Stacia M. Fleegal
In a small town, a good girl has to be a very good girl. Even sort of good is a bad girl. What she wants is only apocalypse possible: a house in the woods with a German shepherd and a .38 special, a vegetable garden, maybe an older neighbor, resourceful but keeps to herself, and no one else for miles. Tea kettle, liquor stash, her books, and when the dust settles, a couple of fat chickens for her boy to chase around, maybe a strawberry patch. The gun is never big enough for a damaged woman with only a few thousand people around, so the heat she packs is self-generated, she stands out from the stock like a trigger finger, she eventually goes off: gets memorably drunk at the best crowded dive bar, talks about smotherings, has opinions and arm tattoos, a child but no wedding ring. Really not so bad, laughable to real bad, but just not good enough. She’ll be known of but not known; she’ll burn or they’ll burn her. All the brown eggs, homemade jam, and sure shooting in the free world can’t buy a sort-of-good girl a good girl pass in this town.
I was never good at math
If a man takes three Percocets, drinks two screwdrivers, and has one girlfriend, how many neighbors will turn off their porch lights when the screaming starts? If he’s sober a week later and still screaming, how many different girlfriends does the girlfriend need to be to calm him down? If a girlfriend feels like she has eight different selves, how many of them are still 15-year-old girls with sociopathic mothers? If one of those girls cries for one day straight, how many hours will she be able to spend recording little X’s on her arm with a utility knife, then in her journal, also with a utility knife, before she has to start the laundry and return to work like nothing’s mortally wrong? If a girl has a sociopathic mother, then grows up and fucks a sociopathic man with all the fervor of a soul half damaged, half in bloom, what is the likelihood of her being a sociopath herself, of all this being her fault, or, if x is even, a hailstone sequence? If a woman lies on a bathroom floor with part of a sandwich smashed into her hair, how much of the sandwich is the man who put her there still pretending not to chew? Eight snakes figure-eighting her ankles is 64 of something, maybe the percent chance of…no, what chance does she have, really, if time is not linear, mothers become lovers become killers spreading mayonnaise on a slice of cheek with utility knives, and the speed of sound can’t break the broken fence?
The fawn can’t be more than a week old, new leggy gait and a brief moment of no fear as she bounds, awkward with ecstasy, into my sunny yard. We notice each other at the same time, freeze for different reasons before she scampers under a hosta to wait for her mother’s call. Next summer, that fawn might be the pregnant doe moving under lilacs to gut the birdfeeders. I am not the fawn, I am the doe now, I remind myself, and anyway, there’s no call coming. Dear hollow, you are full of gendered dangers, overrun of a rocky road infatuated with the river. The doe are most vulnerable, distracted by instinct to breed, an acorn appetite for two, then another’s bleating need. Smart enough to travel in threes or fours, herd the young, but road and rifle are never far. One in four who venture out become guts on the highway, engines shrugging past. Or a grizzly man reasons he must consume her flanks peppered with gun powder, hang her hides from a wall, where they can’t hide. Any aftermath leaves the fawn under the hosta, the female inside out. You never see a buck, and if you do, he’s alone, and he sees you first. If the hunter is good, it’s the same. The worst crosshair is the crush of no one caring that the scenic perimeter drive around town is a maggoty matricide, a valley’s trail of ribs picked clean, bloat and hollow creeping into all our yards.