In this month’s Notable Narrative, a dead body lies abandoned in a dilapidated warehouse on Detroit’s west side. A description of the body “suspended in the ice like a porpoising walrus” follows a lede that unapologetically indicts the cold heart of the city.

Reporter Charlie LeDuff uses a conversational tone to detail wider neglect and disinterest: In the 1980s, the warehouse had burned, full of “books, scissors, footballs and crayons” while schoolchildren lacked supplies. In the present, urban explorers sneak into the warehouse to play ice hockey and continue their game even after they find the body.

This Detroit News piece flows with a looseness that works best in its circular metaphor: a dead body in a dead building in a dead city that doesn’t do anything about a dead body in a dead building in a dead city. The story works less well when it comes to sourcing: No attribution is given for the data on the homeless population or for the history of the warehouse fire. But LeDuff’s economy, leavened by a comic touch, drives home the tragedy of the fact that the city takes 24 hours to respond.

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