milk and soda. Guess the little weirdo really liked milk, the cop thought. The freezer half was lined with bags of frozen chicken tenders. The cop shook his head and shut the door.

He went back into the front room and down the hall to find the bedroom. He passed what he assumed was the bathroom. He poked his head in. No DB, good, he thought. He’d let the crime scene clean up people deal with that.

The walls felt like they were tightening up around him. He reached the end of the dim passage. The body was behind the door. It did not smell like a body usually did. He opened it up. The corpse lay underneath a collapsed book case. Bottles of—

“No,” he said out loud. “Piss? Bottles of piss?” He shook his head. “What the fuck!” he growled at the corpse. Gary Adams, 26, no employment history, now confirmed deceased, had been a small, frail kid. Kid, the cop thought, I was already on the force at twenty six. He hated the younger generation.

He stared at Gary’s corpse. “What the fuck did you do with your life?”

The cop looked around at the walls. They had shelves lined with toys There was a section of sex ones. The kid had been pitcher and catcher on himself. The cop grimaced and snorted at the same time. He looked at Gary. “Couldn’t get any, huh?”

He stepped around Gary and the collapsed shelf of piss bottles. He’d forgotten about the smell. He picked up one of the plastic statues, a scantily clad girl Japanese cartoon character, carrying a ridiculous looking sword. The cop had to admire the rack, though. He set it down. There were a lot of versions of the character, different kinds of statues. He glanced at the bed. There was a human-sized pillow with the girl warrior character in the nude. He didn’t want to poke it. It probably wasn’t soft. The one wall without shelves had Gary’s desk up against it. It had porno posters—of the same character—and a print of Adolf Hitler. The desk was behind the reeking pile of broken furniture and piss bottles. The computer was on standby mode. The cop shook his head. He didn’t think Hitler would have liked this dumbass kid.

“You know Gary,” he said, inspecting bookcase. “Maybe you and Uncle Adolf would have gotten along.” Some of the bottles at the bottom had leaked and corroded the faux wood. He gagged, smelling the room again. “Hitler was kind of a creepy little shut in.” It was an accidental death. He wondered how long it had taken Gary to fill the case. A long time, the cop thought. He was impressed, almost. He choked back puke again and stepped out of the house. He’d probably need a new uniform after going in the place.

The detectives rolled up. They held bandanas over their faces.

“What’s in there?” the first one said.

“A dead body, detective,” the cop said.

“Very funny,”

“Accidental cause of death, near as I can tell. The kid—well, overgrown kid—had a bookshelf, literally, of piss jugs,” the cop laughed a little.

“What the fuck,” the other detective shook his head.

“The bottles on the bottom started to leak out. The shelf collapsed. He’s in there—the body—in a pile of broken piss bottles and broken furniture. Rest of the house is in bad shape, too.”

“I see, or smell, rather,” the first detective said. “You know, this is fourth call like this we’ve had this month.”