Lonnie Rotting

Randolph Uniack

Day 1 — Fresh

His real name was unknown, whoever shot him had taken his wallet to delay the impending investigation, so they called him Lonnie after the kid who found him told the reporter he kinda looked like the Black produce guy who worked at the grocery store he used to go to with his mother before they moved here. He stumbled across the body on his morning walk to school, and after poking him with a stick a couple of times, decided to tell the donut maker lady, who already knew because she was the one who sold the security camera footage to the news station. A handful of protesters held off the authorities until enough had flocked to the crime scene to create a blockade. Sides shouted. Journalists jotted. Lonnie stiffened to silence them, his hand reaching to the sky.


Day 4 — Bloat

A truce was negotiated:

“Vacate the premises immediately! This is a health department violation!”

“Behold your sins! Let all bear witness!”

Hence, there was to be no more gassing besides the ones that seeped out of Lonnie, and his body was to remain untouched so long as the riots ceased. They did, and the protesters wept for him as they left, eating donuts to mask the stench and promising to return and remember him as he was before his skin turned green and the purple fluid leaked from his ears.


Day 9 — Active Decay

There then came the question of the owner of the strip mall, who was offered a buy-out by the municipal government but declined in a decision that leading economists later hailed as “pure entrepreneurial brilliance.” He did not, however, have the foresight to embalm him, a blunder the same economists called a “major miscalculation.” Instead, a cage was erected to protect Lonnie from the birds, which was then replaced with a small game hunter after tourists complained about the obstructed view while taking photographs. Coincidentally, the hunter's brother-in-law was an exterminator, who offered a family and friends discount on a twice-a-day spray for the maggot issue. People from all walks of life came to visit, though the majority were students on field trips after the scholars decided there was something to be said about the affair. The children would cheer when the exterminator was late and the maggots started squirming out of the eye socket region.


Day 25 — Advanced Decay

One of the artists complained it was getting hard to see the real Lonnie within the dark sludge and that he was an observational painter, not an abstract. The taxidermists were called in but concluded the sun had melded his body with the concrete, leading to the communal fear that he wouldn’t be molded back in just the right shape once scraped off. At the town hall meeting, a show of hands resolved he be left unaltered for the good of the country and the children. This also proved one side of the street wouldn’t need to be closed for an hour to make room for the excavator. The donut maker lady claimed she too would’ve voted against it if she weren’t sick.


Day 70 — Dry Remains

Even after the hunter and his brother-in-law died, and the birds had picked at the flesh and the insects had ravaged the rest, and the health department decided it was time to step in and shutter the donut shop and seize the strip mall and close the schools to stop the spread, the sickness still killed the children. People started to resent Lonnie for what he’d caused, and the protesters went to protest the auction of his bones to the museums and private collectors, and the economists reeled, and the scholars argued, and the three missing standard issue bullets that had pierced his chest and cracked his sternum—the bone that fetched the highest bid of the auction—were returned to the police department for inventory.


Headshot | Randolph Uniack


RANDOLPH UNIACK is a writer from Los Angeles. In 2022, he graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, receiving a minor in English. 

“Lonnie Rotting” is a 2023 Kurt Vonnegut Speculative Fiction Prize finalist. Click here to view the complete list of Vonnegut finalists and winners.