Zach VandeZande

It began with ants. They came in from the gap under the door, from electrical outlets and cracks in the drywall, from the outside, of course, and up from underneath and above, from the usual ant places. Anywhere we looked, there would be a little vein of red-black bodies marching along, almost pretty, almost an affirmation.

The mice came next. This was still pestery. This still made sense. We didn’t mind the ants, not really, but the mice felt squalid, left their droppings along the countertops. Not their fault. A mere and simple fact of critterdom. Still, we murdered more than a few, dropped their backsnapped bodies into the outside trash, guilty, relieved.

Then it was lizards, enormous and spined, the length of our arms and unafraid in their still observance of us from high places. Then it was loose and ownerless dogs barreling through the hallways. A doe in the living room, regal, a faun suckling at its swollen teat. A coyote asleep in the bed. Fish from the faucets, shad and chub and killifish and pike and bass and lamprey and smelt and. Cabinets fat with possum and squirrel. So much scurrying life. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t keep up with killing them. Instead, we stepped with care. We spoke in a hush to each other, which we found we liked better. We found it was more who we were, like we could be secret and still there.

The thing about the indoors is it’s not really indoors. We learned this with the animals. They didn’t hurt us, but the threat was there, and they were always devouring each other. We’d find blood in the morning, crimson and tacky to the touch, or the limb of some ruminant torn free at the joint and left in the hallway to trip us on our way to the bathroom. We’d shoo the hawks off the rabbits when we could, but we weren’t kidding ourselves. Ugliness would never be solved, was as necessary as joy. We’d been running from it, locking it outside our home. We were foolish to try. All that tangled up life. All that chuffing breath.


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