In the garden. It looks like snow, a surreal May frost, but the sun slaps my winter-paled skin as I hunch over the tiny growths blossoming from the dirt. I stretch out a hand, running my fingers over what feels like velvet, what I might have mistaken for dead puffs of dandelions, for an unused wedding dress, poorly buried to be forgotten, flecks of polyester from a stuffed toy, torn open and strewn in a tantrum. I press a finger into the earth at the base of a clump of fur but quickly draw it back again. The garden shivers at my touch; something is shifting beneath the surface. I water the ground and go back inside.
In the house. Solitude swirls around, seeping in and settling like dust across the floor. In the mornings, curved tracks gleam clean through it all, before I forget what I’ve been dreaming. I imagine milk snakes slithering through in the night. “They suck on cow udders,” someone might have told me, if there was someone, exterminating the things, holding one up with a firm thumb pressing down on the head, stifling a hiss.
In the bath. The water smells like clover. I squeeze a pale green trickle of soap on my right palm, rub my hands together, massage each shoulder blade, moving down my arms to the crook of my right elbow. A scab is forming. I catch my thumb nail under the loose end and pull. Blood bubbles up along the thin line. Tiny red dots plot along the axis. They join and slip downward, dripping off my fingertip, into the water.
In the garden. Ears are emerging, white with vulnerable pink centers I want to pinch, bite. Instead, I wrap them in a closed fist and pull the body upward from the soil. It shakes itself clean and waits, expectantly. Four dozen times, I unearth them all. I beg them to follow me inside.
At the store. My sleeve catches, raises an inch.
“What’s been scratching you?” the clerk asks, staring fixedly at my inner arm, at the darkened lines of puckered skin.
Me, I think.
Rabbits, I almost say.
“Cats.” I answer.
At the end of the summer. Tails twitch once, twice, after falling like dying petals, like a severed spider’s limb that still wants to kick. Grasping one by the back leg, I snap the bone as easily as a withered rose stem, and, slicing a single garden shear blade through the papery dry flesh, bits of white fur powder off like dust, like pollen. I slip the sacred foot into my pocket. For luck.
Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash