I am tasked with reconstructing the explosive device. Most forensic departments analyze via computer these days, but I still do it by hand; I collect bomb fragments and piece the object together. It’s like working on the world’s most complicated jigsaw puzzle. Many of the fragments are twisted from the explosion; I need to reverse-engineer the blast pattern, bending and reshaping the warped pieces into their original configurations. After my labors, the pieces still do not fit perfectly—I don’t make mistakes, so I know I must be missing some bomb fragments. I ask the detectives, and they say there is still shrapnel from the hospital, extracted out of each victim’s wound. The detectives are reluctant, but they eventually surrender their precious evidence. Even with the bloody shrapnel, I’m still missing something, so I return to the scene with a microscope and tweezers, and I find smaller particles overlooked by the crime scene investigators. The metallic jigsaw makes more sense now, gaining definition with each granule. It is not a grenade or a pipe bomb—the emerging shape is too big. I work on the finer features—divots, dimples, cracks, lines—matching every single metal piece to its corresponding microscopic gap. Gradually, the pieces form a recognizable, singular entity. When each bomb fragment finds a home, I have reassembled the shape of a human being, smiling and happy, on the verge of breaking into fiery pieces.
James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review, and he teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. His fiction has recently appeared in Word Riot, NANO Fiction, theEEEL, Juked, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @jamesrgapinski.