My father skinned a deer while I marveled over the pink splitting through fur. My brother pushed me away to stroke the carcass, his little voice rising over the knife’s slick ripping. He crouched next to the animal’s shin. A cowlick angled at the back of his head. For hours we huddled over the body, the air humidified by cooling flesh.
Growing pains split my calves, another height was marked on our door jamb. I was gifted a wooden box, filled with keepsakes from a life I’m told was mine. My mother held my petite jelly shoes tightly, cooing. She told me all the little girls used to wear jellies. I tried to remember their pressure against my feet, but only a sour odor remained.
April snow mold meant finding what didn’t survive the winter. My brother poked at the vacant eyes of a soggy raven and I stood behind him. It was the year that womanhood still felt like a loss of control. and I watch, glued in place. My mother reminded me of where adults shouldn’t touch and I told her I already knew. I see my own eggshell bones in those old fields, surrounded by the rotting canola stalks and earth. I wait for onlookers to poke me and gawk.
My teacher’s eyes were flitting between my face and feet again. After church, she said, You’re bud-ding, dragging out the syllables. It was an ugly word even then.
Looking out of a passenger window, a skid mark of burgundy deepened the pavement. The driver asked me if I’d eat roadkill and I considered my answer. The next time I went hunting with my father, I handed the rifle to my brother. His voice had begun to gravel and he mirrored my father’s scowl and slow stroll. I stared at the dusting of hair above his lip and wondered what pride would look like if I could grow it.
I carried a whitetail off the field, front legs in my hands and the rear ones in the hands of another. My work gloves fit my fingers better than they did last year. The deer, stiff in my hands, reminded me of something my mother would say when our car got stuck on our country road—that we’d be eaten if we didn’t keep moving. Gnawed on like the animals that succumb to starvation and chill.
A plant on my desk has a small bug trap nestled into the soil. My mother’s voice rings tired through cellphone speakers. She tells me about her September plans, that I must visit with someone I haven’t seen in a while. I think about bud-ding, the discomfort of it. My reply catches at my lips and pools into my throat, my stomach, and lungs. I stare at the leaves of my plant curling down and draping in vines and at the bug trap, a fly’s final effort.
Later, I can’t sleep. I dwell on the conversation with my mother and my unspilled words play tricks in the dark. An image comes to me of a fleshy chick, its delicate pink skin a window to a rapidly beating heart. I watch it gulp in shallow breaths before walking towards the trees. I take the chick to a shaded spot near the edge and place it on the ground. I raise my foot and mourn the loss of something so young.
Nevada Alde is a 24-year-old Canadian writer. They graduated from the University of Victoria in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing. They are now a freelance writer as well as a full-time writer for Victoria Buzz – a popular news outlet in Victoria, B.C. When work is not occupying their time, they are either traveling, wandering around with their hiking boots and camera, or working on their own creative projects. In 2022, they won an erotica contest with Two Sisters Publishing and their work has appeared in Chariot Press’ inaugural issue and Grim & Gilded.
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