By Tori Marlan

On a recent Friday after school, a Saint Ben’s sixth grader named William heard from a friend who’s a “liar” that he had seen a dead body under the bridge on Irving Park, near Rockwell. The friend, who’s also a “dimwit,” didn’t think to call the police, so William decided to troop over to the bridge with his three siblings and their very good friend Kevin, an honorary sibling. If, by chance, there was a body–and if, by chance, the body was still there–they would do the responsible thing and call the police.

The police were already there when they arrived. Yellow ribbon blocked access to the best view, so William, Kevin, Maureen, Maggie, and Sean huddled at the far end of the bridge and gazed over the railing. There was a dead body all right–half in, half out of the water. Its head rested on a rock; a shoe dangled from a tree.

Motorists at a red light hollered out their windows, asking the kids what they were looking at. “A body! A body!” they intoned with feverish grins. When a pedestrian asked how much they knew, they breathlessly shouted over one another, rife with theories.

“He must have been 45, because he was bald on top!”

“He wasn’t homeless, because he had an expensive jacket!”

“It was murder!”

“It was suicide!”

Suicide? Sean, the murder theorist, wouldn’t hear of it. “A shoe is in a tree,” he reminded them, as if they were all a bunch of dimwits.

“Everything’s planted!”

“I think he slipped on that path and broke his neck,” said the oldest, 13-year-old Maureen. She jumped up and down as she spoke, in either a burst of manic energy or an attempt to keep warm in her short pleated school uniform, which she wore without tights or socks. Suddenly her bare legs stopped bouncing. “If you think about it,” she said quietly, “it’s kind of sad.”