by Wyatt Bonikowski
There Was A Time When We Had Nothing
One bright summer day when the weather was settling its bones in the sky and the vultures of swift change had swept upon us to dart their black beaks in our skulls for something like the millionth time, my mother and I tried to haul some food from where it was stuck up underneath the car, all slathered over the axles and covered in road dust. It was coming off in pieces. I don’t think it’s ready yet, my mother said. Want, I said. Want now. I want. And she put some hard morsel in my mouth so I might clamp on it with a primitive-style enjoyment.
My teeth hurt where they thrust through the gums and my tongue ran over some bleeding ridges. I had already forgotten how the food had got in there because my time sense was poorly developed around this time. The sun beat on the tarmac and waves of it hit us. The traffic kept going roar roar. Oh mama, I said, I know what to do now! And I slid my little body under the car and made a nest in a wheel well. All our hunger could be satisfied if we made this heroic attempt to insert our entire self into the smallest space. I could hear Mama start the car and drive off. The engine made a disappointed thunk. Honk honk honk, Mama said, these motherfuckers. My bed that night was warmed by something wet that came from me and tomorrow, my mother said, we would have everything we ever needed.
The day started strange again, though, with a clatter of remains from the breast of God’s bosom. I inched open my private set of placemats and let the juice in. We needed it always, my mother told me, didn’t you? We would go on our collecting rounds, and our success depended largely on the unpredictable. When it rained our supply lost color and depth and we’d have to inject it with a flavor boost if we wanted to suck on it. Snow was worse because then the frozen buds, which appeared up and down the exposed muscle layer, would impede the action of our tongues along the pre-sliced trail. Everything was ill prepared. How long are you going to be at that thing? Mama asked, and I could only grin and slurp. But we managed despite these difficulties. I grew healthy and strong through the years, and Mama got fat and skinny back and forth.
The Devil Called Satan Had Me For A Snack
The house had four eyes, four ears, two tongues, and thirteen little shelves where the extra brains went. Fog dragged its snaky feet around the floorboards and the splinters caught us off guard with a pinching feel. We were naked and barefooted. Someone had told us to go in this house and get something but no one could remember who had said it or what we were after. I think we were lost. Was it true that hands were down there, grabbing at the ankles? The hands had screams, too, as if they were attached somehow. Yikes, yikes, I think it was me who had the open mouth, and, yes, I had been warned that spirits could go in, but whatever, I don’t know if it really made me concerned. No, I wanted it. Secretly I wanted the devil to come and talk to me. Sit in that armchair, Sir, I would say, and immediately there would appear a corner with shadows I could sneak into.
If We Could Have Known
Some strategies of behavior didn’t work out. Like the dog that jumped into the car and out of the car in the rain. But then we held it and it had its puppy stuff on my cheek. My experience with pets has made me cautious of assigning them to my own children, but I do want them to remember me fondly when I am gone. (I am always talking about my own death, as if it will happen tomorrow and I will be present for it. I have an urn picked out and I entertain the girls by stuffing my four limbs into it as far as they will go.) Did you ever have pets like this that you remember? You felt so responsible for how they acted or ran out the door and got hit by a silver automobile. The driver is now in your house and he has wet hair even though no rain has been seen since the long drought. There is something unnerving, something special about him and the way he holds the paw that dangles even though it is not the paw but something in the chest or stomach that has exploded and gone missing.