I have seen the hearts of most creatures set upon the table, but never the heart of the wolf. The mottled purple thumbprint of the fish, the soft apple of the black bear, the pulp of the deer and the rabbits and the squirrels indistinguishable when slickened onto the canvas of my palm. But the fruit of the wolves we have always been denied. When we hear their howls, Papa locks the door and bars the windows. There is much I wish to ask him, but the truth of the wolves will never be mine to know. I am learning to accept this.
Nothing’s changed here in fifty years and it won’t in another. If Gregory comes with me, even after four years it’ll still be true that the bottoms are empty, the Hill is tall, doctors are liars and men are swine. Save for, I’ll have a degree and he’ll have a little exposure.
Everyone in my town is a man, and every one of them has those gorgeous muscles you see on television. They are sometimes on television themselves, the men of my town. Our town is not known for much beyond its strong, beautiful men. If you visit the public spaces of my town, you will find men flexing for one another. You will find men checking out one another’s biceps and triceps and quadriceps for tone and mass. It is lonely, being a weak and ugly man in my town.
He is the one to break the silence. He tells her about his childhood and the stories his mother used to tell him. How much he misses her now that she’s passed. How he misses his family far from home, but also feels detached. How it feels impossible for him to return.
How sometimes our bodies grow and our minds don’t follow. And what was his overwhelmed aunt to do but move in with his Pentecostal mother. What was left to be done but pray. What could he do but sleep. His never-photographed cousin babbling lullabies to lull him to the dull dark of slumber.
You remember your parents in the driveway, the way your mother unnecessarily adjusted her skirt at the moment you had expected applause. You think it is all your parents fault, this artlessness you carry with you. You start to hate them.
At that moment, Brix felt the ship a bubble; disjointed from everything else, its float was a rebellion, an expulsion. But the world hadn’t expelled the ship like a black sheep or a bad egg, rather the ship had expelled the world, rejecting its force, pulling away, leaving it one limb the less.
The audience members exit toward the other arena. It must be getting near time to announce the grand champion, the doggiest of dogs. I’ve already experienced the epitome of dogdom, though, in my perfect Border Collie. I don’t need a panel of judges to tell me anything.
One ordinary autumn day, when I was ten, I fell out of a tree. Not a particularly large tree. An oak, maybe. The kind with solid branches outstretched like arms, perfect for climbing. Playing with my friend, I lost my balance and forgot my grip. For a brief second, I was flying, flapping my wings like a fledgling. The next I was lying on the ground on a damp bed of glowing leaves, my arm twisted askew and looking up at cotton ball clouds across the expanding sky.