Santa Muerte by Jason Arment

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

uneaten food on school lunch tray

Lunch period with the guys—the middle school segregated lunch and recess by gender because of problems with kids making out and mooning cars—when all of a sudden a ruckus broke out at the bad kids’ table.

“Somebody help! Somebody help! He’s dying!”

The lady, permanent faculty who ran the lunch, lost her mind—screaming hysterically for help.

I thought, Fuck, I’m going to have to watch one of these kids die, and sprinted over. Or tried to. All I could manage felt like a staggered jog. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I’d been that my squad never took serious casualties in Iraq; how I’d almost gone through life without ever watching anyone I cared about die. I moved between tables in the cafeteria like I was on one of those moving conveyer belts at the airport—unable to stop or speed up—trying to remember the Heimlich and wishing adults weren’t already standing in a semicircle facing a figure kneeling low behind the table.

When I got there one of the troubled youths had his chest on a stool and he was fading fast. Long, thick tendrils of saliva hung from his mouth; eyes rolled white. Warren, the school orderly, said to the young man, “I’m going to take your backpack off,” as calm as if he was reading a manual he’d pulled from his pocket. The pack came off and thirty seconds of Heimlich later the kid coughed up a Starburst and started breathing again.

And for a moment the middle school seemed like a community, with the students wide-eyed and murmuring about death.

But then someone stole a wallet, and everyone went back to normal.

jason armentJason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a machine gunner in the US Marine Corps. He’s earned an MFA in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, The Burrow Press Review, War, Literature & the Arts; and is forthcoming in Chautauqua, and The Florida Review. Jason lives in Denver, and can be reached at


STORY IMAGE CREDIT/Flickr Creative Commons, Reed Sandridge

  3 comments for “Santa Muerte by Jason Arment

Share a Comment