bEFORE THE SUN RISES
It’s dark. It seems the moon is closer to us than our mothers. It’s teasing us. We’re fighting for our lives Indian style in the tallest tree we could find. There’s light clear across the surface of the lake. We don’t thank the twinkling trail we see. We know it would disappear on us far short of safety.
We’re alone outside the presence of each other. We don’t count the monster under the surface that’s got us here in the first place. It won’t let us leave. The tree branches stretch endlessly. They cast shadows over the rocks fallen and nestled in the water. The shadows jag and ripple against the movement and the moonlight. They look like razors. Staring into them, I’ve seen myself fall through to pieces. My body separates unevenly as it seeps—some of it into cube-like servings. Some of it more like flank. Some of the meat sinking while the thinnest of it floats. It’s peaceful, or something like it, but it wouldn’t be that in the daylight. Some people pay for time alone to think.
I’d like to die before the sun rises. Another day, and I won’t be able to deny this. I’ll pray for my heart to stop when I fall asleep. It’s me and my friend Mason out here. We were boating. He said he’d seen a plane fly by while the sun was out. “Too high in the air for me to try,” he said. I know what he means. I believe him, but he didn’t even scream—didn’t even wave his arms. I won’t be forgiving him for that.
Even now, we’re not speaking. No, it’s not what you think. Something happened to his leg. He’s lost so much blood. His wound is purple and green, and that’s something I envy. He’s my best friend. He’s dying if he hasn’t died already. I thought twice about using his body as a raft, more times than that to think up a useful distraction. All that when living is the ultimate. More of this. I’ll die before I give that creature something else to eat. If there’s more fight to give I wonder at the few that would give it. I won’t leave him. I want to go knowing who I am.
The neighbors keep a huge rodent as a pet. They teach it tricks. They treat it to blueberry yogurt popsicles. They make videos of it and post them on Youtube. Its body is a hardboiled egg. Its teeth recall a beaver’s. There are two visible up front and they are yellow. I follow its footsteps through cracks between segments in fences. It’s walking rubbery greasy meat. Its life is a luxury packed with the promise of happiness and lack of understanding or maybe it does.
It exists in excess. It’s heavy gluttony rank with oily fur. It’s the host for big shit. The spoils of recent yesterday and other earlier dropped freely and picked up lovingly. I’ve watched it bite off bits of those popsicles for a year now. It enjoys them more than I’ve ever enjoyed anything and I’ve wanted to load bullets into a gun to kill it and the neighbors.
I want to put that rodent in a bag and cut it into strips….chicken strips, as if a butcher in a meat market wearing a white hat and wielding a cleaver. I want be the customer that buys them, my two hands on a cart to browse before my eyes spot the fillets I take home to fry.
In my fantasy, the rodent transforms on the plate, my best china. It transcends flesh and the fur I fashion for a new rug. The blood that remains after draining is cooked out, and marked only by a ring of red residue. The network of blue veins is veiled by white lean and tender. I season my purchase, but not past rodent flavor like my dad used to make broccoli taste like green beans.
I’ll find happiness on the fork, then as it creams in my mouth—chewed, cut, forced around and downed until the plate is empty and I’m full. We embrace. Two become one. Met. Held until released, the settlement. The blissful feeling one can only feel until feel becomes felt. A once.
DUSTIN PEARSON is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University, where he is also the managing editor of Hayden's Ferry Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Metazen, Yemassee, Ghost Town, Submittable queues, workshops and elsewhere. He earned his BA and MA in English Literature from Clemson University, where he directed the Annual Clemson Literary Festival for four years. He is from Summerville, South Carolina.