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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 18
Sep
2008

I Should Buy Some Cement

Writing CementI should buy some cement, in case I need to hide a body. I don’t plan on hiding a body. I have no particular body in mind. But that’s the thing: if you wait until you’re there with a bloodied lamp in one hand and a cooling body in the other, it’s too late. You can’t jump in the car and head down to the hardware store for cement at that point. You’d need to change your clothes, stash the body somewhere it won’t arouse suspicion, and this is assuming you can even get to an open hardware store. It might be two in the morning. You might not have a car—or you might, but with a fender caved in around a head-sized crater, this being the reason why you need cement in the first place.

And think about how bad it would look. You have to assume the police will investigate. At best, there’s a missing person, at worst, they already suspect homicide. “Where were you on the night of the 24th?” they’ll ask. If your answer is, “Buying cement,” you have a problem. Sure, you can lie. Say you were tucked up in bed. But that’s another thing to go wrong. Did you use your credit card to buy the cement? Did you visit an ATM for cash? They’ll find out. They’ll track down the clerk who served you. And that clerk will say, Yes, I do remember a sweaty, frightened-looking customer in urgent need of cement. I remember very well.

Consider how much better if you can simply trot down to the basement, flick on the light, and haul out those 60-pound bags of cement you stashed there for precisely such a contingency. No need to leave the house: just get mixing. You’ll have to pull up some floorboards, of course, or find a nice, quiet spot in the garden, and do quite a lot of digging. There is hard labor involved. I’m not saying it’ll be a breeze, something you can knock over before catching the end of Letterman and retiring to bed with a book. My point is when the payoff is avoiding spending the rest of your life in prison, it’s worth putting in some effort.

Like I said, I don’t plan on killing anybody. I’m a reasonable person. But I can’t say there’s absolutely zero chance that one day I’ll find myself with a dead body that needs hiding. I bet everyone thinks that, until it happens to them. It’s like insurance: I don’t really think my house will be destroyed by an earthquake, but I’m covered, just in case. Those kinds of things, I don’t like leaving to chance. I’m not a gambler. A bag of fast-setting cement retails for six dollars. A team of lawyers after the fact will cost me hundreds of thousands—and probably do less to keep me out of prison than timely application of cement. I think the economics speak for themselves.

Then there’s the peace of mind. You can’t put a price tag on that. Right now, even though I’m just home by myself, I feel a vague sense of unease. I know that through a series of strokes of misfortune, I could find myself with a body and no way to hide it. Having bags of cement in the basement, even though I’ll probably never use them, means I can relax. It’ll give me a warm feeling, just knowing they’re down there. Ready for a rainy day. I’m going to get some now.

Author’s Note: That was fiction.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 2257 days ago

That was a nice piece of fiction, Max. I would never have known it was fiction if you hadn't put that note in. It would have been all right if it wasn't. It's all good to think ahead. I mean, every time I buy shoes, I make sure I can run well in them just in case I'm ever chased by the cops. I would never do such a thing to warrant cops chasing me, but it's always good to be prepared.

I'm just saying I wouldn't have judged you if you actually did buy cement just in case you might need it in the future.

Machine Man subscriber gStein (#585)

Location: 127.0.0.1
Quote: "That's not change! That's more of the same!"
Posted: 2257 days ago

what the heck, Max
i love it- exactly my kind of humor :)
more blog posts!
and more books!

Daniel DiFranco (#243)

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: ""I do not think that word means what you think it means.""
Posted: 2257 days ago

I prefer a large coal burning furnace. Of course you have to remove all jewelry, buttons, and fillings beforehand. Then I suppose you would have to bury said accouterments, which you will need a shovel and ...ah, crap...you'll need cement. I guess cement it is.

Jak (#2464)

Quote: "The Straight-Jacket makes it hard to type."
Posted: 2257 days ago

Good blog, its been a while.

However, the times you mention that you "don't plan on hiding a body" and the disclaimer at the end, seem to lead me to believe that the exact opposite is true.

Slightly unsettling.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 2257 days ago

Brills, Max.
That's all I have to say.
Not quite actually. I would like to add this: Even though the narrator seems to be totally insane, he's still likable and trustworthy. He's a sympathetic character and I barely know him. Excellent bit of writing there, Max.

Lapse (#86)

Location: Brisbane Australia
Quote: "You're adopted and we hate you."
Posted: 2257 days ago

Ah, a thinly veiled plan to distract me from finding your true identity Mr. Barry?

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 2256 days ago

I can only agree to everything said in the text. If I didn't live in an apartment building I'd be considering buying cement right now.

Dane O'Brien (#2362)

Location: USA- Virginia
Quote: "No, I don't need a miracle, but I could use a push in the right direction. - RCPM"
Posted: 2256 days ago

That's it. Right after work I'm going to Home Depot. Thanks Max!

Coley (#2323)

Location: USA
Quote: "I was walking home one night and a guy hammering on a roof called me a paranoid little weirdo. In morse code"
Posted: 2256 days ago

Fiction? Sure... whatever you say...

Sven B. (#2792)

Location: Paris, FR
Quote: "If you did not make it, don't try to fix it."
Posted: 2256 days ago

"It’s like insurance: I don’t really think my house will be destroyed by an earthquake, but I’m covered, just in case. Those kinds of things, I don’t like leaving to chance. I’m not a gambler."

In fact, insurance is a bet. When you pay your insurance against earthquake damage, you're betting that money on the eventuality that your house will be destroyed by an earthquake. Most people will place this bet hoping they lose it. Then you have those who'll place the bet because they know something bad will happen and that the compensation offered by the insurance company will leave them ahead. It's hard to apply this to insurance against earthquakes... Wait, I can totally imagine some super villain provoking an earthquake under the building they've just built and insured against earthquakes. Try to foil THAT plan, Superman ! But I'm digressing...

Anyway, my point was, insurance is some kind of bet.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 2256 days ago

Hmm, it's fiction.. So you DO plan on burying a body?!

Be sure to buy enough cement; and you need to be careful to avoid the smell of decomposition, which can penetrate right through a thick layer of cement if you're not careful.

Machine Man subscriber Toby O (#2900)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "You can't sell your soul to the devil if he's not buying"
Posted: 2256 days ago

Alternatively, you could buy a pig, and train it to eat dead bodies. This would actually prove more effective, if for example, you had more bodies than you had cement. I'm sure the pig has a limit to how much it could chew, but in theory by the time you became suspect (unless you were very sloppy in covering your tracks) the pig might have converted most of said bodies into a more useful form. To assist the pig, you might invest in a meat grinder. Not a large one, mind you, as that might draw some suspicion, unless of course you decided to become a butcher.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 2256 days ago

a friend will help you move...

a best friend will help you move - a body.

Greg Cunningham (#1743)

Location: Norrisville, Maryland
Quote: "quick...be funny"
Posted: 2256 days ago

But what if you bought a large insurance policy in case you do murder someone. I mean the insurance company is gonna want proof to make your claim.

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 2256 days ago

it is wondeful that you can hold us over with such tidbits of fiction while we wait patiently for a new book...
i am getting less patient by the day though. i have had to re-read yours since there is hardly anything out there that is so entertaining.

Machine Man subscriber Michael Harrell (#2372)

Location: Olathe, KS
Quote: ""Every day we must persevere. For we are engaged in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress."Adapted from the masthead of "The Economist""
Posted: 2256 days ago

The concept is correct, but the implementation is more complicated. Cement is the glue that binds aggregate into concret. You can't just inter a body with glue. You need some aggregate. Enough to encase a body. Then you need something to make sure the chemicals in the body will not erode the chemical binding of the cement. No good for the monolif to last a few years, you want a life time of solid adherence, if you just don't want to put off being bubba's bitch for just a few years. I'd suggest lime, a plastic body bag, aggregate, and cement. You also need some way to mix it, and some way to let it cure. Fact is this may take a lot of work. You might be better off with a shallow grave followed by an extensive patio, (12" thick) on top. That is place body. Call local ready mix company, and schedule a pour. Hopefully you can get it to happen within the week. Wow, never thought about it before, but this is a lot of work:)

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 2256 days ago

I think the disclaimer is winning.

I love that people are critiqueing the use of cement to hide dead bodies. Hahaha.

Great stuff!

Jennifer M. Dambeck (#3061)

Location: NJ, USA
Quote: "Rock on"
Posted: 2256 days ago

Make sure you store the cement properly. Once I stored cement in a damp basement and when I had use for it, (imagination here) it was a 60 lbs brick.

I suppose one could buy enough of said brinks to build a crypt, but that might raise the suspicions of your neighbors.

I think a meat grinder and a pig and or large predatory cat my be the best answer.

Unless you go all Hannibal Lector and have a block party BBQ.

Amber (#3671)

Location: Oregon, U.S.A
Posted: 2256 days ago

This brings to mind a conversation my good friend and I had last week...

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 2256 days ago

An excerpt from your latest novel, perhaps?

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 2256 days ago

In America a bag of cement weighs eighty pounds, which proves that we are 33% better than Australia. It just takes that much more cement to inter an American.

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 2256 days ago

Well, Adgrund, when you consider that most americans are probably 33% fatter than Australians...it makes sense~

Mark Tran (#3249)

Location: Canada
Quote: "If you lived here, You'd be home."
Posted: 2256 days ago

This was incredible. This is the writing I've been waiting for. The little unrelated tidbits that make you laugh.

Ben Turner (#922)

Location: Canberra, Australia
Quote: "I have nothing to say on that matter, unless it happens to benefit me to say something."
Posted: 2256 days ago

It might also pay to have a pre-dug hole in your basement, beside said pile of bags of cement. That way you don't have to waste time digging, and you will have less time to account for if you're asked to provide an alibi.

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 2256 days ago

Okay, I have cement, I have a spade and I have a rough idea where I might obtain a body (and why). What's next?

Jeff O (#3059)

Location: Madison, WI USA
Posted: 2256 days ago

It would be funny if after the posting of this blog entry there was a noticeable increase in bagged concrete sales across the world. Managers at 1,000s of Home Depots scratching their heads - "Why are sales going up when this is supposed to be the slowdown?" It was Max, giving people ideas again.

Adam (#580)

Location: Hotel Lobbies (with Winona Ryder)
Quote: "I want to be famous. Really famous."
Posted: 2256 days ago

"Yeah, I remember now: Nearly pale enough to be translucent, with a rail-thin figure offset by a googly-eyed bobblehead. I sensed a kind of frantic desperation in him from the moment he walked into the store. I guess what I'm trying to say, Detective, is I think Michael Stipe may have killed someone."

Prue Meehan (#3306)

Location: Australia
Quote: ""I intend to live forever. So far, so good." Steven Wright"
Posted: 2255 days ago

Funny comments about this piece, I agree that a ready-to-fill hole in the ground would be invaluable if such a situation were to ever arise. so many considerations...

Ada (#3702)

Location: Puerto Rico
Quote: "Eye for an eye leaves everybody blind"
Posted: 2255 days ago

This was priceless. I couldn't stop laughing as I read it. And the witty tone of it was great. Loved it!

Machine Man subscriber fred (#3690)

Quote: "well thats weird. i was under the impression that you were incredably stupid."
Posted: 2254 days ago

heh. brilliant as always.

Kit (#850)

Location: UK
Posted: 2253 days ago

i'll put this post in the same category as talking about making a bomb - it's best not to incase the cops try and pin it on you.

Rebecca (#3616)

Location: Australia
Quote: "The shop is the way it is because it is the way it is. If it wasn't the way it is, it wouldn't be the way it is. Bernard Black."
Posted: 2252 days ago

I feel sorry for all of you city/town-dwelling people.

Me? I live in the country... with over 100 acres. That's lots of nice open space for digging a few nice mass graves. Oh, and then there's always the river. Maybe two or three metres of mud? I don't know... I haven't exactly measured it.

But still... no interfering neighbours in the country.

Oh yeah, I went and counted. We have 6 bags of cement. Good old aussie hardware shop!

The point I'm trying to make is that if you have a few dead bodies lying around or a couple of skeletons in your closet go to the country. There isn't that many police out there but there's lots of space.

By the way, I first realised that the whole post was fiction when I read it in someone else's comment. I didn't see the authors note. So you can imagine I was getting fairly suspicious by the time I had read the whole thing.

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 2252 days ago

From an internship as a prison psychologist, I can tell you that getting rid of a body is not as big a problem as it seems - the much more complicated part is your behavior towards the police. Those guys are pretty good at catching liars and usually they know immediately who might be a suspect. This leads to most murders/manslaughters being solved right away, even though the CSI guys on TV seem to take a lot of time and effort with every single case they have.

I don't feel comfortable talking about which methods of body hiding actually seem to work right here, but if you plan to write some murder fiction and feel like I could help with your research, feel free to e-mail me or call me toll-free at 1-800-LETHALADVICE.

Author's note: I just made that number up. I don't really have an advice service for murderers. Honest.

John A. Ardelli (#1607)

Location: Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Quote: "Don't try to be a great man, just be a man... and let history make its own judgments."
Posted: 2252 days ago

Oh, that's just TOO funny! It's said so matter-of-factly. ;)

Of course, if *I* ever found myself in that situation, I'd probably just turn myself into the police and admit what I did anyway; my conscience would be KILLING me, even if the person I'd killed was someone who richly deserved their fate (people that horrible are rare, but they DO exist).

I'm gonna SHARE this posting... ;)

blab (#1632)

Location: The Sandwich Isles
Quote: "Adventure is just poor planning"
Posted: 2252 days ago

Hmmm, something like this happened just recently, only this guy didn't think ahead . . .

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/04/03/news/story07.html

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 2248 days ago

Great reading! It's always good to have a moral to a story, and reminding people of the importance of easily available cement is certainly a suitable moral.

KCUZ (#3594)

Location: Idaho
Posted: 2248 days ago

As my Structures professor always said: "Concrete is concrete and never cement!" Good advice a few posts back not to forget your aggregate . . . I suppose it would help to always have a half-finished home improvement project underway as well . . .

Kit Park (#3710)

Posted: 2244 days ago

O my god I canot beleve your planing too kill sumone. How can post somthing like this live on the Inter Net? What if a child went an reads it? Thay could get idees! I honstley cant beleive youe, max Barey. Your evil an not cartoone eval but truley maddley eval, like Hitlar.

Cyma Khan (#3719)

Quote: ""With a gun barrel between your teeth, u can only speak in vowels." - TYLER DURDEN - Fight Club"
Posted: 2237 days ago

When all is said and done :P

Machine Man subscriber Vicci (#3723)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: 2232 days ago

I've just come back from a road trip from Melbs to Halls Gap, and funnily enough one of the random topics I came up with is how much random shit I think I could buy from Bunnings before they called the cops.

My list so far:
Hacksaw (ask if it will cut through bone)
Heavy mallet (just in case the hacksaw is too flimsy)
Heavy duty tarp/garbage bags
Industrial Gaffa tape
Painting overalls (reduce chances of dna/hair being left behind)
Face mask/goggles (in case of splash back)

Recently added:
Quick dry cemet mix
Some sort of 'CLR' cleaner

al gore (#3724)

Quote: "let it end as it began, and begin as how it ended."
Posted: 2230 days ago

very nice read, and your right, one never knows what will happen. granted this posts a very well done fitional extreme, but there are many basic things in life that would go a lot... smoother.. if they were prepared for, take a minute and you can come up with a better example than i can in a real life situation.

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